This evening Helena is going on her first sleepover. After she is handed off to my friend — the mom — at Grand Central Station, my son and I plan to go out for a special mommy-Lucas dinner in Manhattan.
Kind of like a date.
Except that I am very careful not to call it a date. A date is an outing between two people who are potentially sexually interested in each other. Not a parent and child.
I see this parent/kid “date” all the time. Someone recently posted to her Facebook page that at her local diner she saw a dad and his 4-year-old daughter all dressed up for their “daddy-daughter date.” “Adorbs!” she wrote. Schools and community centers often host mother-son and father-daughter dances, and fast-food chain Chick-Fil-A even held a “Daddy Daughter Date Night” promotion a couple years ago in which participants were encouraged to RSVP through the URL DaddyDaughterDate.com. Needless to say, that link is now defunct and the promotion was short-lived. But that this major corporation even temporarily sanctioned the event says a lot about out culture.
I’m not totally innocent of of it myself.
When Lucas was a baby we had a routine in which his sister would spend Sundays with her dad and he and I would go for long walks and wind up at a local cafe. He sat in the high chair and we’d share a blueberry yogurt muffin and the gay waiter gave us the stink eye as crumbs flew everywhere.
I cherished those long afternoons for many reasons, including that it afforded us precious one-on-one time that often eludes single parents — not to mention parents of second (and third …) children. True confession: once or twice I found myself referring to it as a “Mommy-Lucas date.”
That is so wrong.
After all, there are plenty of times Helena and I make special appointments to do things — just the two of us. I have never referred to our lunches or mani-pedi appointments as dates.
This is especially tricky territory for a single parent. For one, if you do not have a romantic partner — as I do not — it can be very easy to unconsciously (and innocently) put your kids in the role of partner, as I wrote about in “I hug my kids too much because I’m lonely.” This is particularly dangerous territory if you have a son who is very sweet and huggy. As I do.
Further, because my kids, ages 4 and 6, have a mom who goes on dates — they know exactly what a date is. To tell my opposite-sex son that he is spending the evening in the same capacity as someone I met on OKCupid is just rife with wrongness, creepiness and ewwww.