Ha ha ha….now there’s a funny concept! I love my family. A huge reason behind the cruising decision for us was to spend more meaningful time together after all. However, considering that we all now work, learn, and live in the same, much smaller quarters; and we’ve thrown in some cozy COVID-19 quarantine time on top of that, you better believe we’re getting to know each other QUITE well: the good, the bad, AND the ugly. We will take our kids with us just about anywhere and wholeheartedly planned to do so throughout this journey. We genuinely enjoy our kids; they’re pretty funny and fun to be around. That being said, breaks from each other are not only warranted but incredibly healthy while living aboard. While our focus has been on family, not only does the family unit need continuous nurturing, but so do each of the individual relationships within that unit. Alas, we stumble upon the highly coveted, sometimes mythical, (for us anyway) Cruiser Date Night. It takes creativity, timing, trust, limit setting and networking if you desire any form of intimacy alone with your spouse while cruising on a boat with kids and a large dog, but I highly recommend the investment. After 9 months, here’s what we’ve come up with:
KIDS NIGHT OUT=PARENTS NIGHT OUT
La Cruz was a cruising kids haven….which means it was also a parents haven. (thank you Kat!) The La Cruz Kids Club at Marina La Cruz offered a full calendar of activities, many which did not require nor desire parental supervision (adult supervision however, was thankfully present). Imagine if you will a group of parents of kids of all ages who have been stuck…..I mean who consciously made the magnanimous decision to spend more time in a confined space at sea with no escape from their beloved families…for anywhere from 2 months to multiple years, being given an opportunity for a night off….SAY WHAT?!?!?!? Like roaches fleeing when the lights come on, you’ve never seen parents leave their kids so quickly as on Friday Night Kids Movie Night at Marina La Cruz! Skip the formalities and small talk, the clock is ticking people!!! Every parent for themselves!!!!! “Girls – don’t lose your money for pizza, stay with your sister, and hold onto your drink”…. “love you!” I exclaim as I’m being dragged the other direction by my date. If we wanted any chance of a “night on the town” we’d better be hoofin’ it to make it back in time! The mad sprint to get the ½ mile or so out of the marina into town is on! Choose closest restaurant, quickly order drinks and dinner, enjoy some adult conversation, and prepare to rush back to pick up our kids. The whirlwind was always worth it though! Unfortunately, Friday Night Kids Movie Night was only once a month. Other activities were usually during the day and pretty brief – usually conflicting with the ever-present boat projects. Not to mention, I was still in the guilty stage of wanting to be THERE for my kids after being gone so much during other chapters of their lives for work, so yeah, I was that ever-present mom (I quickly got the hint via eye rolls from my kids…don’t worry!). So, few and far between, but well worth the rush – these were some of our most enjoyable “out on the town” date nights.
We had 2 opportunities for babysitting: once when parents visited and once when other cruisers’ parents offered to babysit so that us two couples could go out for the night. Other than that, we haven’t made the effort to seek out babysitting opportunities. While I’m sure there are teens that would love to make some money and we hear of other cruisers exchanging nights so that each couple can have a date night out while the other watches the kids, we have Quincy to think about and it just doesn’t always work out. Now we’ve entered the era of COVID-19 – not even an option – BUST.
PARENTS NIGHT OUT OFF THE BOAT
With fewer restaurants open during COVID-19 restrictions and still living in a state of isolation, we’ve had limited options for date night off the boat. We have found however, that ordering food to go from the restaurant at the marina can easily turn into a date night, because it takes a while to get the kids’ pizza baked in the oven and they make a damn good margarita. We can see the boat from the restaurant terrace which is nice since we have a very large dog who likes to play Hoodini at the most inopportune times on the dock and will greet most strangers with a very distinct, repetitious bark much to everyone’s enjoyment. Last time the adult creatures attempted to leave to pick up food on our own, I returned to find a large dog gleefully galloping down the dock after a friend’s dog riding in a dinghy alongside. We’ve taken more precautions since, but she’s still way outside the circle of trust. Another time we went to check on a friends’ boat only a dock away, and not 10 minutes later, the kids were trying to yell something incomprehensible to us from our bow. I ran back to find out that the critical emergency was that their WiFi wasn’t working….so yeah, we have good reason to keep eyes on them all. The circle of trust is still far beyond reach of this merry band of pirates.
Unexpectedly back in the marina again, we decided to take another stab at “date night” at the marina restaurant. We decide this time to take a handheld VHF radio to allow for comms with the kids which adds a level of both comfort and trust. It’s not a walkie talkie; you’re using an open radio system designed for purposeful communications within the local boating community. Radio etiquette is taken seriously….well mostly, as I recall Mr. Farty pants who graced us all with his gaseous ballad on Channel 16 one morning….it will be taken seriously by us at least. Needless to say, entrusting two very precocious young kids to know when and how to operate the radio in our absence isn’t taken lightly.
“How do you call us if you need us?” we ask. “Ummmmm…Tulum Away Team??? Or pizza delivery service, this is Tulum? Then we just switch to channel 16 or something?”….Clearly it was time for a review in radio etiquette, not to mention the kids wanted “a cool callsign”. We settle on some ground rules, throw around some callsign ideas (mostly superhero names), turn on a movie, remind them that there is a 130 lb 4-legged liability asleep in the cockpit that they are responsible for, and head on our way. FREEDOM!!! No need to rush, we’re right on the premises. I can almost taste my margarita as I take my sweltering stroll up the dock, already regretting wearing a long dress. We find our usual table at the edge of the terrace so we can see the boat and proceed with ordering food and drinks (as far from other people as we can get). The open-air restaurant has been progressively filling up over the 3 months that we’ve been visiting so we’re happy to still get our “table with a view”. Despite the regulations loosening up a bit down here, we’re also happy to see the servers continue to wear masks and space the tables some distance from the others. Halfway through our margaritas we hear the distinct bark of our canine security system bellowing throughout the marina (just what everyone wants to hear at sunset); not once or twice, but multiple times. We can see people on the dock near the boat, likely what she’s barking at and though not truly alarmed, decide to use the radio: “Tulum, Tulum, this is Batman”, we call with little optimism that we’ll hear a response the first time, thoroughly convinced the kids are deeply entranced in their movie.
Surprisingly we hear a familiar voice answer “Batman this is Tulum” (hmmmm….bubble of optimism is inflating),
“ ‘KAY” (bubble just popped),
On channel 17 now: “Tulum this is Batman”…….wait for it, wait for it,
“Batman? I want a cool call sign too. Can I be Catwoman?”,
“Nevermind, what is Quincy barking at?”….long silence…
”Ummm just some people on the dock, she’s laying down now”,
“You guys OK?”,
“Yeah, but can I be Catwoman?”,
“Fine, Batman back to TWO-TWO”,
“Catwoman back to TWO-TWO, MEEOOOWW!”
We smile because tonight wasn’t really about escaping the children, just creating a little space between us all who’ve all been cramped up together, and allowing us to focus on the two of us (Ok really, we just wanted the good margaritas and nice view from the terrace without the kids). Like many things in life, it’s not about where or what you do, it’s your state of mind. We call it date night for a reason – it instills excitement and a break in the routine for us. Heck, I might even throw on a dress and some earrings and put on some lip gloss under my mask because it makes me feel pretty – why not? We live like scrubs much of the time working in the heat and humidity, barely changing out of our bathing suits some days, so it’s a welcome change of perspective to conceptualize going on a date and spending quality time with your spouse.
THE UN-DATE NITES
Most of our so-called date nights we just resort to closing our doors in the back and watching a non-kid friendly show (Black Sails/Vikings) and enjoying some adult conversation. Occasionally some red wine and chocolate will magically appear – such a treat when a good bottle is not as readily available as it once was! It’s simple, but it’s still us time. You do what you can to enjoy these moments and allow yourself permission to take the time to do so. Sometimes it’s as easy as walking on the beach together while the kids snorkel or swim nearby. Not so much a date night, but still a win-win break from each other so the kids can be kids and adults can be adults.
The good part about this all is that we’ve learned to let go of some of the protective parental shield we have over our kids. Without us around, they have some freedom to make their own decisions. We’re still very safety and security conscious, but if we don’t allow some autonomy, they’ll never learn to fend for themselves. Perhaps by some people’s standards we’re too conservative, but you can’t erase years of emergency and forensic nursing experience and the impact it has had on my role as a mother. Back home – at 10 and 8 years old, we’d never leave them without adult supervision. Out here, however we’re usually only a holler or radio call away from Catwoman and her merry medley so why not? Date night it is – take it any way you can!