“I think I would just rather have less stress, even if that means less fun.”
A girlfriend I grew up with, and now share motherhood with (our babies were born within a few months of each other) was telling me this week about her summer plans. No softball, no community garden. It’s too difficult to juggle it all, she had said, while trying to care for a 1-year-old.
I know what she means.
The end of the ski season seems to be the apex of Telluride’s social calendar, our end of the school year, so to speak. Parties, dinners, get-togethers, ski and lunch dates – it’s exhausting enough without trying to drag a baby around.
But we do. We don’t know any other way. So Elle joins us, at dinners out and at the bar. And we’re lucky, since Telluride is, largely, very accepting of this parenting style.
We ate at Cosmo last week, warning them, of course, that we’d be bringing a baby. They set up a high chair at the table, which Elle sat in for roughly one-third of dinner (which was impressive for a little girl who has lots of work to do.) That left two-thirds of the rest of the meal during which to find ways to keep a baby from screaming, crying, breaking something, wiping mashed potatoes on the wall, or otherwise causing a stir. And, at some point, try to eat something, have a conversation, and finish a glass of wine ourselves.
At some point in the early stages of parenthood, I think parents make a decision. They decide whether parenthood will radically change their life, or just significantly change their life. Will we still go out to dinner with friends? Will we continue to après-ski? Are those things important enough to us that we’ll take on the added strain of doing it all with one eye and more than half our attention focused on the goings-on of a two-foot-tall person?
To these questions, Craig and I have said yes. So we take Elle to the Cosmo, and while there are tenuous moments (she will no longer sit in the high chair, she has thrown her sippy cup into the path of an oncoming waiter, her finger is resting at the rim of Craig’s martini) we deal. This is how: We relax.
As parents, we know better than anyone that our child is a child, not a small person who has been trained to sit at dinner tables and bar stools for hours. Admitting that she will not do this, and therefore taking her out will require some bending of social rules, has made the idea of maintaining some semblance of social life palatable, even (dare I say) fun.
That is not to say I let my child wander through restaurants wielding butter knives and crawling under tablecloths. But, in an effort to keep everyone sane, we let the reins out just enough so that she can be a kid, and we can continue to be adults who enjoy eating out, and playing softball, and doing not all but most of what we did before we were parents.
It is, I know, easier for a parent of a young child to bow out of dinner invitations or commitments to beer-league sports teams, opting instead to keep the chaos of childhood confined to your own house and schedule. But I don’t believe it’s selfish either to reach for the things that give you joy. If that means crawling under tables at restaurants to pick up errant peas, learning how to change a poopie diaper while your kid stands on a toilet seat in a bathroom stall, or only ever finishing half a meal while out to eat, so be it.
I told my friend I know how she feels, that it usually is much easier to just stick to the basics and not step too far from the cozy confines of your kid’s routine. But I also told her that that stress of early parenthood subsides, that you feel less and less concerned about your kid versus disaster, that as the months go by you relax. And remember that sometimes, no matter the cost, fun is worth it, for fun’s sake.