It all started with my desire to see Hamilton.
Well, I guess that technically it started with a night out on the town to see a play to celebrate our fifteenth wedding anniversary. That same weekend the theatre was launching season ticket sales for the following season, which included tickets for Hamilton.
I really wanted to go but we had no idea if we would even be able to purchase tickets once they were made available to the public. Houston was on the first round of the national tour and this would be the first viewing opportunity for most people in southeast Texas.
My husband looked at me and said, “Let’s find out how much season tickets will cost us.”
I stalled. There was no way that we could afford that, could we? And, after years of telling him that we couldn’t even consider NFL season tickets, was he really offering me the chance to look at the line up and purchase tickets to not one, but seven shows?
Yes, yes he was.
And while the line-up wasn’t full of shows that we were extraordinarily excited to see, there were a couple we were interested in. We decided to dive in, purchase the tickets to lock in Hamilton, and just enjoy the bonus shows that followed. If there were shows we really didn’t care about, we could just sell the tickets.
It wasn’t just about my husband giving in to his wife’s love of theatre; getting those season tickets locked us into date nights for the next year. It didn’t matter what else came up or what we had going on, those Sunday evenings were reserved for us and we had to go out, no excuses.
Several years ago, when we were barely keeping our heads above water, we finally buckled down and took a financial planning class through our church, an experience that convinced me that every couple should probably do something similar before they ever consider getting married. One of the sticking points that we came to as we were planning our family budget was the need for a date night. Now that we had two small children, my husband was eager to be more intentional about going out on a regular basis. I, on the other hand, was overly pragmatic, concerned about bringing a babysitter (usually one of my students) into our perpetually messy home, finding money to pay said babysitter, and then figuring out how we were going to pay for the date after we set the money aside for paying our babysitter. As I skipped over that line in the budget he stopped me and told me that we had to put money in the budget to pay for date night. “We need to remember what it is like to be together without kids and we need to do it more often than twice a year,” he told me.
It was a stretch, but I did it. I put the line item in and I worked hard to faithfully put money into the budget every month to pay for a babysitter (outside of daycare) for a night or afternoon out. And we learned how to make the actual outings work into our budget. We discovered that late morning and early afternoon outings to the movie theater were not only cheaper but easier on the whole family because we could still be home for bedtime. We occasionally took bike rides and found some kind of recreational activity to get out of the house while someone else supervised our kids. And as boring as it was, we sometimes completed shopping that we needed to do without piling kids into the car and grocery carts.
It was a long road, but through a combination of unprecedented discipline and good career fortune, we managed to get our heads well above water by the time we stood in the lobby at the theatre and considered the “to-buy-or-not-to-buy” question.
And then suddenly it wasn’t just plays. We hadn’t been to a concert, with real, live music, since right after we got married. A friend invited us to Luke Bryan which reminded us how much we love live music and we reminisced about seeing Blues Traveler when we were just two college kids. We started looking for bands to knock off of our bucket list and found ourselves at the Houston Rodeo to watch Brad Paisley and on the way there bought tickets so that we could finally see Dave Matthews, nearly 20 years after my husband had attempted and failed to buy tickets for my birthday. While we’re not spending a weekend a month at concerts, we’ve become more open to discussing the possibilities and actually hitting “Buy” when we are surfing online. We’re re-learning how to have fun together and reminding each other that we are more than just Mom and Dad: we’re lovers, best friends, and life-long companions who still enjoy the things we did when we were 19-year-olds falling in love. The difference is now we have the ability to fund those activities without sentencing ourselves to Hamburger Helper for the next month.
We’ve joked that we’re getting a re-do on our 20s as we move into our 40s, and maybe we are. But more important than seeing musicals and bands and sporting events that we’ve dreamed of doing for years, we’re sharing those experiences together and our kids know that we’ve made these plans well in advance. That doesn’t mean we don’t enjoy the occasional impromptu movie date (forcing me to frantically search for a student without plans for a given night), but we’ve also chosen to be more intentional about the things that we’re doing together. The other night, as we got ready to see Miss Saigon (one of my all time favorites), I couldn’t help but think of the end-of-the-year grading I had to do, yearbook spreads that sat incomplete, and a house that is in typical school-is-almost-out disarray. I thought about the full calendar and every event that we had lined up through the rest of the month. If we hadn’t had this particular date night planned for almost a year, it would have been really easy to throw in the towel and just say, “Let’s wait a couple weeks until all of the madness settles down.” The excuses were there, but we had to ignore them. It was our night to go out and go out we did.
We’re nearing the end of our second year of season tickets and after several wonderful date nights of dinner, downtown walks, and a couple hours of live theatrical entertainment, we’ve decided to not renew our tickets for next season, mostly because there are very few shows coming that catch our eye. That doesn’t mean that we’re never going to get season tickets again, just not for the next year. But that also doesn’t mean that we are done with finding ways to guarantee, well in advance, that we have a planned night out. We have concert tickets and one last Broadway show lined up for the summer. We bought family passes to the local waterpark which we’ve already determined we need to use for a sneaky date night so that we can enjoy the park without worrying about what our kids are doing. And while we don’t want the season tickets, there is at least one show coming that I definitely want to see and so we’ll still purchase our seats as soon as they are available to the public.
Old habits die hard, and it would be very easy for us to fall back into the trap of just doing a movie and lunch when we are ready for a date away from our growing kids, but I’m doing my best to not slide back into old routines. The health of our marriage, and my desire to enjoy everything that my 40s has to offer, depends on it.