On the day of the dinner party, I deliberately got my kids up early, walked them up a mountain, and deprived my two-year-old of her usual lunch-time nap. I wanted to ensure they zonked out at bedtime, eliminating the risk of them sabotaging our 'adult time' that evening.
So with kids successfully installed in bed, our guests began to arrive. For the first five minutes, we were grown-ups, talking about Nick Berry's disappointingly brief appearance on EastEnders, and the awful playboy twins on Big Brother.
The final guests arrived, but horror upon horrors, they had their two children, aged three, and eight months, in tow. The parents were unapologetic, and didn't even think to mention the fact that they had two additional, under-age, and uninvited guests with them.
The entire evening was dominated by their kids; the three year old tore around, emptying toy baskets, whizzing toy cars across the dinner table, and swung from hyper to tearful throughout the night. And the eight month old got passed around the table, each guest trying to jig her to sleep and stop her grizzling, while the mother spoke at length about her nappy rash. I was inwardly livid, but held a rictus grin on my face throughout, and spent much of my time in the kitchen washing up.
This is not the first time parents have brought their children to my house for an evening do, or a night out in the pub, and it genuinely baffles me why they do it.
For example, last New Year's Eve, a friend suggested that we all get together at her house, and have a party. "Let's include the children in the celebrations too," she said. "Then we won't have to worry about getting babysitters."
I declined her offer as I couldn't think of anything worse than loads of tired but hyper kids running around trashing the house while Auld Lang Syne blared out of the telly.
While I love to have a New Year celebration with my kids, we do it at 5pm. I can barely stay up past midnight myself, so why would I force my kids to?
Apart from the very early days, when my husband drove 50 miles every night trying to get our colicky baby to sleep, we have never taken our young children out in the evening. Their bedtime is 7pm, and we rarely budge from this. I feel it is disrespectful to drag children around at all hours, when they should be in bed asleep, and cuddling up to their teddies, not hanging out with a bunch of raucous adults.
Aside from this, surely having your kids with you at all times isn't much fun for the parent either? As much as I adore my kids, I relish the occasional break from them, and feel it is absolutely necessary for my well-being and sanity.
I remember so vividly the first night my husband and I went out on our own after the birth of our first-born, albeit about six months later. We reverted back to being giddy teenagers; we drank cider, laughed and made silly jokes, and talked fondly about the amazingness of our baby. However, just hours before, we'd been at home, exasperated with our teething baby, and having an argument about whose turn it was to do bath time.
Of course, if you are going to go out, there is the issue of getting a babysitter. Many people are fortunate enough to have family around to help out (including the parents who came to our dinner party with their kids), but if there is no family nearby, there are always other parents, or neighbours, or neighbours' teenage children who would welcome some extra cash.
If you really can't get a babysitter, Dan, father of two suggests asking the hosts if there is a spare room where your children can bed down: "This can work really well and solve a lot of problems, as long as everyone agrees, including the kids!" Dan has some interesting experiences to draw on. His parents used to leave him and his sister in the back of the car with sleeping bags and some crayons while they went into a party - fair enough back in the 70s I suppose.
I know that not everyone will agree with my views, and that I may be accused of being too regimented and uptight. Carol, a mum of of two, puts across the counter view: "I'm busy, and routine does not fit into my lifestyle, and so I take my kids everywhere with me. I don't want the hassle of babysitters, and can't afford them anyway, and besides, they hardly take up much room do they?"
While I totally respect other people's parenting methods, I would rather they were not imposed on me in my own house, ruining well thought-out and much anticipated grown-up time. The tired children end up dominating the evening, and the parents of the children get stressed.
Next time, at the risk of offending fellow parents, I will specify: 'NO KIDS ALLOWED.'
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