We had a family friend who would bring her little dog with her everywhere. “Flurry” would sit quietly in her purse until she arrived at her destination, and then run around like a maniac. I never heard of said friend ever warning anyone that she was coming with her dog. Flurry wasn’t a problem, although it seems odd to me now that someone would cart a dog to a friends’ house without asking if it was appropriate.
In our quest to combine active parenting with professional responsibilities and hyperactive volunteeriwsm, we attend a lot of events that cross the line between social and vocational. If we’re unsure whether said event is kid-friendly, we ask. We’re crazy about our kids, but not crazy about taking them with us everywhere we go, particularly if they’re not going to have any fun.
It’s not necessarily because they’re lacking in the social graces that we’re not always jumping at the chance to take them with us. On the contrary, we have a responsibility to expose them to such situations regularly, so that if they do ever get a date to prom, they don’t accidentally use the soup spoon for the crème brûlée, or initiate an armpit fart competition. And babysitters run $7 to $10 an hour. Who needs to throw money away? But given a chance, we enjoy a kid-free night as much as any sane adult.
Other parents get this, and many, whether they’re parents or not will offer helpful information up front by saying something like “it’s an adult night,” or “the Henson’s are bringing their rugrats, so why don’t you bring yours so they can hang out together and not bother us?”
One childless couple offered up this additional tidbit: “oh, our house isn’t kid-friendly.”
I … hmm. An image comes to mind of a room with cement floors and a drain in the middle, or a stable with straw bedding that you can shovel up and replace when it gets dirty.
To be honest, kids, if given any length of time in one place, will destroy their surroundings. They’re constantly engaged in taking things apart to make other things, like taking cushions of the couch to make forts, then leaving those cushions on the floor for the dog to sleep on. They like science, and will test the relative tensile strength of, oh say an area rug compared with metal kitchen shears, or that sharp-edged toy sheriff’s badge against the oak dining room chair.
This propensity for destruction, our kid-raising books tell us, is a part of a child’s development. It’s also a form of extortion. If you don’t want to see your furniture destroyed, you better invest in building blocks and science kits and finger paints, and probably stuff that involves confetti and other garbage that will sooner or later be left all over your living room floor, to the point where it won’t matter if your furniture is destroyed because the place will look like a tornado just swept through a trailer park anyway.
That this familiarity with the whole extortion process plays an important role in the development of the parents, is an ugly truth that the child-rearing gurus will leave out. Early on in a child’s life, he learns that there are rewards (or bribes, or ransom, depending upon the extent of your cynicism) for good behavior. If there is not going to be a built-in, kid-oriented entertainment at any particular event, it’s best to know up front. Some things cost more than parents want to pay. It’s one thing to bribe your toddler into silence during a church service with a mega-sized sucker every week, and quite another to have to sit through an afternoon at the local arcade with your 9 year-old who unwillingly attended your last PTA meeting that ran 90 minutes longer than expected.
Which brings me back to my childless friend, whose inadvertent insult makes me wonder what she would think of MY home, which, while lacking either cement flooring or straw bedding, still requires furniture to be strategically placed to hide the results of the botched blue food coloring/baby oil experiment, or the scissor hole cut in my couch. And as I heard one childless couple comment when they thought I wasn’t listening, there is also a certain smell to a home with children. In our case, it’s eau de gym socks, overcooked bacon and dog slobber.
The fact is, whether or not it’s true, I don’t want to hear whether your house is kid friendly. I want to hear if the evening is going to cost me $40 bucks and a lost hour at Wahooz this weekend.
And, since we’re being brutally honest, I’m already jealous enough of your kid-unfriendly home to want to take a pair of scissors to your couch. You know. Just to test the tensile strength of your upholstery.