Valentine’s Day: Dads talk most romantic stunts and keeping the fire burning
Who says romance is dead? It’s a well known phrase and I imagine the answer to it would be – plenty of parents.
Since becoming mum and dad, in terms of what could be defined as a “date”, Jenna and I have:
- Only been cinema together about twice (under duress on her part I might add, “What about Roma?”, but also she has something of a film phobia if it’s not a disaster movie – don’t ask).
- Gone out to a gig for her birthday (which I booked as a present, so she couldn’t escape from it).
- Had a one-night couple’s retreat to Champneys (a Christmas gift to ourselves after I kept harassing her for dates), which taught me the importance of adult time.
In case you hadn’t guessed, she’s been a bit reluctant to be separated from our daughter, which I get entirely – that gummy little face is irresistible. However, it’s our love and time together as a couple that brought about Roma in the first place – maybe that’s what she’s worried about! – so I think the occasional spot of alone time is essential.
But just last Friday night, we had an early Valentine’s Day celebration in London.
How did I manage to clinch that, you ask? After weeks of asking a date that she was free with umms and ahhs and Romahhs in response, I had to go back to basics and say in a simple and irrefutable fashion:
“What are you doing on Friday? Would you like to go on a date with me?”
In other words, I gave the Godfather approach a romantic twist:
For our date, we first visited a brilliant bar called Archer Street in Soho, which was particularly standout for its live singers, who also happen to double up as waiting staff.
One minute you’re having your coat collected from a cloak room attendant and the next she’s standing on a table in front of you belting out out Ain’t No Mountain High Enough with the fella that’s just brought out your Long Island Iced Tea.
There was a merry party mood in swing as the crowd, largely in their 30s and upwards, sung along to everything from Motown to Grease numbers.
After that, we paced over to Ping Pong in Covent Garden as quickly as Google Maps would allow for a dim sum session. It was the first time there for the both of us and the food was banging!
But with a slightly baffling menu that has a pencil and paper number selection process, which makes it feel like a game of bingo is in place, coupled with the fact everything looked and sounded so good, we literally bit off more than we could chew and over-ordered. You live and learn, right? We’ll just have to go back at some point and make sure we’ve got the technique sewn up…
After the night out, Jenna agreed how nice it was to have a date together. And I couldn’t have agreed more – it felt so good to let loose and have some chill out time.
Dads, men generally, are often perceived as being thoughtless and forgetful, so since it’s Valentine’s Day I was wanted to prove that isn’t the case and reached out to see what other dads had done in their finest Romeo-esque moments – they didn’t disappoint.
“Before I proposed, I took her to the jewellery store and set it up for the jeweller to show her rings without her knowing what was going on – I went back later that day and bought her favourite. On the back of that, I flew her mom in for Thanksgiving week and proposed on a rooftop terrace overlooking the skyline in front of friends and family.”
“Jesus! That’s a tough question. Probably when I proposed on Christmas Day few years ago. I pretended I’d forgot to wrap one of her gifts, so went upstairs to get it. I told her to close her eyes as it wasn’t wrapped. Then got down on one knee and popped the question. We aren’t a romantic couple. Our idea of romance is that I don’t intentionally annoy her all the time 😆.”
“I think when we first met I was working in London all week for months, one day I got the chance to leave early. I had her on the phone for three hours during my drive (she thought I was still in London) and turned up on her door step…”
“Sarah’s fave film is Pretty Woman, so I surprised her by turning up outside the house in a limo with flowers just like from the movie. The limo was late and she was so pissed off with me for being late home, so she was gonna go out without me – I turned up just as she was about to leave. I think I was in the dog house for something so thought I’d do something nice to surprise her. I couldn’t explain to her I was late because of the limo, as it was a surprise, so she thought I was just late for no reason and she was like “that’s so typical of you, I’m going out see ya!” She was fuming. But then I rolled up in the limo 😎”
“For her 30th, I booked a surprise trip to Barcelona. I contacted her boss to secretly book the time off so as she was leaving for work in the morning, a cab was waiting and I jumped in with her (with our bags already packed, passports etc) and headed to the airport. Until we checked in she didn’t know where we going… I’d booked an amazing hotel in the hills looking over the city and then proposed to her on our beautiful balcony… a lot of planning but all worth it as she said yes!”
“Gyeez, I’ve done so many romantic things but the most romantic! Probably the proposal still stands. I did the whole traditional candlelit dinner at a restaurant where the chef prepared us a special dessert with “Will you marry me?”, got down on one knee, then took a romantic stroll through London to the theatre. It was like the movies.
“Or actually, maybe it was the year it was icy on Valentine’s day so instead of wine and chocolates I got her some de-icer and an ice scraper.”
Apparently on a mission to make us all look bad, Sam gave me a couple of moments to choose from. The first was when he proposed with the help of Adam Levine, as in of Maroon 5 fame, which culminated in an engagement party. Emma disagreed with that version of events though – her thoughts on his most romantic moment was a birthday surprise: BUYING HER A RANGE ROVER.
How does one keep romance alive into parenthood though? As we all know, adulthood, let alone parenthood, can be a logistical nightmare. These pros have the right idea…
“Keep complimenting your partner, tell them that you love them often. And take advantage of any babysitting offers! That time is precious!’
“It’s definitely important to make time regardless of how hard it might be to find the time. Don’t be shy to call on family and friends to help look after the kids (even young ones). Make a conscious effort to ditch phones for an evening for some “Netflix and Chill”. Recreate first dates and celebrate anniversaries.”
“Keeping romance alive when a baby comes into your life is difficult. For me it’s important to take every opportunity no matter how long, to remember that you are also a couple as well as parents. Take time for each other, even it’s just a cuddle on the sofa, and never waste an opportunity to go out as a couple.
“I always think to myself that our children are here because of our love. Take the time to say I love you and always give each other a kiss when you part. Romance, I think will then stay alive forever. It’s all about finding the time for each other.”
“I’m probably considered an experienced guy by modern standards, having been married for over 13 years. Not bad considering I’m only 37!
“(1) Always show you love your partner. Don’t just say the words. It’s about doing the housework to help when you could be playing Xbox.
“(2) Surprise your partner. A small gift after a hard week or even a simple text to say I love you and these are the reasons why will cheer your wife up.
“(3) Be a good dad. Be involved in your kids’ lives, dress them, wash them, feed them, take them to their after school clubs. One of the biggest drains on a relationship is when a mum feels like she’s bogged down with life.
“(4) Argue a little. Stand up for yourself as a husband and a dad. Your opinion matters and mum doesn’t always know best but learn how and when to choose your battles. And making up can be great…
“(5) Enjoy physical contact everyday. A hug, a kiss, a cheeky squeeze of the bum. It all highlights the fact you are still attracted to your wife after motherhood and all the changes that brings.”
“While your children are high priority, take time to have one-on-one time with your spouse with no other distractions and no talks of plans or the kids. Allow the other to know they are loved, appreciated, and valued even in the busy world of parenting…”
Thinking back to what I’d say the most romantic stunt I’ve pulled, when there weren’t as many organisational hurdles to clamber over, I reckon it would have to be booking a surprise trip to Paris over Christmas for Jenna’s 28th birthday.
Little did I know, a few hours after I’d booked it, Jenna would come home to tell me she was pregnant.
Aside from that minor detail, I don’t know what I was thinking with that trip be honest – it’s her 30th this year, so God knows how I’ll top that!
So there you have it. The dad’s guide to romance! If you’re suddenly reading this thinking, “shit, it’s Valentine’s Day” – there’s always a way out of it. Follow Clive’s tip number four and start a row – it could work wonders apparently…