Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Don't Take the Kids

Running on the long, winding road that stretches from one end of my subdivision to the other, I passed the home of "Jan" and "Steve." Fifteen years ago, they invited Darling Husband and me to a party. At the time, we were parents of a three year old and a one year old and chose not to go because we were tired or because we had another commitment or because we didn't feel like going through the hassle of finding a babysitter. I forget.

DH knew Jan and Steve through friends that they had in common. They were, and still are, professionals with interesting careers (who do not have children); people who I would have enjoyed talking to; however, I blew it. When they invited us to their home again, I RSVP'd on their voice mail with a hint request to bring my children.

Mistake. Not good.

We did not hear back from them; nor did they ever invite us again.

It was summer. I envisioned a back yard grill with hot dogs and hamburgers. We had taken the kids along to parties before and it worked out. Cling-ons and lap babies who were satisfied to have a cracker or a juice cup in their mouths while people watching, they never disturbed anyone...

Or did they?

There was an occasion where another couple invited us to their cookout; a couple who knew we had babies and who welcomed them. I seem to recall that there were a few other children there, too. Anyway, the wife of the host couple wanted to hold one of my girls and enjoyed doing so, and the kids were quiet as usual. But... I wonder how the other guests felt.

(By the way, that couple invited us back to next year's cookout and somehow got the message to me that it was for adults only. I appreciated her honesty.)

When I was a new parent, it took a few years for me to figure out that most people prefer that kids be left home; even when it is a casual, outdoor, neighborhood party. They feel that getting away from their own kids and then having to look at some else's, puts a damper on the atmosphere. Others are empty nesters who've gotten away from frequent contact with kids. Also, there are the party goers who want to drink to no end and act accordingly, which includes dropping a few f-bombs.

On a visit to the outskirts of Chicago eight years ago, friends of ours had a party at their home to welcome us, which included the kids. The other guests brought their kids, too, but it was obvious that "the kids" were expected to play outside or in another room and that "the adults" were given free range of the party room - complete with a stone enclosed fireplace, a long table with a feast on it, and a full bar. One of my three daughters, Girl #1, had no interest in playing with the kids and would not be separated from her parents. A male guest seemed to purposely make his point that she was not welcome with constant and overt cursing. A woman noticed "the child" being in "the wrong room," too, and told me that she thought it was good of me to be patient with my daughter by letting her eat with me while I was having conversation with adults.

I think that was her way of saying that she felt sorry for me because I was stuck with my child.

Jogging past Jan and Steve's house often stirs up memories of having young children and the specific challenges they presented. When they come into the world, the metaphorical helicopter begins to fly around them and parents tend to lose perspective.

I don't know if Darling Husband and I were wrong or not in taking our young children to, presumably, adult parties. They were like appendages and we didn't give it much thought; maybe because it wasn't often and because it was typically a "shorts and tee-shirt" setting. Also, other party throwers insisted that we "bring the kids" because they knew the effort and expense of hiring a sitter.

I'm not a "gotta go to the party" person and neither is my husband; though his work lands him at quite a few. When we go, we start with, "We'll go and stay for a short time." Most of the time, we stay much longer and are almost the last to leave. Whether the kids are there or not doesn't seem to matter. If we are there for the pleasure of the conversation (and food) with friends, it seems to work.

Some parties are obviously not meant for children to attend; however, if there is a fine line, do you mind kids being there or would you rather not see any?

Image found at

Wednesday, April 9, 2014


Ah-Choo! Ah-Choo!

In the waiting area of the doctor's office, a man sitting with his wife and daughter, 20 feet away, says to me, "God bless you."

Thank you.

At home in the kitchen: Ah-Choo!

Watching TV in the family room, Darling Husband says to me, "Bless you."

Thank you.


DH again: "Bless you."

Thank you.

Susceptible to springtime allergies since forever ago, my sneeze follows me around for a month or two; getting the attention of a family member, friend, or stranger who promptly says, "Bless you," "God bless you," or an occasional "Gesundheit."

When I was a child at home with my parents, I rarely got those responses. More likely, I heard, "Woo, that was a big one!" "Cover you mouth," or Turn your head"...not that Mom didn't want God to bless me. After all, my heart was dangerously stopping and missing a beat each time I sneezed... according to the belief of many.

Always a smidgen of a non-conformist, it occurred to me that I don't have to say "Bless you" every time someone sneezes; though I think it's a kind and personable act. With no expectation of a reprimand, I tried it (silence) when my daughter, Girl#1, who likes attention, sneezed.

"You didn't say anything," she said.

Oh. Bless you.

"Thank you," she responded with a smile of satisfaction.

Dictionary dot com defines tradition as "the handing down of statements, beliefs, legends, customs, information, etc., from generation to generation, especially by word of mouth or by practice." Bless you seems to fit.

I began to wonder about other traditions. For instance... When we name a child after a relative - an honor to the deceased or to family unity - do we really like the name? And godparents... When I was little, I was told that a godparent took responsibility of a godchild if something happened to the parents. My children don't have godparents. Hmmm... (I'm counting on DH and I staying alive for awhile.)

I finished another book recently - This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper. A Jewish father dies. His wife and children sit shiva, a tradition of grieving together for seven days. The family in this R rated novel is probably not a good representation of sitting shiva, yet the characters learned some of life's lessons and benefited from it by forming stronger bonds.

Do we benefit from the traditions we follow? Do acts of tradition maintain order, as similar to laws?


Are you a traditional person?

(Rhetorically speaking: Does the bride have to wear white? Does the man have to be the breadwinner? Does the family have to spend holidays and vacations at the same place each year?)