Hey Forever88-ers! While Annahita’s moving, I’m popping in to hang out for the day. My name is Kristi, and I blog at Table-for-Three. Annahita and I met back in 2005, while she was working on her Master’s degree and I was working for that Governor who said he was on the Appalachian Trail but was actually visiting his mistress in Argentina. It’s fine. What I remember from those days is watching The Bachelor while eating cupcakes and nachos. What more could you want from a friend?
Since then, we’ve both gotten married, moved, become puppy mommies, and baby mommies (not necessarily in that order). I have two little girls (one is almost 3 and the other just turned 1), and today I’m sharing about something I learned the hard way with my second baby.
Last December, my husband and I were invited to a fundraiser for a non-profit that works with high school students. It was going to be a dinner-and-a-show style fundraiser, where we would mingle and eat, then move into an amphitheater where they would tell us what they did with students by showing us; skits and all.
We wanted to attend, but we’d recently moved, and didn’t have many babysitting options. One friend offered to watch our two year-old and even suggested that she stay the night. We took her up on it, but ended up taking our other daughter with us. She was about three months old.
That night, we walked in carrying our best accessory – a baby in a car seat. We were a little self-conscious because we were slightly underdressed; oh-and-also we had a kid with us. But we saw some people we knew, strangers started ogling at our gorgeous daughter, and we started to feel more comfortable.
Dinner was great and we got ready to move down the hall to the amphitheater. We hung back, and as we started down the hall way, we heard loud music and lots and lots of cheering. We turned the corner and saw that the staff and created a fan tunnel, like at a football game, for the guests to walk through on our way to the theater.
You guys. I was a cheerleader in school, and will always be one in my heart. I can get. behind. a cause. Mkay? Throw some loud music and dancing in there and my instincts simply cannot be stopped. Plus, at this point my attitude about bringing a baby to a kid-free event had gone from “Um…so…we brought our baby…” to “WE BROUGHT OUR BABY, Y’ALL!”
The music and cheering took over my body, and I did what felt most natural. I lifted my fairly new baby over my head and danced my way through the tunnel. Everyone was cracking up and nodding and cheering me on. We were famous! We brought our baby to a kid-less fundraiser and she was a hit!
And then she spit-up on me. All down the back of my black cardigan. I’m not even sure when she erupted, I just know that by the end of that tunnel, I was getting concerned looks. And I felt really embarrassed.
Not because we’d brought a baby. Not because we were slightly underdressed. And not because I don’t exactly have the moves like Jagger.
I was embarrassed because I’d treated my daughter like, well, an accessory. An add-on to me, rather than my priority. I’d spent the whole night trying to figure out how to minimizer her presence until it behooved me to maximize it. And then she puked.
Dancing? Loud music? Holding her up like she’s Simba from The Lion King? Come on, Kristi. That’s too much for an infant. I should have known better.
And you know, the result wasn’t tragic. We stayed for some of the presentation and then had to leave because she started getting fussy. We slipped out quietly, and the night wasn’t a big deal to anyone but me.
But I felt stupid, kind of foolish and a little ashamed. I immediately recognized that I was trying to fit her into what I wanted to do, rather than taking both of our needs seriously. Balancing the needs of a family is so much harder when kids are introduced, but I think most of us have little radars that start dinging when we we’re pushing it. We just have to listen to them. And for a minute, I’d let the music drown out that helpful ding. I don’t want to do that again.
For at least the last year, we’ve been the only ones in most of our friend groups with kids. We’ve had to figure out how to be good friends and good to our family at the same time. Sometimes we aren’t sure if we’re doing it well, but we’ve had several of our childless friends tell us that watching us balance things has made them less worried about having kids of their own, because they see that you can still show up. We’re pretty emphatic about naps and schedules, and still, having children doesn’t mean we’re homebound.
But I hope they see the other side too; that sometimes it does mean that we willingly skip the fun things to put our kids first. Sometimes it’s okay to push a kid to skip a nap, but sometimes, it’s not. So much of parenting is about gauging where your kids are, where you are, and what should happen based on those factors combined. Before anything else, we have to be advocates for our kids, and our entire family.
My philosophy is basically this – our family is a team. But my husband and I are the captains. (Or should it be the coaches? Sports metaphors are not my strong suit.) In our family we all matter, and we all need to be taken seriously. Even the smallest of us. The world doesn’t revolve around the kids, but it also doesn’t revolve around us. Each member has a voice, even before he or she can speak. We try to make the best decision for the team, taking everyone’s needs and preferences into consideration.
If I’d done that well on the night of the fundraiser, I could have avoided spit-up soaked cardigan and a little emotional turmoil. We’re no worse for the wear, thankfully, but it was a good reminder that even the best the outside world has to offer can’t trump the feeling of taking good care of this sweet little family we’ve become.