Gatherings with Children

I’m at that stage of life where I spend every gathering in the stairwell watching my twenty-month old go up and down the stairs while everyone else catches up and eats. I’m on baby number three, so I’ve already done the stairwell phase of development a couple of times. If you’ve been at a party with me in the last nine years, you might not have noticed, unless you had to use a second floor bathroom.

Somehow, my husband never ends up in the stairwell. He’s less concerned about our kids plummeting down the stairs than me. I think a lot of women default to this role — the more safety conscious parent; i.e., the one who keeps the kids alive.

Keeping kids alive, not to mention rested and fed, changes everything. The whole landscape of friendships changes when you have kids. First of all, you lose all the friends who can stay up past ten at night. I still like them, but there’s no more gathering. I’m at home trying to get my kids to sleep, often without success.

You also lose all the friends whose kids nap at slightly different times than yours. If your kid naps at 10-12 and your friend’s kid naps at 1-3, you might as well give up and say, “Sayonara, sister, see you in five years!” This, of course, is ironic because children never actually sleep. There’s the hope that they will, and I’ve heard rumor that some kids sleep, but it’s not true.

Really, if you have kids, you might as well just break it off with everyone you know and make friends with people in the orthodontist’s waiting room or that person you always run into at the playground. For me, it’s a guy named Jack. I see him everywhere. He picks up his grandkids and takes them to the same places I take my kids. Jack and I should give up and become best friends. I haven’t proposed this to him yet. He would probably be surprised.

You might wonder how I’m going to spin this into a conversation about mysteries. Truthfully, so am I. I have two potential angles, though. Humor me and let’s explore both:

1) Gathering with mystery writers. I used to do this on a weekly basis. Now, not so much. I’m on extended “maternity leave” from my coffee shop writer’s group. Last week I dropped in on our “office holiday party.” There weren’t stairs at this party, but I spent most of the time in an office looking at a statue of a dog with the baby while the others hung out in the main area. And for option two…

2) The mystery of when children sleep. This, of course, is too big of a mystery for me to solve. There are so many books about it, but actual crimes are easier to solve. I take great comfort in writing crime fiction as a relief from parenting. Since the birth of my third child, I think the number of bodies per book has probably increased dramatically.

So there you have it. Gathering with children is a compromised experience in some ways, but a gathering without children is so much less. My friend Jillian recently ran for City Council in Durham, North Carolina. She’s a young mom and her campaign was kid friendly. She brought toys and play tents for the kids to play with at the victory party. I actually teared up at the picture because it was such a beautiful and inclusive image. By including people from all walks of life and ages, she invites participation from so many more voices. That’s the kind of gathering I want to be a part of. Damn! Now I’m thinking I should have started with that.

Until next time, Mysterista readers! I hope you enjoy all of your holiday gatherings!

 

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9 thoughts on “Gatherings with Children”

  1. Oh, I remember those days! My kids are now 15 and 13, so they require a lot less supervision. But yes – my entire social circle changed when they were little (and my friends were still childless). But I wouldn’t change anything. And I think the mystery of “when kids sleep” is too much for anyone to solve, except perhaps Sherlock Holmes!

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  2. I’m not much for “parties”. Time and money restricted our activities while the kids were young and at home. A lot of going to relative’s homes and such. Now I seem to be the designated designated and the guy who is off to the side entertaining the resident dog while the rest consume their consumables. At least dogs don’t judge and usually appreciate the attention from the sober designated doggie guy.

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  3. This made me smile. We were just getting into the swing of being Empty Nesters (which is as fabulous as it sounds!) when my Navy boy asked us to adopt his dog because he couldn’t take her from Guam to Bahrain. Not as drastic as having a kid, but boy-oh-boy, the things you have to think about. And of course, new mysteries. Like what invisible thing is she barking at? And if she doesn’t want to go out, isn’t hungry, and doesn’t want to play, why is she staring at me like that? But at least she goes up and down the stairs okay.

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  4. 🙂 I remember those days well! They went by way too fast. My friends were the other stair-watchers, and I learned to write faster. If it didn’t get done during naptime, it didn’t get done at all.

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  5. I remember those days as well. When they’re over, it’s not like someone turned a light switch. The kids just come up with a new set of perils that you hadn’t anticipated. Mine are in their 30’s now and I have grandkids and it’s someone else’s job to watch the stairwell while I cuddle with one of the little ones. There is a pay-off, you’ll just have to live a long time to get to it.

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  6. My children are older, but I still try to follow the advice that someone older and wiser than I am gave to me — when they sleep, you sleep. Unfortunately when they get REAL old and DRIVE, they don’t sleep, and neither do I. Gives me time to read, though.

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  7. Thank you..this speaks to me so much (even though we’re past the baby phase here, I was giggling and nodding my head in solidarity at the same time while reading it). And the mystery of when kids sleep…yes. If you could crack that case, you’d be a zillionaire.

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