Our first child was 11 days overdue, and, in the third day of labor, my wife, Tina, finally was dilated enough that delivery could happen. But something stalled in the process, and we learned that our child was in distress and an emergency C-section was required. It all happened so fast, and we were so tired that it still is all a blur of memory.
Isabel was born a mere 5 pounds, 5 ounces. Apparently, the placenta had not fully formed. But our little “peanut” was a healthy girl, and we named her after my father’s mother, Isabel, a lady who charmed all who came to know her. Our girl has since grown into a charming woman so reminiscent of her namesake.
The first three months of my daughter’s life is an even greater blur. Trying to run a busy general practice and caring for our newborn child, we got caught up in the routines of each day, and it consumed us.
Tina fell into the all-too-common baby blues. Days and nights filled with caring for a newborn who cannot communicate to you, having a husband who is busy caring for all of his patients who are demanding of his time, and having little adult conversation in her daily existence made it a difficult time. She went to her doctor for help.
Tina came home that night with an envelope for me. Inside was a note from her physician. It contained five words: “Take Tina on a date!” It was a light bulb moment. Eureka. A brisk slap in the face. Of course, we had gotten so involved in the day-to-day that we had lost the path that led to our reality — a child had been created in our union.
So then, with Isabel at 6 months of age, we spent time preparing bottles and finding a babysitter we could trust, and we nervously left our daughter in someone else’s hands while we went out for dinner. And it was wonderful. Nothing bad happened to our girl, and we had a delightful meal with a waiter who was so great that we are still friends with him 20 years later (and now his children and grandchildren are my patients, too).
Ever since, we have made sure to arrange babysitters for a “standard” Saturday night out. We subscribed (in different years) to the symphony, ballet, theater, and more, so we would be forced to “go out” due to a schedule. Our second daughter, Samara, arrived almost five years later, and my wife and I continued dating.
Our girls grew up getting to know the other people who helped look after them, and the experience helped them learn independence from us. And my wife and I kept our romance going. Sometimes our dates were just a long meal out so we could have an adult conversation. Other times, it was dinner and a movie, theater, dancing … it has been great. Now our girls (ages 15 and 19) encourage us to go out on a date, and my treatment of their mother has become a model of what our daughters look for in a future companion.
And now with Facebook, I have been regularly posting on my practice’s page what my wife and I have been doing on our dates, including which restaurants we have gone to, which movies we have seen, and the music we have listened to. Our Facebook friends are part of our practice family community. Some of my male patients have thanked me for giving them ideas for things they could do with their wives. Some wives have used my posts to goad their husbands into doing more with them (kind of like a “Why don’t you take me out on a date the way Dr. Stanleigh does with his wife?” thing). Our patients are our friends, and this all occurs with the affection, kindness, and good intentions it was meant to have. (Incidentally, these “dating” posts regularly get three times the number of views, likes, and comments than any dentistry posts. That is why they call it social media. It’s the social stuff that people want to know about, interact with, and be a part of.)
We never travel far without our children. Travel is such a great education. We don’t need to spend the holidays without our kids, because we have the weekly dates that have kept us together, engaged with each other, and still in love, almost 22 years later.
My wise brother (whose nickname is Yoda) told me in the years B.T. (before Tina) that love is not having two half-empty buckets and trying to fill one bucket. The result will always be one empty bucket. Instead, he said love is having two half-empty buckets and trying to help to fill each other’s buckets.
So my advice is to plan a date with your partner this weekend. Massage the romance. Set an example for your children. You can only become richer as a result.
Larry Stanleigh, BSc, MSc, DDS, FADI, FICD, FACD