How Misbehaving Almost Ruined our $20 Date Night

I know the back to school sales are in full force and the days are getting shorter, but I’m not giving up on summer – not just yet.

I’m also enamored with the $20 Date Night Challenge issued by Elle Martinez of Couple Money.

So far this summer, I’ve:

  • Found my way to a free zoo.
  • Taken in tourist attractions in the city for nothing more than bus fare.
  • Sampled wine and cheese on a savory tour of the arts in Bronzeville. The free trolley and great weather made the night rock! I actually made the highlight real (that’s me in the black and white top).
  • Walked right into an open air steppers set in Hyde Park in our workout gear.
  • Been reminded why Top Gun is not appropriate for little children at a free movie in the park.

Bronzeville Summer Night Tour

Being creative regarding budget-friendly entertainment options has almost been too easy this summer. While working our way out of over $100,000 in consumer debt over 7 years, it really paid to find low cost ways to enjoy life so we could stay focused on our goal.

I decided to give the $20 Date Night (in our case family outing) another go. It was Thursday and my new favorite place, The Children’s Museum in Navy Pier, is free from 5-8 PM for children and adults. On my way out the door, WonderMan texts me about a free showing of Top Gun at a Navy Pier outdoor theater. I’ll admit, I’m not particularly a Tom Cruise fanatic, but I do love a free outing. Why not? Another $20 Date Night it is.

We took public transportation to avoid the $25 garage parking fee and what I thought might be horrendous traffic (the Bear’s preseason football game opener was the same night and smack dab on the way to our destination). Needless to say, the commute was about 3x longer than expected. Since my 3 year old loves buses (I don’t know why), the longer ride was more of a treat than anything else.

By the time we arrived at Navy Pier, we had only 30 minutes left in the free day for the Children’s Museum. Not a problem. There’s so much to see and plenty more Thursdays in the future. We headed for the Water World exhibit.

This exhibit starts with the selection of multi-colored rain coats. As the name implies, there is water in this room – and loads of it. On our way in, this random stranger assured me, “You will get wet.” The children can play with pumps and floating things and splash to their hearts content.

So we’re having a good time. The kids are exploring and playing with everything when my son picks up a boat that has floated his way. Mind you, WonderBoy is only 3. Just then a much older – we’ll say 7 or 8 – child screams at the top of his lungs, “Hey that’s mine!!!”

My initial reaction was to insert myself in the situation and remind the little rapscallion (that’s not the name I want to use, but I’ll keep it classy) that if he wanted the boat back, there were more appropriate ways to ask for it. Besides, the stupid thing was just floating down the “river”. How would anybody know he was playing with it. However, my son – after being startled – just gave the boat over and moved on to something else.

He’s a lot more even tempered then his mother.

I just glared at the little angel as I cautioned myself not to overreact. I didn’t even snatch him when he poured a boat full of water on my 1 year old (that was a genuine accident, he was trying to douse his sister and missed). After all, I was warned upon entry, “You will get wet.”

The next day, I reflected on my near miss on the pleasant $20 Date Night and think I missed a teachable moment; even if it was with another person’s child. I don’t know if I was just being the overprotective momma bear or if I really thought that child was overly aggressive and out of line.

I actually even thought – that’s what you get for being cheap and coming to the last 30 minutes on the free night.

Thankfully, my son is no worse for the wear. He probably paid the little boy no mind and enjoyed the splash fest. We went from there to the open air showing of Top Gun for a brief spell. The kids were even too loud and busy for an outdoor movie (I apologize to all seated around us. I hope you enjoyed the movie once we left.) Even though it’s stuck in my craw now, we didn’t let the poorly behaved child ruin our outing.

Have you executed any fabulous $20 Date Nights? Let me know in the comments. I love the inspiration. We’ll have to keep this going through the fall and into winter.

Also, parents…let me know how you would have handled the loud mouth rapscallion. I’m new to this parenting gig. Should I just chill. After all, no one was in danger. Or should I take advantage of a teachable moment with other people’s children (before I start snatching kids up and end up on Youtube and catch a case LOL)?

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