My, how times have changed! I recently attended a birthday party for the soon-to-be 3-year-old of a co-worker. Besides the grandmother and great-grandmother, I was the oldest person there and the only one without little kids claimable as blood kin. Although this is not a new phenomenon – our youngest is 18, after all – the idea that I no longer am beholden to nap schedules and cupcake sugar rushes and bouncy house injuries really hit home. And it was magical.
I thoroughly enjoyed sitting back and watching the chaos unfold, able to enter the fray if and only if I chose. I was not required to chase down a toddler as she made a break for a neighbor’s jungle gym, nor did I need to carefully prepare a dinner plate with nonchokeable, cut-up grapes. I didn’t have to worry about food allergies or skinned knees or the bees wreaking havoc near the baked beans. And when a tense moment erupted during the present-opening grand finale – “That’s my Baby Moana!” – I could legitimately just shake my head and giggle.
Lest you think I’m a complete jerk, I did help clear plates and locate juice box straws, and I occasionally assisted with step navigation. But the point is, I was under no obligation to do so. I was there as a true guest, unencumbered by the responsibilities and expectations of parenthood.
The moral of my story is this: Eventually, everyone makes it to the empty nest Promised Land, where backyard barbeques are actually delightful experiences and other peoples’ children, much like puppies, are unlimited sources of entertainment. My, how times will change.