Finding a sitter hardest part about dating

Those who have been following this space the past couple of weeks will be happy to know that my lovely wife Bonnie and I are doing just fine, thank you. In fact, our relationship has never been better. Turns out marriage counseling really does work. So does Gas-X.

Actually, the real reason our marriage has remained strong over the years is that we've never stopped dating. Each other, I mean.

The problem with dating, though, as you grow older and have children, is finding a baby sitter. It's almost as difficult as deciding which bunch of incompetent yahoos to pull the lever for this Tuesday - the ones who will probably raise our taxes, or the ones who certainly will.

But I digress. My wife and I now have teenagers who can baby-sit their younger siblings, but if you haven't reached that stage yet, you may be feeling some desperation. Perhaps, like many young couples, you and your spouse have not had a date in months. That's bad news for your relationship. The good news is that you're unlikely to have more children.

What you need is a decent baby sitter, defined as someone who will probably not set fire to your kitchen, become intimate with her boyfriend on your sofa or teach your children Wiccan incantations while you're out for the evening.

If you already have such a person, do everything in your power to keep her - excluding abduction, except in extreme circumstances. I personally have never abducted a baby sitter. Well, OK, once, but we fed her well and let her out of the closet several times a day.

If you're having trouble finding a sitter, I can only suggest that you keep looking in all the usual places: neighborhood, church, Internet chat rooms. I'd offer you my teenagers, but then the newspaper might charge me for advertising.

Or perhaps you do have older children - just not teenagers. Then the question becomes, how old is old enough? To determine that, simply apply this highly scientific formula: Multiply the age of your oldest child by the number of months since your last date. If the product is at least 24, you have a baby sitter.

Example: Your last date was two months ago. Your oldest child is 12. Ding! Haven't been out in three months? An 8-year-old will do. When my second child hit 1, we once left him for three hours with his 2-year-old sister. (Note to DFACS: Just kidding.)

I'll close with one last suggestion for male readers: If you really want to set the tone for a romantic evening, take care of lining up the sitter. Then your wife will be worry-free, with nothing to do but fix her hair and make-up and decide what to wear.

And while she's doing that, you can earn a doctorate in molecular biology and clone your own baby sitter.

Lawrenceville resident Rob Jenkins is associate professor of English and director of the Writers Institute at Georgia Perimeter College. E-mail him at rjenkinsgdp@yahoo.com.