You’d think it would be as easy as finding a babysitter. You would be wrong. Eugenia Loli

A little after my daughter had her first birthday and started walking around unaided, she turned into a fucking monster. She had her delightful moments, sure, but they were often inexplicably interrupted by meltdowns of such exuberant power that she left us shell-shocked and exhausted once the fierce gale had passed. She was Jekyll and Hyde, and we were both her captive audience and reluctant victims.


Part of it was that she was growing a whole new set of (extra sharp) teeth, and part of it was the effects of toddler regression, wherein she was so thoroughly focused on learning a new skill (walking) that she temporarily regressed in other areas (like sleeping peacefully through the night, something we were damn lucky to have had up to that point). Both the teeth pain and the turbulent sleep made her cranky as hell and added fuel to those off-the-chart mood swings.

She had also become clingier and conversely more insistent about her independence, more demanding and utterly impatient about what she wanted (like shrieking at me for snacks as I was, at that very moment, getting her snacks). And those throw-herself-on-the-floor meltdowns? They'd be comical if they weren't so deafening.

Right around this time, her dad and I realized we hadn't been alone together (without the child sleeping nearby) for more than an hour since before she was born. We hadn't been in some sort of date situation in well over a year.

You'd think it would be as easy as finding a babysitter. In fact, we had two different nannies we could call on to babysit. It was more about making and executing a plan successfully, and nothing going wrong in any part of the process.

On one occasion, the nanny canceled about an hour before she was due to arrive because she'd unexpectedly started throwing up. On another occasion, the other nanny canceled the day before because she'd just found out her youngest son had whooping cough.

Then there was that date night we actually did make it out. The outcome of that evening was foreshadowed when my partner—a person who rarely gets sick, who has a cast-iron stomach, who I'd never seen throw up or even be nauseated during our entire four years together—started grumbling about having a stomachache.

After we dropped the child off with the sitter in Wallingford, he insisted we hunt down some yogurt, as he was convinced live cultures would help his gut. We had about an hour to kill before the restaurant opened, so we stopped at Walgreens, snagged him a Yoplait, and made a beeline across the street to Archie McPhee, for fun but also to look for a yogurt-eating utensil. (We ended up with a switchblade spork, which is exactly what it sounds like.) Then we ducked into the Bounty, where, in hindsight, we could have gotten a proper spoon. I had a latte; he had a beer. Bad idea.

As we were headed to Bizzarro Italian Cafe, crossing 45th Street, he simultaneously started projectile vomiting and trying to sprint out of the street, spewing a chunky, frothy stream onto the road, and then the curb, in full view of the people waiting at the light. They likely thought he was some dumb drunk college kid and not a grown-ass man with serious ills who was usually quite stoic, thank you very much. But at that moment, he was caught up in the sheer force of his ills.

In between heaves, he moaned apologies. And after he seemed to regain a measure of control—even though he was still panting a little and sweating—my lover, ever the trooper, said, "I think I'm good now." As if we could just stroll into the restaurant and he wouldn't blanch and gag at the first scent of garlic. At this point, it was pretty clear to me, if not to him, that his "stomachache" was either food poisoning or one of those awful 24-hour bugs, both of which indicated he wouldn't be able to eat anything for a while yet. The date was abandoned.

Now, I'm not saying we've never had a successful night out. There have been a few.

On one occasion, we went to Osteria la Spiga and had a leisurely (and rather decadent) meal. Fine wine! Craft beer! A charcuterie plate! Of course, in our hurry to get out of the house, he'd forgotten his ID, so instead of after-dinner drinks, we picked up a six-pack on the way back and streamed movies on the couch (the child was asleep by the time we got home).

On another night, we had a nice evening of shopping (Victoria's Secret!—and no, he didn't join me in the dressing room, that's creepy), followed by dinner at the Virginia Inn, a totally random discovery for us and a big winner.

Another "successful" date happened while our daughter was in the ICU, after a bout of croup turned serious and she had to be intubated because her throat closed up. It was our third night of sleeping at the hospital. Both of us were at our wit's end, exhausted and undernourished on cafeteria food and "healthy" snacks. The nurse suggested we go out for a bite to eat, pointing out the obvious fact that ICU nurses were the best babysitters. Or maybe she just said "nurses," I'm not sure. I was pretty delirious at that point, and "food" and "outside" and "babysitter" were what I heard most clearly.

So we stepped out and went to an Italian joint a few blocks from Seattle Children's Hospital called Varlamos Pizzeria. He had a giant plate of chicken Parmesan. I had the best gluten-free pie I'd never expected and a few glasses of prosecco. We both enjoyed a brief period of blissful peace in the cozy, candlelit dining room, and headed back to the ICU feeling warmed and renewed. It made that last night at the hospital bearable.

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Just a few weeks ago, when we were in Florida over the holidays visiting family, his parents watched our daughter for about 90 minutes while we had a quick (but satisfying) dinner at a nearby sushi and Thai joint. We haven't had a proper night out since then.

But I've reserved a sitter for next Saturday. Fingers crossed on the outcome.