Today I welcome Erin Barrette Goodman, a writer, yoga teacher, and mother of two young children. She is the founder and director of the Rhode Island Birth Network, which promotes empowered decision-making during the childbearing years. Together with her husband, John, she is in the process of turning their 1.5-acre South County yard into a sustainable suburban homestead, which they’ve affectionately dubbed Nadalada Farm. When she is not writing, networking, or working in the yard, Erin enjoys arranging special dates to have fun with her children, husband, friends, and occasionally alone!

At the Grocery-Store:  Kid o infoBy Erin Barrette Goodman

When I mentioned to my husband, John, that I would be writing a column on dating for Kidoinfo.com, he was, understandably, a little confused.

I am, after all, a thirty-something mother of two young children, and my last official date took place over a decade ago.

When I clarified that I am going to be writing about family-friendly dating – the special things we do as a family and as a couple, with one or both of our kids, and with other families and friends, and equally important, alone – he seemed less confused (and a bit relieved).

My interest in this new world of family-friendly dating started a year and a half ago when my friend Julianna, an artist and healer and a fellow new mom trying to stay sane, invited me to join a small group exploration of The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron.

At the core of this twelve-week creative recovery/discovery process are two essential tools – daily journal-writing, or “morning pages,” and weekly “artist dates.”

The rules for the artist dates are pretty simple: Set aside one to two hours a week to do something by yourself and for yourself to nourish and feed your creativity.

Each week at our group check-in meeting, we shared a quick review of our date experiences, which included everything from beachcombing, window shopping, thrift-store treasure-hunting, tub-soaking, garden-planning, and tea-sipping, to yoga classes, dancing, cooking, and movie-watching.

As I went through this powerful process, I noticed that not only did I love my weekly (solo) artist date, but I also liked the idea of creating similarly nourishing, great-feeling “date” experiences with my children and husband.

And so began our exploration of family dating!

What makes a date a date?

For me what makes a date a date is not where you go or what you do as much as an overall feeling of being in the moment and savoring the experience.

My two-year-old and I recently had a date that included eating bagels across from a construction site followed by a trip to the grocery store – a place we typically visit at least once a week.

What made this grocery shopping trip a date was that it was just the two of us, enjoying each other and the experience of grocery shopping together. I had a very loose list of things to buy and we had a nice big window of time in which to shop, so I was happy to let him help me find new foods to try, push the carriage, practice using his developing language skills to order cheese at the deli counter, stand on an upside-down basket and “beep” the groceries in the self-check-out lane, and wave good-bye and blow kisses to everyone in the store.

Contrast that with a more typical weekly trip to the grocery store with a long list of things to buy, a short amount of time in which to do it, and a toddler and preschooler, who may or may not want to be there, and you get the sense of just how special this Friday morning trip to the grocery store was.

The feeling of being on a date with my children, or my husband, or all of us as a family is a deep sense of “Ahhhhhhhhhh….” The world looks a little brighter and happier. Everyone is helpful and friendly. Doors seem to magically open for us, I see my children and my husband for the beautiful gifts that they are, and I realize just how blessed I am to share my life with them.

It’s what I thought parenting would feel like when I was pregnant with our first child, and I dreamed of our future as a family. Before I understood the toll that sleep deprivation and temper tantrums and tag-team parenting can take on your sanity, not to mention your marriage.

So here I am: Four years into my mothering journey, with a deeper understanding of the challenges, and yet still savoring my dreams, I am consciously choosing to weave regular, stroll-through-the-mall-holding-hands-and-licking-ice-cream kind of moments into our family’s weekly rhythm, and I hope to inspire others to do the same.

For it is these moments that make the challenges of parenting worth it. And it is these moments that make life a whole lot more fun!

Next time: A Potluck Picnic in the Park with Family and Friends

Photo Credit: Erin Barrette Goodman