(Shallow Note: This Bride of Frankenstein and Frankenstein’s monster are from a series of monsters I drew in 2002, back when I was still trying to draw hands. The sketch of the big guy initially didn’t have any hands. I left the cuffs blank, copied it several times, and drew a variety of attempts before I got them just right. Ish.)
Last night was our night to watch the kids. We had seven of them—from a year to 6 years old—running around our house for two and half hours.
My wife and I participate in a kid swap with two other couples, meaning that if everything works the way it should—people aren’t sick or out of town or whatever—we spend one night a month babysitting a baker’s half-dozen of children, but we get two nights a month when we don’t have any kids at all.
The system is pretty awesome, plus we’re gaming it a bit, since we have three kids and the other couples only have two each.
It’s awesome because on our date nights, the children are all at someone else’s house, meaning we can go out, stay home, or go out and then come home before picking them up. You can’t do that with a regular babysitter. Well, I guess you can, but I think the average college student would feel pretty awkward if we were to tell her to help herself to some dinner in the fridge, remind her about the girls’ bedtime, and then go upstairs.
While seven kids can be several handsful, they also do this weird thing where they start entertaining themselves. Groupthink is a powerful babysitting tool. Food and projects help, too.
Last night, my wife had them all make mummy pizzas on English breakfast muffins, then create glowing ghosts out of empty (and washed) milk cartons. There was very little bickering. I just opted to let them interact over blocks and coloring while my wife took the baby out of the mix for his bedtime, and they all did so well, I was able to get started on the dishes—only occasionally intervening with reminders to share or use our words.
On previous nights, we’ve arrived at our friends’ houses to pick up our kids to find they’ve been making ice cream or painting. It’s great.
We’re so grateful to the other couples in our group, and we highly recommend the strategy—especially if you don’t have immediate family nearby to, in theory, watch your kids on a regular basis.
Because if there are two of you and you’ve got kids, someone should be helping you get alone time. As a couple. Whether you use that time to take advantage of happy hour or you spend it not worrying whether some little hand is going to knock on your bedroom door, you need it. It’s good for you, and it’s good for the children. In the long run, it keeps you from turning into monsters. (Get it? Because Halloween?)