“Hey, buddy, I’ll buy you pizza and beer if you help me move my furniture from Crappy Apartment A to Crappy Apartment B this Saturday. Rain or shine. Sound rad?” “Oh, totally. I’ll be there. Probably hungover, but that aint nothin’ pizza and beer can’t fix.”
This was the role of pizza and beer in my life five years ago. A form of bribery, good blessing, congratulation, relaxation, or ventilation. Didn’t matter the toppings or if the Rolling Rock was warm and frothy. Pizza and beer meant something. And that something was simple, whatever it was. I promise you, it was not complicated or well thought out. There were no intricacies to the details surrounding said pizza and beer. It just happened. And it was glorious.
Tonight, we had our friends Alysha and Nathan over for – you guessed it – pizza and beer. We planned on eating at 5:30, and at 5:40, Alysha called me and said they were still getting packed up to come over and finished with a “you know what that’s like.” I laughed and completely agreed. I do know what that’s like. I absolutely do.
Ten minutes later, in came our friends with their two small boys! I barely made it to the door to greet them and Hudson and Coen were already barreling towards the table to make their personal pan pizzas. After tripping over tiny people in an even tinier house, I made my way to the door and gave Alysha a hug. The hug was necessary because of the rarity of evenings such as this. This particular evening took much more planning than a simple 12-second college-apartment-hopper phone call. This involved Facebook messages, text messages, calendar comparisons, meal option discussions, and yes, a phone call or two. Life has gone to where the wild things are, and making plans for a family night out these days takes a cesspool of blood, sweat and tears and an armful of elbow grease. It’s exhausting. But, absolutely worth it. Case in point: Tonight.
The boys were making their pizzas and we delivered the promised beers to the adults. No warm and frothy Rolling Rock this time. No sir. If we are having company over nowadays, we are serving Red Stripe and Blue Moon and whatever other middle-class beers are sold without a twist-off cap. How exciting, right!? Well, we think so. As we began our game of conversational catch-up, I found us breaking off every other sentence to interject a, “watch where you’re going” or “pick that up please” or “don’t throw that jack-in-the-box at your sister!” We got to talk about our families and our careers and our weekends. But, we always came back to the topics of our children. We shared updates on their health, their preschool options, their size, their quirks, their interests, their hobbies and their skills. We shared stories about their attitudes, their barriers, and their unique personalities. We compared toddler outbursts, sleeping patterns, and birth weights. I know everyone says you should never compare your children with those of another person, but through theses particular conversations on this particular night with these particular people, I found a reassuring comfort in our words.
“Hudson acts like he’s 15 already. He’s only two!” Alysha’s words and the story that accommodated them made me feel less angry about Coen’s disrespectful behavior the day before when he glared at me from across the living room because I told him we needed to put the iPhone away and eat dinner. His slow and steady “Noooooo” response prompted me to ask him if he too was 15 years old. His veritable reply of “No, mommy. I’m almost three!” was just what I needed to hear to remind me that YES, he is only two and this was an outburst based on pure emotional reaction. Cause and effect is not his strongpoint just yet.
“Preston is still getting up three or four times a night.” Ahhhh, thank GOD! Someone else has a crappy sleeper. Thank you, you lovely couple, for sharing your sleeping whoas and not only speaking of the things at which your child excels. If one more person tells me their baby slept through the night at two weeks old, I’m gonna bust some heads. Mabel wakes up every two to three hours and Coen didn’t sleep through the night regularly until about 17 months. I remember feeling slightly embarrassed telling people that, like I was doing something wrong or my kid was broken or abnormal or deviant. Nope. Kids are all different, and the only parents who actually vocalize their superhero sleeper stories are those with superhero sleepers. Duh. Just because I was not one of them most certainly does not mean I was alone.
And I was so kind as to reciprocate the favor. When Coen let out a rebellious Tarzan-like yell because I wouldn’t let him lug our expensive Nikon camera around the house, Alysha laughed not-so-silently and told me what a relief it was to witness that. Apparently Hudson freaks out in the same manner as our overdramatic Ansel Adams, and only over things that mean nothing and are forgotten about mere seconds post-freak-out. Often times, I feel quite sheepish when Coen has one of these melodramatic meltdowns in public, or when Mabel screams from appetizer to dessert but stops the instant the check is placed on our table. What can I do to stop my child from behaving this way? Why do I never see other kids their age do this when we’re out and about? Am I a bad mother? Oh. My. God. No. According to my super-formal survey of two, I am not alone and it’s completely normal. So there. Let there be tantrums. Anyone who has ever raised a child over the age of two will simply keep on walkin’. (But watch out for those creepy cat ladies. They’re eyes will glare through you like a red-hot poker on a cold winter’s day.)
The night and the pizza went too fast, but I enjoyed every beer and every minute. Sure, life with children makes it harder to go to happy hours, attend parties, be on time for lunch dates, visit old friends, meet new ones, take road trip, be spontaneous, and use dusty old gift certificates to lavish, expensive venues in which you would probably still be uncomfortable when wearing your finest Old Navy ball gown…buuuuut, so so so so worth it. Posh-snob pizza’s got nothing on Papa Murphy’s takeout in a cramped but cozy mad house with old friends and comfortable, pertinent conversations. Yes, planning the outing may now involve the concoction of an elaborate algorithm, but it still happens. And if you’re lucky, you will walk away feeling reassured in yourself and your choices. And it’s all still just as glorious as it was back in the day, but involves less lifting and more laughter. I’d say that’s a pretty good trade-off.