A Christmas Tale: I Should Have Known Better
“You should come, it’s totally kid-friendly!” I fell for it again.
Though I have three kids under the age of 5, I’m a pretty adventurous mom, usually up for anything and willing to bring the kids in tow. To be clear, this has gotten me into trouble many times.
Thinking, “What’s the big deal? It’s just a baby!” has led to all sorts of awkward moments where I’ve found myself breastfeeding at national monuments, changing diapers on hot city sidewalks while my baby squirms in a stroller and at least one shopping excursion that ended in a sea of spit-up… The list of silly decisions goes on. But this time, this one time, it wasn’t entirely my fault. I was blind-sighted, but I should’ve known better anyway.
A couple of weeks ago our family was invited to what I assumed would be a pretty fancy dinner party to celebrate the holidays. As fate would have it, my husband was in London on business, which meant I was home with the urchins myself that week. All week. Surprising myself with a pretty practical move, I declined. But the hostess wouldn’t have it and our game of social ping-pong began. Come, she said, assuring me that indeed the whole party was completely kid-friendly. She had kids’ activities ready to go! There was already a babysitter hired to help out! Other small kids were coming! Come!
So we did.
What a fiasco.
I should’ve trusted my gut when I saw that thick card stock invitation in the mail. With an actual stamp. This was no shindig for kids. The moment we walked into their sparkling historic home, all lit up for the holidays, I knew I was doomed. Just removing our coats while my preschooler kept diving under my legs, hiding from the strangers, was a feat. Juggling the kids, their coats and our gift for the hostess, I started saying hello to the other adults, who were all wearing crisp suits, sparkly tops, all sorts of makeup and very high heels. (Now I can’t be sure but I think I swiped a bit of mascara onto my lashes before shuffling the whole crew out the door 30 minutes earlier.) A huge tree with GLASS ornaments lit up the whole room, just begging, practically taunting the kids to touch it. And when my 18-month-old toddler wasn’t removing ornaments he was crawling up the double banister staircase. Up, down. No, come back. There he goes again.
The hostess’s tween-aged son was adorable in pressed slacks, a button down shirt and tie, like a small Alex P. Keaton, eventually leading us upstairs to see where the kids’ activities would take place. Eagerly, and honestly relieved, I dragged all the kids up the winding staircase only to see two boy’s bedrooms, both neat as a pin… and no activities in sight. “The video will start later, and maybe we’ll have popcorn!” he announced. All I could think was, “When? Will it be later than three minutes from now?”
The “babysitter” was doing double duty that night, and for our first hour, she was busy helping the caterers set out pans of lasagna, salad, crusty garlic bread and pies. Those were the pies that my toddler kept trying to grab with his grubby little fingers thinking, “These look awesome! I’ll just pull one right off the buffet and go to town. I friggin’ love this party.”
So we moved into the kitchen and set up at the table, which also housed the non-alcoholic drinks and cups. I set up plates of pasta for the kids while caterers did their thing next to us. This was the calmest 10 minutes of the night. After the kids each enjoyed a Christmas cookie chaser, it was off to the staircase again.
Meanwhile other adults were talking to each other. I saw them! Holding glasses of wine and you know, mingling. Yes, some had kids but believe me that no one else made the outlandish move to bring three small kids to a party alone. Those guys had backup. After one attempted conversation with a dad who was new to the area and in the market for a house, I decided we’d go back to ours. You know the party isn’t going well when you just keep wishing you were home in your jammies watching The Closer on Amazon Prime.
We wrangled back into our coats, and with the protests of my 4-year-old ringing through the foyer—”But we didn’t do any activities! We haven’t seen a video yet! I want popcorn!”—we made our good-byes. The hostess was horrified. We only lasted an hour and apparently the fun, including the activities overseen by the now available babysitter, was about to begin. But we were done. Done in. It wasn’t our hostess’s fault. The timing was bad, I was worn out by a week of full-time single parenting and just couldn’t swing it.
Moms, let this holiday tale be one of caution and even inspiration. You know best whether you can handle taking the kids—or even your own worn out self—to any event you choose. Do not let people talk you into things that sound stressful just because they’re glossing over the part where you’ll have a baby/toddler/preschooler or maybe one of each with you. It IS a big deal, and if watching The Closer at home is what you can handle this season, I wish you the merriest Christmas of all.
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