While I was driving home from work a few Fridays ago, my husband called and suggested I meet him and the kids at a little local restaurant we used to love. Money is tight, so we rarely go out to eat now, but we've been in a bit of a rut lately and it seemed like just the kind of treat we all needed. The weariness of the long week seemed to fall away as I drove.
Usually on Fridays, my husband picks up the kids from school and I try and fail to get out of work at a halfway decent hour and end up racing home to make bedtime instead of dinner. The kids are happy to see me and the welcome is always warm, but I hate ending the week that way. But the day he called, we were ahead of schedule at work, and a last-minute family date felt like a reward.
Unfortunately, the restaurant had changed in the years since we'd been there last; the menu was smaller, the prices higher, the waitstaff less professional, and that great old bartender who knew our names and poured our pints the moment he saw us at the door was gone. But the kids were excited at the novelty of eating "some place fancy" (even though it's not fancy at all, but it's all in the perspective, I guess), and their excitement set the tone.
They tried something new (fish and chips, which garnered one "May I eat up your cheeseburger, Mama?" and one "I LOVE fish, can we have this at home ALL THE TIME? But without the crust?"). They waited as patiently as a a 5- and 3-year old could wait while hungry (and yes, our 3-year-old boy was very 3-year-old boyish by the end of the meal), and filled up on Sprite. But the break in our usual routine made a huge difference. So much so that when Sunday morning rolled around, my husband and I felt like we'd somehow gained an extra day.
Really, what we'd done was lost some end-of-the-week baggage. And the lighter load carried through the weekend.
Since then, I try to start the week by planning how we'll break that I'm-too-exhausted-to-think cycle. A fancy meal on a weekend night so the kids can keep challenging their palates? A mandatory grownup movie night at home on Fridays? Another family date out somewhere inexpensive, maybe just for dessert? To be honest, the money we spent at the restaurant could have been better spent in other ways too numerous to list here, but what we got out of it -- a bit of bonding, a bit of a break -- was priceless.