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!