On Soft Landings and a Rare Night Out

a rare night out“So what if I kept the conversation going on your projects? I’ll ask the questions and then maybe dad will join in. What do you think?”

We were taking a long walk through the neighborhood, trying to come up with a plan to suit both kids for the next day’s dad visit.  As we walked, we watched charcoal storm clouds build south of town.

That should have been my first clue.

Jen said, “I know how that will go.  I’ll answer you and start talking about a project, and he’ll quit listening, like he always does.”

Jen walked to the edge of the street when she saw a car coming.  Will had to be made aware of the car.  (That pretty much sums up my experiences parenting a boy and a girl.)

Jen shook her head, “Do you know what that’s like to be talking to someone and then realize they aren’t listening and they don’t care about what you have to say?  It’s embarrassing.  I’m not doing that again.”

“Well, if I keep bringing the convo back to your project, maybe he’ll get the hint.”

“Ha ha ha ha!  Are you kidding?”  I apologized for laughing, but haven’t we been down this road at least a million and two times?

My job is to take a back seat to these conversations – let them learn to express themselves in a kind and honest fashion.  Sometimes I gently point out the other’s viewpoint, but mostly I’m the soft landing they need if feelings get hurt.  Then I re-direct them, and they work harder at getting to some kind of agreement.

Will gave it his best shot, “Well, at least if we’re on the river, we won’t be stuck in the heat on the mini golf course.”

“But if we’re on the river, you’ll be fishing, and I’ll be stuck trying to make conversation with dad.”

“But I promise I’ll stick around and help with conversation.”

“But mini golf and dinner is a way shorter visit, and then we won’t have to fake conversation for so long.”

Will looked up at the storm clouds, “You’re right.  Let’s do mini golf.”




The kids moped around for the better part of the next day, and then got ready for their dad visit.

I had invited myself to join others who were meeting for drinks and dinner.  I explained that I might not be home when the kids returned, “Call me when you get in the door.  I won’t be much later than 9 or 9:30.  Have fun.  Love you.”

At 9 I received the first text.  “What time will you be home?”  Then came, “Jen has an upset stomach.” Followed by, “Can you come home now?”

Shit.  My one night out in probably four months – a chance at adult conversation without interruption.  A rare night to not worry about whether Jen is eating enough, referee when the two of them are getting on each other’s nerves, or attempt to get the three of us to agree on a movie.  I needed this rare night out.


I walked in the kitchen door at 9:30 and was greeted with long faces and heavy sighs.

Admittedly, I was in no mood to quickly switch hats from single woman who has a life outside of parenting to mom who solves all problems, but I had no choice.

“Jen, what’s bothering your stomach?  How did the visit go?  Was it any worse than usual?”

“I dunno.  It went okay.  Pretty much like usual.  You know…  the awkward silences.”

“Will, was there anything out of the ordinary?  Why did I have to rush home.  You are almost 16 now.  This couldn’t have waited another hour to let me enjoy a rare night out without having to come home and listen to the same crap about your dad that we’ve been discussing for 8 years?”

They both apologized for interrupting my night out.

That’s when my frustration bubbled over.  “It’s not like I was out riding a mechanical bull!  It’s not like I was standing at some bar doing shots.  This wasn’t gonna be an all-nighter.  I went out with grandma and grandpa, for God’s sake!  It’s the only time I get to be someone other than your mom.  Can I have one night every few months?  Can that work for you guys?”


Well THAT didn’t improve Jen’s stomach any.

THAT didn’t make their long faces any shorter.

Way-to-go on being that soft landing, MOM.


I took a breath.  “Do you think it’s probably better for me to have a night out when it’s not the same night as a dad visit?  Do you think it’s better if I’m here when you get back from dealing with dad?”

Jen looked up at me from under long lashes and quietly said the tiniest, “yes.”

Will said, “Sorry.  I know you need a night out.  I know you should do it more often.  Just do it on a night when we don’t have to put up with dad.  K?”



Note to self:  Schedule next Mom’s Night Out for a night that doesn’t include a dad visit.  That way you can have a night out and still be a soft landing – without any guilt.


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  1. Dear Jesse,

    Maybe you’d be a little less reactive and a lot less frustrated if you got out more.

    Just saying.


  2. Don’t forget to make time for you! They will be ok, I promise. xx

  3. Z,

    Honestly, I think it’d be good for all three of us if I got out more.

  4. What a great learning experience!!

  5. It’s true. I have a cousin that has never left her children with someone else overnight. They are 12 and 9. They almost have a panic attack at the thought of it. Even though her rational self says they would survive, her deep fears don’t believe it. Maybe I am a bit under protective, but I can’t help but think their fears feed each other and the best thing is to loosen the reigns.

  6. Z,

    I’m fantasizing about what I’d do if mine both spent the night away. It doesn’t seem to happen on the same night.

    Oh, I remember the last night they stayed up and grandma and grandpa’s. It was spur of the moment. I came home and was crashed on the couch by 9:15. Couldn’t even finish the chick flick I’d been dying to watch.

    Call me pathetic. ;)

  7. Pat,

    We seem to be presented with a lot of those. I guess everybody is…

  8. Doesn’t it always seem to happen that way? We fantasize about all the things we could do for ourselves when the kids are away and our bodies decide they need real rest. That sound/not a sound slumber that doesn’t happen with kids in the house. Ever. :)

  9. Jesse,

    It sounds like the three of you have a good plan for dealing with your much needed “night out” and the kids’ need for a reassuring hug upon return from a visit that is frustrating.

    Remember to put your oxygen mask on too–you need time to decompress and do nothing or anything. My two cents for the night . . . now where is my mask? : )

    Warm wishes . . .

  10. Lynn,

    Thanks for that. I know what you mean about the mask! :)

    I’m getting ready to take off for a break with my two favorite people. That’s the best way I know to reconnect.

    Hope things are well with you and yours.

  11. Have a wonderful time!!! : )

  12. Lynn,

    Thank you! A change will do us good. :)

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