I love the New Yorker cartoon that says, "No. Thursday's out. How about never — is never good for you?" But I never expected it to be my life.
There is nothing mean-spirited about it, but that's what I say in my head when I'm asked to join the gang or a friend for after-work drinks, dinners, concerts, even coffee. I still love to be invited, as a girl always wants to be invited, but the answer is usually, "Thanks, but no thanks."
A few years ago, I reunited with some close college friends who have two teenage boys and live in Boston. Back in the mid-'80s, fresh out of college, we and the rest of our crowd, spread along the northeast corridor, would often meet in Philadelphia, DC, or New York for a weekend. We'd arrive Friday night, play and party on Saturday, and roam thrift shops before taking trains back to our own cities on Sundays. It was remarkably easy. The epitome of young and somewhat carefree.
But after these two particular friends moved to Boston, it became increasingly difficult to see them. We tried when their first boy was a baby, but once the second boy arrived, logistically it was difficult. Communications became rare. Trips to Boston became rarer. I wondered whether we'd ever be close again.
When their youngest child, however, turned 9 — about five years ago — my husband and I visited them at their new weekend house in the Berkshires. The laughs, the music, the wine; it was just like old times. And at one point K, the mom, said, "It took eight years but we're back."
I thought I understood what she meant: Their increasingly independent boys were now 9 and 12 and weren't demanding constant attention both at once. But, until we adopted A, I really had no idea, exactly what she was saying. That our lives as we knew it would be shot to hell (but in a good way, LOL). We weren't naive, we knew life would change monumentally when we adopted A, but the sudden impact of having a 5-year-old was mind-boggling. Lots of things my parenting friends and family members did made sense now. Smart sense. Coping sense. In terms of socializing at least.
For one thing, our parent-friends used to invite us to dinner at their apartments instead of meeting at a restaurant. They could avoid pricey babysitters, put their kids to bed, and we could linger over cocktails, wine, and supper. Home-cooked or take out, it didn't matter. Now that we have A, we will have to rediscover the art of the dinner party in a tiny apartment. Another couple, who have two boys, now grown, cleverly set up a beach house share and filled it up with friends, including me, so they could see everyone on weekends. We are lucky enough to have a house in upstate New York, and now do most of our socializing on Saturday nights there. It's not ideal, as not everyone can make the three-hour drive to get there, but it's something.
Pre-A, I was accommodating but clueless. When my brother wanted to have dinner at 6:30 p.m. due to the kids schedules (so unlike our late NYC dining times), I selfishly thought, We are visiting from NYC and we can't have dinner an hour later? I didn't know the importance of the schedule. The food schedule. The bedtime schedule. The cranky kid schedule.
Recently, a friend asked me to go to a concert on Thursday night. "If it starts late I can't go," I said. "Really?" my friend asked in disbelief, as I used to be an A-1 party girl and rock chick. But now, I get up at 6:15 to take care of myself before I get A up. I leave for work as my husband takes him to school. Nobody needs me to be cranky tired while all that is happening.
So friends: I miss you all but I'll be back in five years or so, when A can come with us to dinner, or have a sleepover, or at least stay up until 10. And that's better than never.