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 www.callunaevents.com

25 comments:

Tabor said...

I think there need to be two types of get togethers. With and without children. Both are important for those with and without children. It does mean that those who do the inviting and do not want children there need to be clear about it and those who have children should not feel put out.

joeh said...

Not a fair question. Some kids are not a problem. Sometimes you may request no children not because all children are a pain, but because of that one brat that always ruins a party.

Ms. CrankyPants said...

uh oh! This is a minefield for sure! We don't have kids, so sometimes they can be overwhelming (even family members' kids). So...I'd probably vote "no."

Also, it seems that adults often find conversing with other adults challenging when their (young) kids are around: they are either being interrupted by their kids, or they're watching to see what their kids are up to; either way, it's a bit frustrating. Of course, this is a HUGE generalization. I know not all kids/parents are like that. :)

Rebecca S. said...

I generally only took my children to a party if they were included in the invite or I thought they would enjoy being there. But, it's tricky, as you eloquantly point out here. Childless couples are not usually aware that couples with children would even consider bringing their kids. It's just not on their radar. Recently, we went to a potluck party at some childless friends'. Generally, my kids don't come, but they like this couple very much and the party was going to include a ten-slide show from each guest. My girls put together their own shows, which were great. I had asked if they could come or not and assured my friends that I would be fine with either answer. She said 'of course' and those of us with kids brought them. The next day, my friends said that my twelve year old has to come to every party from now on because she's so entertaining. However, another couple had two small children, and I don't think it was as fun for them.

Midlife Roadtripper said...

We often went to family parties where kids were welcome. I, however, relished those New Year's Eve parties when we hired one sitter for all the kids - at another house than the party. Let us be adults and carefree in a world without the "appendages." (Love that.) I often recalled thinking I wished New Year's Eve came around more often.

I, too, always noticed the invitation. If my kids names weren't on it, I knew I needed to go through the hassle of finding a sitter. And paying her. I did enjoy the break .

Mari said...

I think there are opportunities for both. We had one family member that took her daughter to every event, and she was disruptive and noisy. That makes people more likely to say no kids. Some events aren't a problem for kids though. I watched the invites.

Rob-bear said...

When we had young children, we were rarely invited to anything. But as clergy, we did lots of events congregationally, meaning that adults and children were all expected (not just invited). (My inclination is that, if invited to something when the kids are young, to check with the hostess to see if the invitation included the children.) I can also certainly understand there are times when "children" are more interested in "grown-up talk" than in being with other children. It is part of the process of growing up. Too bad some adults cannot adjust to that.

Blessings and Bear hugs!

ShadowRun300 said...

We brought our kids once to a friend's home who didn't have children. While we chatted, my two oldest boys snuck away and helped themselves to some gum laying on a table in their sports memorabilia room. Turns out the gum was special to our friends because it had the logo of their favorite team on it. And my kids had eaten it! Yeah, sometimes it's not a good idea to bring 'em along. :)

Shelly said...

I don't mind kids at all and down here, it is almost a given that kids are going to be in attendance at most get togethers.

Bryan Jones said...

For me the important thing is for the host to make it clear, to all those invited, whether or not children are welcome so there are no surprises on arrival.

Betty Manousos said...

i love kids. kids are always welcome.
thanks for your wonderful comment.

you have a super awesome blog!

i wish you a great day ahead!

TexWisGirl said...

i had one event that was kid-free and had communicated that to any guests with small kids. it was our small wedding held in our home. one of our friends came with his kids after having a hiccup with sitter/ex-wife. i was not happy because while trying to listen to the minister and recite vows, i was listening to kids talking and being shushed in the background. *sigh*

bbqs and outdoor settings are different. small, quiet wedding ceremonies... *sigh*

:)

Linda said...

Cute photo, Anita. :) It really depends on the children, in my view. I love children and some of them are able to behave well in any scenario, but others...well, not. :)

Barb said...

This doesn't really apply to me as I never have parties! If I go to a party and there are children present, I like to interact with them. That said, some parties are planned as strictly for adults and the giver should make that clear on the invitation. Sometimes, I like the kids better than the adults!

Linda Hensley said...

I like to know in advance whether or not kids are coming to a party. They make a lot of noise and run around a lot. I like kids fine, and sometimes that's nice, but sometimes I don't feel like dealing with it. Knowing in advance gives me a choice. The thing that makes me crazy is when parents let the kids interrupt constantly, making it impossible to have a conversation. The kids need to learn to take their turn and parents need to know that not everyone is as charmed with their offspring as they are. Which probably makes me sound cranky, but with limited time off for entertainment, I want to enjoy that time.

Margie said...

I love kids and recently at a party I found the kids much more fun that the adults.
I spent a lot of time talking to the little girl, she was 8 years old.

Mage said...

They will grow, and I will see them later. I invited a niece and nephew to dinner in our hote. There was only a fancy dining room and they were carrying two small kids. It was the most uncomfortable evening I have ever spent.

Skyline Spirit said...

pretty nice blog, following :)

Haddock said...

This reminds me of a dinner party that I attended in Amsterdam last month. They knew that 2 toddlers were among the invitees and they had arranged for two small chairs and a table. How thoughtful.

Lonely Rivers said...

Kids don't really enjoy parties where the adults are schmoozing and drinking. Kids don't usually enjoy being relegated to a separate room unless there is a planned activity and plenty of food. I think neighborhood barbecues and picnics may be a different story if the hosts plan for the kids and the parents take responsibility, being sure the kids have a good time. Bottom line: thoughtful hosts make it clear that the event is either "adults only this time" or "bring the whole family!"

Buckeroomama said...

Hmm, most of our friends are in the same boat, so it's quite rare that we do get-togethers without the kids. As much as we enjoy having kids around at our parties, there were a few occasions where we did adults only... and those were a treat, too --intelligent conversations without interruptions of any kind. ;p Whatever it is, it's the inviter's prerogative and we respect that. They do need to make that clear, though. As the invitees, if we are not sure, we always ask first if it's an adults-only party or if kids are included.

Jen said...

At most parties, I would prefer not to see kids. I think it's good when the host makes a point to note whether the party is kid-friendly or not when they send invitations.

Yes, UTC does stand for Upper Texas Coast and the numbers are site numbers. With few exceptions, my posts are locations on the Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail.

Lonely Rivers said...

Just wanted to thank you for your words and prayers of support. It means a lot to me!

SuziCate said...

When our children were small, it seems we went to much more casual/family type affairs than other. Now it seems all of the children have grown and we do more all adult affairs except for family reunion type things. I enjoy both.
Since I work with small children daily, I admit that if I go out to dinner at a nice restaurant the lat thing I want to encounter are tired, cranky children who are being kept up past their bedtime. That said, even though I don't find it as enjoyable as I might have I usually soften as I can see the frustration of a parent with a tired child. I guess a cranky child doesn't annoy me so much, but an ill-behaved child; you know, the ones where the parents allow the children to run around the restaurant and scream. Yes, I have encountered that...in fact, this happened with friends. Their child not only ran around but stripped out of her clothes as well. We didn't go out with them as a family event again. Sometimes when I think back I wonder if I might have been too hard on my kids in being sure they were well behaved and not annoying to others.

Jenny said...

Gosh, I've gone to so few non-child events in my life I can't even answer this.

we've lugged kids and Grandkids around forever.

Now they're all gone, I wish they were here to take to any events!