‘Are You Going Out Tonight?’ My Kids Ask Hopefully

Posted on March 26, 2013


I often wear earplugs when writing in my office, and when I come out I’ve learned I can leave the earplugs in and still understand what the children are saying, because they’re invariably asking one of two questions: ‘Are you going out tonight?’ and ‘What time will you be home?’

I was a kid once, too, and no matter how innocently they’d like these questions to sound, I know what they really mean.

What they say: Are you going out tonight?

What they mean: I sure hope you’re going out so we can go through your drawers looking for expensive electronics we can drop. Also, if there’s time we plan to find every flashlight in the house, turn them on, then forget about them so the batteries will be drained in case of an emergency.

What they say: What time will you be home?

What they mean: If you say our bedtime is 9:30 but you’ll be home at 10:30, that means our bedtime is 10:29.

My wife used to feel guilty when we would go out for the evening and leave the kids behind, and their question ‘Are you going out tonight?’ was interpreted as an indirect plea not to deprive them of our company.

What she says: I feel bad about leaving the kids behind.

What she means: I feel like I should say I feel bad about leaving the kids, so I can pretend I didn’t want to go and then let you talk me into going, so if the house burns down I can say it was your fault.

It took me a long time to make her realize her guilt was a form of self-flattery, because no 11-year-old enjoys his mom’s company so much that he wouldn’t rather have the house to himself on a Friday night. I think I made her feel better when I assured her they wouldn’t miss our company one bit while watching Cinemax in between searching high, rickety shelves for junk food.

Recently, my kids were complaining about how little television we let them watch, and I told them my mom rarely let us watch TV when I was young. When the kids left, my wife asked, ‘Then how do you know the plotlines of every 80s TV show?’

Because I caught up on those important television lessons while my parents were neglecting us while they selfishly attended PTA meetings and volunteered in the community.

‘Are you going out tonight?’ Their voices are so full of hope. If I answer no, they ask, ‘What about tomorrow night? Or the night after? We haven’t seen your friend Arran for a while. Maybe you should give him a call and see if he wants to go out. Maybe he really needs to talk, or something.’

This winter I’ve taken to wearing a sport coat and scarf inside the house, just because I want to get their hopes up.

‘Are you going out tonight?’
‘No. Why?’
‘Because you’re so dressed up. We thought you might be going out.’
‘No. I just wanted to look my best in case the ghost was watching.’

But I understand where they’re coming from because I was a kid once, too.

What I say: Be in bed by 9:30. Don’t go through my stuff. Don’t watch Cinemax.

What I mean: Watch HBO.

Posted in: Family