My husband and I had a lot of fun before we had kids. I mean A LOT. We traveled, we spent money like crack whores, we had nooners for heaven’s sake.

And we also loved going out for cocktails. We probably met at some swanky bar, or curious hell hole, or trendy hipster joint five days a week after work.

It was fun.

And least of all because we got a little loopy. The fact is that most of the time we really didn’t. What we would do is laugh and talk and debrief each other about our days. Sometimes we had pow-wows about our dreams and where we wanted to be in five years. Or maybe we just chattered about where we wanted to go the coming weekend.

Nick and Nora drinking

I always made sure to put some lipstick on and leave whatever bad attitude I had brewing at the door before I walked in to any of these establishments. I wanted my husband to remember why he married me and see a glimpse of the woman he first laid eyes on at a candlelit pub in Prague back in 1994.

It’s like I always tell him, “The last twenty-five year-old woman you had was me.” I don’t say it to depress the man.

When we had kids, we knew our lives would change, and we were ready. We understood that dragging a bunch of kids around the world was not only prohibitively expensive, but no fun. Kids want to go to the beach or Disney World. And they will make you pay if you try to take them to, say, The Louvre. Nor could we lay around naked reading the newspaper anymore. Not unless we wanted to go to jail.

Nick and Nora with kid

But my husband and I are pretty determined people and we were adamant about having a relationship that didn’t exclusively revolve around family activities. We wanted to stay interested in one another and have a way of getting caught up on each other’s soap opera.

So, we instituted a cocktail hour.

Every evening, before we set our sights on making dinner, my husband mixes us a great cocktail and we sit down on our porch or in my husband’s office and get down to the business of making each other laugh, telling a story or sharing a great idea and trying to get the other on board. There are only two rules to our cocktail hour: no children allowed, no talking about children allowed (unless it’s a really great story).

And while the kids complain every once in a while, or try to crash our party, we’re pretty emphatic about it. I once said to my daughter, “Would you prefer to live in a house where your mom and dad don’t want to spend time together?” That was a revelation for her.

Nick and Nora

Over the years, I have to admit that our cocktail hour has caused a little bit of embarrassment in our small town. Our youngest, for instance, was charged at school with painting her daddy’s “favorite things” on a flower pot as a Father’s Day present. She painted nothing but martini glasses, and I’m sure that got a good laugh in the teacher’s lounge. My son once took a message from a caller and said, “Sorry, but it’s cocktail hour and you don’t want to mess with that. My mom will call you back.” The caller was – no kidding – his Sunday School teacher.

Our cocktail hour is worth a few wagging tongues, though.

It’s a little wisp of a vacation at the end of the day. A mini-date that has acted as a daily reminder of how much we enjoy each other’s company when we’re not fixing lunches and feeling confounded by “new” math and watching Young Frankenstein for the 1500th time. It is what has helped keep our relationship a living, breathing thing – even if we’re not carefree young adults anymore with stubbornly thin physiques and the confidence to smoke a cigarette without the fear of impending doom.

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