Andrew and I don't go out by ourselves all that often unless the kids are away with their grandparents. Usually we go out with the kids to pot luck dinners, movies and parties with other families, or out for a dinner together, and that's how we like it. In the past, we have had a series of wonderful babysitters so if we needed the odd night out, we took it. But those sitters - all sisters - have all gone off to college now, and we haven't yet put any effort into finding replacements.
But last night we went out to a friend's house for a dinner party.
We left the kids by themselves.
They have been by themselves before, just not for very long and always in daylight. Granted, the dinner party was just up the street and not at all far away so we could get home quickly if need be. And Erik is almost old enough to take the babysitting course and definitely mature and responsible enough to look after his sisters. Anna is not far behind him, in addition to being cautious and rule-abiding, and quite prepared to call me if she even thinks something might go wrong. Grace promised not to push her brother's buttons - she has a real talent for that. And all three kids are well behaved and trustworthy.
But still a big step.
We left them with a big bag of doritos, a chocolate bar, and (ooh the thrill) a can of coke each. Sweetening the pot, so to speak. (Some might say bribe, but I think that takes it too far.) And movies. Locked the doors, left cell phones and phone numbers. And went out - somewhat trepidatiously - for dinner.
A couple of hours later, around 10 pm, I came back to check on them. This is what I found:
Erik in bed in his pj's snoring his head off.
Anna wrapped in blankets on the serenity couch listening drowsily to Toby Keith.
Grace. Ah Grace. She's the youngest of course. And what was she doing?
Dressed in tights and a long t-shirt and a Santa hat, she was prancing around the house pretending to be an elf.
And they were all really proud of themselves this morning, and wondering just when we are going out again.
All I need is a few more friends who live close by.