Sunday, September 21, 2008

people watching

....or better put - virtual naturalistic observation. I thought I'd use a big word, it makes me sound super intelligent adds flare. Recently I began to wonder "are we normal for parents our age?". We have our own story, our own funky chain of events that landed us right here where we are with two boys and each other. I wanted to figure out, is it really such a odd thing that we don't go on dates w/o kids now? I do have friends who are fortunate enough to have family very close by (some even next door!) and this is where the line gets drawn in the sand. Family doesn't count as a babysitter, both people then get to enjoy something special - time with the ones they love, their family. So that's not where I'm going with this post. I'm talking about having, on a somewhat regular basis, nights out on the town, etc.

I receive lots of quizzes by forwarded email and often a question will be "what was the last movie you saw?" and I think that this is most likely questioning what movie you last saw in a theatre. My answer it was "haven't seen one in 2 years" up until Wall-E came out and we took our youngest along for his very first theatre experience - and it went without a hitch. As for watching movies, we generally wait until the kids are in bed and on weekends we have movie nights together. I like it because I can veg out in my PJ's w/o having to hear some gross person chew on popcorn behind me without closing their mouths, not to mention pause option for bathroom breaks!

I don't have a plethora of friends. I have been fortunate to find a few really good, trustworthy friends. So I did a study of sorts on my friends, the ones w/ children. I will leave their names as their initials only, and anyone who knows me will figure out who they are. This is my general working hypothesis:
  • Friends J and R have two children - both under 4 years old. J&R live about 20 min from me and we I see J on average 1-3 times a month, but we talk daily. J&R are a happy couple with happy kids, and until kid #1 began a 3 hour per day MMO program he'd never been left with anyone other then family, and that was a rarity as "family" lives in another state. So the "babysitting" was/is obsolete, and at this point with 2 kids, still is. J is a SAHM and to my knowledge, her youngest has only been "watched" by me and possibly one other really great friend (tooting my own horn there - HA) on an occasion in which she had to go to her "girl doctor". Otherwise, J&R are alot like us, planning adult gatherings at home and having grownups over for bbq's and fun while the kids are home! As for "movies" J&R have built themselves a quite nifty home theatre room - and I must say, I'm quite envious!! So my final take on J&R (same age group as us) - they do enjoy some time kidfree nights "out" but these are individual outings (possibly every other month), where the other parent stays home to give a girls night or guys night out (night being a few hours - and almost always AFTER the kids are in bed). Otherwise, their movie nights or "dates" are much like ours - at home and completely enjoyable just the same.

  • Friends S&T have one child, under 3. Until recently, S was a SAH mom. There's a special circumstance that sent S back to work. In either case, S&T (to my knowledge) have gone out possibly 2 times w/o child for "dates" since their child was born (maybe only one, I can't remember exactly). Both of those times, to my knowledge, the keepers of the child were immediate family and the time away was for dinner and that's it. They, like us, plan their "grownup" time for AFTER their child goes to bed. They often enjoy a movie together, or just sitting outside and talking - sometimes they even play cards! We've had them over for a bbq at our house - all kids included.

  • Friends J&D have 3 children one teenager and two under the age of 3, and often up to 5 children. There's a situation at J&D's house where their oldest child is friends with 2 kids whose parents are either drug abusers or are in general unavailable parents. So it turns out that J&D leave their house an open door to these kids. J&D have gone out 2 times in the past 2 years for dinner without kids. Both of these times, they only went 10 minutes away from home, and the keeper of their kids was grandma along with the older sibling of the younger children. J is a SAH mom, D works crazy shifts - and they see each other in passing for weeks on end sometimes. However, they still are capable of maintaining a terrific family life for these kids, making time for each other AFTER the kids go to bed as well as making sure that the kids spend time as a family unit when D's work schedule accommodates it. Movie night at J&D's house means piling up on one bed and hanging out together - and usually they end up falling asleep at that!

  • Husband's close friend P is a SAH/WFH dad, I can't remember wifes name to save my life and I see P more then her. P's "guys night out" is ALWAYS after the kids are in bed, and from what I've observed almost always ends up being a guys night out at our house for a UFC fight night. This is the same for husband's close friends N, C and K. All dads who take the occasional 1 time every other month outing to our house for UFC fight night, all occurs after the kids are in bed - otherwise, they're quite family involved and seem to be very happy in their family/marriages.

This trend found in observing makes me feel a little normal. As we do the same as these parents and take individual time out for guys or girls nights while the other parent is at home w/ the kids. I haven't yet made friends with any of the parents who hire babysitters to go out on a regular basis. I have 3 sets of neighbors that I speak with often, all with 2 or more kids, and none of them go "out". 2 of the 3 are SAH/WFH parents, who homeschool. So what I conclude, in my tiny little observation deck at home, is that there is a widespread group of people out there who actually do enjoy the idea of having kids and raising them - themselves. I don't see it as a sacrifice, or even as a selfless act - I see it as parenting 101, and after talking to several of the women I mentioned above, so do they. Maybe it looks like I pick my friends based on similarities, but 3 out of 7 of these people mentioned were our (or my) friends before kids.

We've never felt like we should keep up with the Jones's. We are proud to be the parents of two wonderful boys, raising them "up as they should go", watching them grow every day. We don't feel like we've lost "who we are" because we don't go out at night, we feel like we've been enriched with this family of ours and have more to do because of it. WE wouldn't change a thing, we have never had a discussion of needing a break from our lives w/ kids. We have children, they have us, and that's how it is in this funky little place we call home.