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The Catholic New World


Mar. 4, 2007


On the first Friday of Lent, I had a very pleasant dinner date.

My companion and I enjoyed talking about our days and got to know one another over grilled fish at Red Lobster, just the two of us.

His preferences: French fries instead of vegetables, raspberry lemonade to drink. Mine: steamed veggies and Diet Coke.

We talked about how much harder it is to find short words in word search puzzles, and which Metra trains leave from which stations.

Then, after dinner, we spent quite a few minutes contemplating the tropical fish and the lobsters crawling around their tank.

After all, my date that evening was 6 years old.

Frank and I don't get too many chances to go out to eat together, just the two of us. More often, we go out as a family, which I like too.

But Frank and I share a liking for fish, something neither my husband nor daughter enjoy. In fact, I don't think Caroline would eat it if she were starving.

So when we found ourselves downtown at the dinner hour Friday and realized that it would be nearly bedtime by the time we ate if we went home and cooked, Tony and I decided to split up: I took Frank to Red Lobster, where he's been asking to go for months, and Tony took Caroline to an Italian restaurant where she dined on pasta without meat.

Sitting in a restaurant with only one child is far more relaxing than sitting with two. Without his sister, Frank had no one to goad into misbehaving-and no one to push his buttons. Plus, with my undivided attention, he didn't really have a chance to try to escape under the table or try to make his lemonade come out his nose.

The next night, I had a chance to bond with Caroline when I accompanied her and her Brownie troop to a sleepover at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum. Of course, it wasn't just she and I; there were 24 members of her troop, several without parent chaperones, so she had to share my attention with plenty of other girls. She doesn't seem to mind so much as long as none of them is her brother.

When she turned off the flashlight she was using to read her book long after lights out, she snuggled her sleeping bag up against mine before dropping off to sleep.

Moments like that recharge my batteries, reminding me how much I not only love, but actually like, my kids.

Spending time with them one-on-one helps me get to know them as individuals, on their own terms, and not just as part of the "CarolineandFrank" duo. Both of them are smart, funny and interesting, even though they have very different personalities and senses of humor.

They seem to like it, too. This was Caroline's and my second time at the museum's "Bunking with the Butterflies" overnight, and when we left Red Lobster, Frank was already planning when we could go again-just the two of us.

Martin is a Catholic New World staff writer. Contact her at [email protected]

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