To Each of My Sons, Before His Wedding:

One thing we have always told newlyweds is to “keep dating each other.”

It will be easy at first. There are just two of you; you have these stars in your eyes for each other; your work and school and stress schedules are still pretty manageable.

And then along come the little blessed bunchkins, who need consistent meals. They grow like weeds, and need their clothing augmented every few weeks. Sleep goes out the window, along with most of your free time.  Bills pile up, faster than you could imagine, so you have to work more hours. Or you are going to school and working. Over the years, it is easy to forget the romance that caused you to bring those little blessings into the world in the first place.

Well, we would tell people they had to date — but we weren’t doing it so well ourselves. Even though we knew it was important, it didn’t always seem practical. Let’s say you go out to a restaurant. You have to hire a babysitter. A competent babysitter, that you don’t suspect of abuse or neglect. And then you will call, several times during the evening, to remind her of exactly how competent you expect her to be. The restaurant is expensive. The waiter is always around. The food may be great, or mediocre — or disappointing. Let’s face it: It isn’t the romantic evening you would like, at least not every time; and you simply cannot afford it.

One day, it occurred to us that we were walking right past the best restaurant in town, several times each day. And the entire meal could cost the same as the bottle of wine at the fancy restaurant!

Here is the essence of The Date. I give it to you as a wedding present. Put it away for when you need it.

We set the table with special dishes that are only used for The Date. We had a great time buying a table runner, place mats, napkins, candle holders, dishes, glasses… It really looks beautiful! We set the table, light the candles, put up a beautiful Van Gogh print… Whoever is the cook gets to choose the menu, ambiance, and dress. Formal? Informal? Western music? Celtic? Romantic? Remember how we used to bribe you kids to stay in your rooms by feeding you some dreadful food children love, like macaroni and powdered cheese that comes in a box? (Yecch.)  Worked like a charm.

For ourselves, we prepared food that was too expensive to feed the family, and for which you hadn’t yet developed the palate, anyway.  We dress up for the Date. I put on makeup and high heels. After all, do we dress for the people in the restaurant, or for each other? We have a lovely meal, with wine. We have a very strong rule: We don’t discuss the kids, the house, the jobs, the money (or lack thereof). We talk about ideas, and about romance. We get to know each other. We dance…

The Date is two hours or so of time set aside just for each other. And we do it every week. Oh, it doesn’t have to be a meal; and it doesn’t have to cost a shekel. We have gone walking, and window shopping. The point is that it is just a time for us to act like we did pre-kid, and pre-stress. Just for a while.

Every year when you were young, you brothers looked forward to our anniversary, when we would let you dress up in fancy clothes, and be our “waiters.”  This calmed down your insistence that you participate in the Date; and it served to teach you about how to treat your future marriage with romance.  Dovid said once, when he was about seven, “I can’t wait till I am married, so I can do The Date with my wife!”

Do it your own way… But be sure to date each other. Don’t let money and babysitters and kids and any other factors keep you from keeping your romance alive.

May you be as happy after 26 years of marriage as your father and I are. We are still best friends; and we are more in love than ever.

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