Over the summer, when my son was still firmly in “baby” territory, I wrote about the Toddler Menace.
This past weekend, with my son now a toddler himself, my words came back to haunt me when we took our toddler along to visit some friends.
I almost had a heart attack from the stress.
An expectant mother with plenty of Fwiks (Friends With Kids), our host graciously scheduled her party early enough to allow parents like us to bring their kids along. It worked out well, as Mom and Buried and I were also on the hook to meet up with some out-of-towners later in the night and the early start would allow us to do both. With the added bonus of being able to bring our kid along to a party where it was a) acceptable and b) there would be other kids.
Unfortunately, there were no other kids. One couple we encountered LITERALLY (not really) spit in our faces by having the audacity and good sense to get a babysitter and leave their 20-month-old at home, the assholes! You think you’re better than us? Smarter than us, and less rude than us, obviously. But better? Yeah. Probably better too.
Another couple brought a child but it was a six-month-old they held in their arms the entire evening so we don’t count that one. Their baby was a joy – cute and quiet and motionless. Stress free. (Ah, the good old days, when bringing a baby to a party meant they’d nap quietly most of the time. For some reason I have a really hard time remembering those days when I look at the remorseless, implacable killing machine that is our toddler.) Our kid was just the opposite: terrifying and loud and constantly in motion. A walking (running) stress test.
As soon as we got inside our friends’ charming and spacious (two floors!) new apartment, it was like I was stuck inside a game of Pac-Man, except my son was Pac and I was Clyde, forever on his tail, never quite catching up in time to stop him from doing one of three things: 1) running and falling, 2) grabbing, banging, or pulling, and 3) getting into the kitchen. Also, Clyde dies of a heart attack at the end.
The kitchen is a terrifying place for a parent, especially when someone is actively using it to cook. Our friend is an accomplished amateur chef and her elaborate hors’d’oeuvres and ridiculously complex amuse-bouches are a special treat (especially when the primary seasoning in your own kitchen starts with the word “Kernel”).
Far be it from us to prevent her from finishing up whatever delicious bites she had prepared for her party; then we wouldn’t get to eat them! Unfortunately, my son’s palate is far less advanced (it’s more like the kid’s in Big – who, once he becomes Tom Hanks inexplicably acts like he’s eight despite being a teenager, think about it, YOU KNOW I’M RIGHT) and he demonstrated his apathy for her superior cooking by running into the kitchen every chance he could get, reaching for the hot stove, groping for knives and glassware, even picking through the trash, all while darting around, under and behind the cook’s legs. She loved it, I’m sure.
Apparently, my wife is a lot more nonchalant about the possibilities of my son impaling himself on a knife, or about owing our friends’ thousands of dollars due to the fire our son might start by putting one of their books in the oven. I repeatedly noticed Mom and Buried out of the corner of my eye, enjoying some champagne and conversation in the other room while I was perpetually chasing after my son, doing my best to keep his hands off anything dangerous or fragile and/or expensive.
Not that my wife doesn’t deserve some leisure time; after all, she spends most of her day protecting our home from our son, and vice versa. That’s a difficult, stressful job, obviously – but if something of ours breaks due to our son’s boorish manners, it goes with the territory. If he destroys something that belongs to someone else – particularly friends that have invited us into their home, unaware of the tornado of destruction we would bring along? That’s a whole new ballgame. My wife, who’s seen it all and knows the drill, was totally chill. But it was stressing me out.
Our hosts were excellent sports, as were the other guests. No one said a word the whole night, despite my son terrorizing them all. And yes, that milk ring was definitely already on your leather couch. Relax.
Thankfully no real damage was done.
Unless you count my soaring blood pressure, my son’s immediate, ongoing, potentially infinite imprisonment in our apartment, and the fact that the party’s hosts recently unfriended us on Facebook.