At a certain age, you know you're probably done making children. Which is good and bad.

On one hand, it's kind of sad -- that is, if you actually like your kids. I complain about mine a lot, but I complain about my local sports teams, too. But I'd never consider abandoning any of them.

Maybe that's not the best analogy.

On the other hand, as they get older and more independent (my kids, not the local sports teams), I can feel the beginnings of something, sort of like lake ice starting to melt in March, or waking up one morning, stretching, and starting to feel your injured body come back to life.

OK, maybe that's not the best analogy either.

(Theresa Schiffer/Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel/MCT)

The point is, while it's sort of sad seeing your kids get older and losing some of the innocence that makes young children wonderful, it's also terribly nice to be able to spend a Sunday afternoon with your wife without feeling like a stressed-out Secret Service agent, frantically trying to keep three charges from being killed as they run giggling across a parking lot.

Magic of playdates

One of the advantages of having your toddlers grow older is being able to leave them with other people for extended periods of time and not have to worry about being arrested or having the child suffer even minor psychological damage. My 5-year-old, whom we'll call Lucy because that's her name, is now old enough to have what parents call "playdates."


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We didn't have "playdates" when I was a kid. We had dismissive adults shoving us out the door telling us to find something to do. Parents now make arrangements days, or even weeks, in advance for their children to play with other suitable children with suitable parents in suitable playgrounds, parks or perhaps the suitable home of said suitable parents, for designated suitable time periods.

That brings me to a recent weekend, when my wife and I wanted to see a movie that didn't involve animated characters or having to walk a child to the restroom every 20 minutes.

Oh, it was wonderful. We left Lucy with her little friend and went to a restaurant for lunch. A real restaurant! Just the two of us! We talked, we laughed, we at no time had to pull a child out from under the table. It was like coming up for air after a long underwater swim.

The enthusiasm continued at the theater where, like giddy nerds, we showed up an hour early, went inside, and walked around looking at movie posters like normal people might peruse paintings in an art gallery (pathetic, yes, but I'm years past caring). We watched previews. We watched a movie that lasted for more than two hours and never once had to threaten a child. It was incredible.

Because I'm not used to so much fun, I was sort of exhausted afterward. We went back to pick up Lucy, chatted with her friend's parents for about 45 minutes (thankfully, they're friends of ours, too, and didn't mind me abruptly grabbing a pillow and blanket for a little nap), and promised to take their child next time. That actually is still a win for us, because instead of Lucy bugging us to keep her entertained, she has a little friend to do just that.

End of an era

Still, because I'm a big sap, I couldn't help but think of how we're beginning to exit the last phase in our lives in which a little person depends on us completely. There is something a little sad about that.

But if real restaurants and uninterrupted movies with my wife are the consolation prize, I'm more than willing to live with it.

Contact Tony Hicks at Facebook.com/BayAreaNewsGroup.TonyHicks or Twitter.com/insertfoot.