We achieved a new plane of freedom last night—we left the kids with “sitters”. Yes, yes, Wally Ben is 3 years old, so this has been a long time coming. But, he was a notoriously angry little fellow as a baby and toddler when left with anyone other than grandparents. He cried for entire hours in the nursery at church. He would be returned to us, red-faced, doing that post-cry 3-tiered sigh that only follows a prolonged, soul-bearing sob session. So we have used his aunts and uncles on occasion and our parents when available, but we have not gone any further.

Then, last night, came an event we didn’t want to miss—our boss dancing in Stars Dance for PADS of Elgin. We were promised a Fox Trot and Lindy Hop from the leader of our company, on a stage with his adorable wife, and he would wear a top hat to boot. Then came the dilemma—all the usual suspects for kid-watching had plans. So we took great care deciding who would freak Vivvi out less, since she is our new stranger anxiety-laden little one. But mostly, should she choose to cry the whole time before bed, who would be the nicest about it, who would survive, and who, afterward, would still consider her to be the shmoopiest shmoop who just happens to have a case of the mommies. We also needed someone who would be a draw for WV, since in his 1,189 days of life he had never had anyone but parents or grandparents and maybe his own aunties put him to bed. (Holy date-nights-in! We are lame!)

So we chose our subjects—my Auntie Sara and Steve-O. And they were willing, able, and enthused. They were a nice transition for all of us to a babysitter—Wally knew them, Vivvi would recognize them, and we love them. Plus, they find WV’s energy hilarious and Auntie Sara was the one who dubbed Vivvi her Schmoopie, so we knew they were the perfect guinea pigs—suckers!

Not sure how WV would react, I prepped him all week, dropping subtle hints like, “Won’t it be fun when Auntie Sara and Steve-O come to watch a movie with you?”, to which the cautious little guy would say, “Oh, and are you gonna be there?” And I’d deflect, with, “No, we don’t get to stay, but you get to have a pizza party!”

With WV, you have to be extra careful not to make anything seem too new and exciting, or he’ll grow suspicious of your intentions and any nervousness he has about something new will explode. I learned this the hard way his two-year-old Christmas. I tried to make Santa a big deal, pushing the milk and cookies concept so hard that he spent the first half-hour of Christmas morning in a comatose state in the corner, and we spent the morning trying to coax him over to the presents some fat bearded schmuck had dropped off when he came to steal our cookies.

So, my 3-4 mentions of the pizza movie party in the weeks leading up to the big event could have gone either way. He seemed nervous-excited the day before, so I still wasn’t sure which way this was going to go with him. (With Vivvi, once she took 2 pathetic naps the day of, I was positive that she would be a snotty, crying mess. But they could just put her to bed, and no amount of talking will encourage a 9-month-old to be okay with anything, so I let her be. Again, this is why sitting subject selection was of utmost importance.)

The day came. WV was setting the table, and husband Wally left to pick up the pizza. Any fears I had about WV were dispensed when, as he heard his Dad open the garage, he yelled, “They’re here!” I informed him that the garage door sound was just his daddy leaving, and he whined, “Awww, but I want them to be here!” At that moment, I had to ask myself the question packed with relief that all parents love to ask themselves: Why didn’t we do this sooner?

They arrived on schedule (or in WV’s mind, finally!). As we were walking them around showing them the essentials, WV ran laps around us, tried to show them everything before I did, and yelled his shares of “Watch this!”, followed by thinking of something to do once they looked. (Typically a spin move, some sort of a leg kick, or crashing his head into something nearby.) They asked about bedtimes, and when informed WV’s would pretty much be after their movie at 8:30, Auntie Sara asked, “Aww, too easy! Can we keep him up a little later for some playtime?” It was thus confirmed—best babysitters ever.

And yes, Vivvi cried as we left. As I have learned in my 3 years of parenting, though, crying has never hurt anybody. And I got the perfect phone call 15 minutes after we left with a report that the crying had subsided 10 minutes ago. WV was pizza-ed, and the movie had commenced. We could enjoy our adult evening with the comfort that the kids knew we had left them with the best.

Two texts throughout the night confirmed it:
7:16 pm: All is quiet on the ott front. Schmoop watched the movie for a bit and had some bottle and fell asleep at 7!
9:33 pm: Party boy bit the dust at 9:10 with no problems and both are snoozing peacefully. Party on!

So apparently, for WV, the excitement of a night without mom and dad never wore off. And we rather enjoyed ourselves also—the boss’s dance did not disappoint. But the best of all, I think, was that in the retelling of the night when we got home (which involved lots of running, a cookie, and WV informing them about how we usually do things around here), we got the sense that Auntie Sara and Steve-O had a great time as well! There’s nothing better than knowing when a generous gift is a giver’s pleasure!

Thank you Auntie Sara and Steve-o! Not only did we get a great night out, but thanks to your great care and generosity, we got the freedom and license to know we can do this! Get ready date-nights-out! The Otts are back!

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