The music floated up and drifted over onto our side of the fence. Cars began to line the street and people starting flocking to our neighbor’s house. It was time for the party.
Our neighbor had been planning a surprise birthday party for her husband for months. We had spent the day grooming our yard
so we wouldn’t be those neighbors with the embarrassing yard in anticipation of the event. Our excitement was comparable to our neighbor’s. A surprise party! For a grown up! A night out of the house mingling with other adults! It was a novelty.
Of course, we had to bring the toddler. The party was right next door and we figured we wouldn’t be there terribly long. Plus our toddler loves our neighbors.
We walked across the yard and made our appearance. The awkwardness set in as it often does in new social scenarios with new people. We quickly conquered our fears with some adult beverages and by engaging the toddler in a round of let’s-eat-a-hot-dog-with-ketchup. Ketchup is the best thing in the world (if you’re two.) We met up with our neighbors, got some introductions, and found our social groove. We had fun. We interacted in adult conversations and drank adult beverages. We enjoyed a social scene we rarely get to be a part of.
The toddler found wonder in the croquet set, the hammock, and the multi-colored lights strung from the trees. He delighted in the grilled hot dogs and was elated by the birthday cake production. He enjoyed sitting by the fire pit and watching it’s blaze while Mommy and Daddy talked and laughed with other grown ups.
As the night began to wane, I found myself drawing away from the adultness. I enjoyed the weight and the closeness of my toddler in my lap while watching the flames dance in a fire pit as much as I enjoyed the conversations. I enjoyed his amazement at the sparking fireworks even more than the adult beverages. And I loved watching him dance to the music and spinning him around in circles even more than I enjoyed being out of the house.
At one point, I overheard someone say, “Is the child still here?” Her tone implied that his presence was ruining her evening, even though he had been well-behaved all night. I knew then that it was time to leave.
For you see, as much as I enjoyed the novelty of a grown up party, that’s really no longer my world. This group was a mix of people who were single and people who were students, couples who were engaged or married, people who worked in professional careers or had their own businesses, but we were the only people there with a child.
I remember those stages of life. The school work and the professors. The talk of a dating scene and nights at bars. The wedding planning and future dreaming. The married before children bits. The pressures of a job. But no one else in this group knows about my whole new world.
They don’t yet know about sleep deprived nights and birth stories and whether or not to breastfeed. They don’t yet know about the land of sippy cups and legos and sleepy cuddles and slobbery kisses. They don’t yet know about the world that I am immersed in.
The hubs was enjoying himself. He didn’t want to leave the party and go home to parenthood.
So as the night continued to ease into late, the hubs stayed at a grown up party and drank grown up drinks and talked about grown up things. But I took my little boy home, changed him into pajamas, and snuggled him on the couch as we settled in to watch an episode of Caillou before we went to bed. And I realized as I snuggled my sweet little boy, that there was nowhere else I would rather be.
As much fun as it was to dip my toes back into the grown up waters for a few hours, I feel much more at ease in comfy clothes chasing butterflies or cuddling on the couch with my little one. Despite my previous roles of student and single, teacher and professional, engaged and married, I have finally found the role I was always meant to play. I am most myself here, in this exhilarating world of motherhood.