Wednesday, February 11, 2009

At-Home Dates and Children

A couple weeks ago, I shared how Heath and I have been blessed by having At-Home Date Nights. Now, I would like to share how to have successful date nights when you have children in the home, especially young ones.

The most important thing is to establish a firm bedtime routine. You must train your children to go to bed on time, and to STAY in bed. This will ensure you and your spouse time to enjoy many wonderful, romantic dates right in the privacy of your own home. You won’t be spending big bucks on babysitters, expensive restaurants, or movie tickets. I am not saying you should never leave your home for a night out on the town together. But, if you are like us, you often do not have the resources to go out on a weekly (or monthly) date night. It is so important for couples to spend quality time together. Often we neglect our relationships with one another once children arrive.

I chose to nurse all our children. So, for the first few months, the children were either in bed with us, or right next to us in a bassinet. Also, when our children are ill, they often sleep in bed with us. Not all families do this, but it’s the way we felt led to parent. There was a short season of time that the children did “invade” our bedroom, but it was ONLY for a season. Even then, we had to be creative in finding time to be intimate with one another. One thing my husband and I do miss is the spontaneity of our love lives before children. But, we have learned that we can still be intimate with one another, it just has to be a little more structured and planned out, and that’s okay. Just knowing I have a spouse who cares enough to not give up on us, and to work at finding creative ways for us to be alone together, means a lot to me.

Even when our children were infants…we tried to keep our evening routines consistent. When it was getting close to laying them down for the night, we kept the lights dim, and the noise level low. They’d get their bedtime feeding, dry diaper, bedtime clothes on, and prayer time before we put them down for the night. They were often sleepy, but not asleep when we laid them down. At young ages, they were learning our bedtime routine. When it’s time to go to bed, it’s time to go to bed. Period.

As our children got older…we began having family worship times together. They would first brush their teeth, get their bedtime clothes on, gather whatever baby dolls or teddy bears they wanted to take to bed with them, and then join us in the living room for a time of music, reading from God’s Word, and then prayer time. My husband and I take turns taking our daughters and our son to bed to have bedtime prayers together. Once they are in bed for the night, they know they are to stay there (unless it’s an emergency). There’s no need for a trip to the bathroom or to get a drink. All of those things have already been taken care of. If they choose to disobey and get out of bed, then they know there will be consequences for their disobedience.

If you can start this routine while your children are infants, it is a much easier task. But, if you have toddlers or preschool aged children, and it is a fight to get them in bed and keep them there every single night, it’s still not too late. With some firm consistency in your life, your children can be trained to go to bed and stay there. It might be a rough 2-3 nights. But, it will be well worth it once you have established this new routine in your home. This will allow you and your spouse to have quiet, uninterrupted time together. Have a family meeting and explain to the children your new bedtime routine. Discuss consequences if they choose to not follow the new routine. Share with your children why it’s important for them to get a good night of rest, why you and Dad need time together, and why it’s important to obey your parents.

If a solid bedtime routine is established and followed, you and your spouse will be able to enjoy alone time together every evening! Our marriages need this constant time, love, nurturing, and attention. Otherwise, when date nights comes around, we won’t even know what to talk about, how to act, or what to do!


Stonefox said...

I agree! The betime routine is a MUST! If I didn't have it, I think I would lose my sanity :) Oh, and I keep the small ones in a crib as long as possible so they won't get out of bed.

Unknown said...

You are so sweet! Thanks for reading my blog. I had to giggle that you are married to a "Heath" that is a pastor as well. You made my day today!