I'm crazy busy right now, nearly every hour filled between now and when we hit the road next week for our next round of travels. I am compassionate, though, toward my children who miss their friends when we are on the road and want to get one last visit in with each of them before we go, so I try to accommodate them. They each made arrangements this afternoon to sleep over at a friend's house tonight.
My son Tano, sixteen years old, wanted to spend the night with his good buddy Liam. They love to play guitars, watch 'guy' movies, and then stay up late talking about life, the universe, and everything (seriously, they can talk for hours about the origins of life, the extent of the known universe, and theoretical physics). Liam happens to be the son of my dear friend Jen, and she and I had already arranged for our 'one last visit' to be tonight on the sidelines of her daughter's six o'clock soccer game, which happened to be fairly near our house. That meant that sending Tano to spend the night with Liam was going to be easy and convenient.
Jen would be at the field at 5:30 for warm-ups and the game would go until seven, so that meant we technically had an hour and a half to sit and visit. I really couldn't afford the time away (just like I can't afford to write this post), and sitting at a soccer game in Montana in October is generally a cold and miserable experience, but I had to get a little bit of Jen-Time, as it is always so refreshing and encouraging.
The problem was that I had to get my daughter, age thirteen, ready for her seventh of nine community theater performances before I could go. (Who else remembers Seven of Nine? That's funny.) Three times each week, she must be transformed into a woman from the 1850s. Her make-up and costuming happens at the playhouse, but I am responsible for doing her hair. [This is remarkable, actually, as I never learned how to do girls' hair and my clumsy fingers can barely manage the simplest of braids. Being performance seven of nine (plus one dress rehearsal), however, I have become fairly proficient with this one basic 1850s hairstyle.] Doing my daughter's hair at the dining room table while she finished up her English grammar test meant that I wouldn't be out the door until 6:00. I would arrive at the soccer field at 6:15 and get 45 out of a possible 90 minutes of Jen-Time. It wasn't ideal, but I would take what I could get. Separate, comb, spray, curl. Separate, comb, spray, curl. Separate, comb, spray, curl. Bobby pin, bobby pin, bobby pin. Done. Her ride to the playhouse had arrived and she ran out the door.
I hurried Tano to the car so we could zip down to the soccer field. I realized quickly that I'd forgotten to grab a heavy jacket, but I was unwilling to lose any more Jen-Time to go back for it. I shivered involuntarily at the mere prospect of the cold sidelines, but it would only last for 45 minutes. I would live and it would be worth it.
As we drove to the field, though, I felt the unfairness of it all and vented to my carefree son sitting next to me. "You know, grown-ups should get to have sleepovers, too. Do you know how much time I get to spend with MY friend before we leave? I get the leftover forty-five minutes that we could both spare, in the cold, on the sidelines of her kid's soccer game." He listened in silence, alternately nodding and shaking his head solemnly at appropriate times (these are the makings of a great husband, by the way). "How much time do you get with YOUR friend?" I rambled on. "You get to spend a long evening hanging out doing fun stuff, then stay up super late talking about interesting things, and still have some time the next morning. And you get to do this several times in a month. I get 45 minutes out of the last two weeks. And at her kid's soccer game! In the cold!"
He recited his lines as if he had studied the script. "You're right, Mom. You need time with your friends, too. Forty-five minutes is not enough--especially not at a soccer game in the cold. You should get to have sleepovers, too."
I thanked him for his compassion and we drove in silence for a moment before he added, "When Liam and I are adults, we will probably still have sleepovers or at least stay up super late on a Friday night pretty often."
I laughed out loud.
"What?" he wondered at my skeptical response. "I think it's important for friends to still get together."
I laughed again and agreed that it is indeed important, but then I gave him a vision of the future.
"Tano, you are going to come home from work on a Friday night all excited about going to hang out with Liam, but when you get into the house, your wife is going to say, 'Really, Tano? Really? I've been cooped up in the house with the baby all week long and I was just hoping to have a little bit of adult conversation, some time with you, a little bit of a break.' You're going to realize it is true and call Liam.
"'Hey, Liam, about tonight, bro...my wife is wiped out from being with the baby all week and I just really feel like I should stay home with her instead. I'm really sorry, man.'
"And Liam is going to be so relieved that you called. 'Yeah, Tano, I was actually just thinking the same thing. The twins have been fussy all day and my wife is pretty exhausted, too. So it's cool. Maybe another night, dude.'"
Tano smiled at the vision of him and his buddy as husbands and fathers. We mused that he ought to encourage a friendship between his wife and Liam's wife so on nights like that they could encourage the two women to go out together and have some friend time out of the house, while the guys hang out together. I gave a possible scenario:
"'Hey, why don't you bring the baby over here and we can play xBox?'
"'That sounds great! I need to bring the pack 'n' play, though, so I can put her down when it's her bedtime. Oh, and I need to pack the diaper bag and get a bottle. I'll be over as soon as I can.'"
I mentioned that they wouldn't be able to start their gaming until the kids were all down. Tano disagreed. Babies can be held in laps while game controllers are held in hands, he insisted. I smiled, but let it go. Tano was smug. "See? We will find a way to work it out."
I countered. "That will work, I suppose, until they are two years old and start really paying attention to the violent games on the screen. 'Daddy? Why is that man's blood coming out? That's yucky, Daddy. I'm scared about that blood. I don't like that bad man with the big gun.' And Liam will say, 'Yeah, actually, Tano, my son has been waking up with bad dreams after every time we get together. I think we better wait until the kids go to bed before we play xBox.' And you will agree because you know it's the right thing to do. And even after the kids go down, you will keep the volume low."
My handsome teenage son was undeterred. "Well, as soon as they get a little older, it will be easier."
I disagreed. "Not exactly. Friday night will come and you have one kid that needs to be at tee-ball practice and one kid that has a ballet recital. You and your wife will have to split up kid duties and you will be headed to a ballet recital."
"Right," he nodded confidently, "so Liam and I can meet at the brewery for a beer while my daughter is at ballet."
"Um...you are the dad. You are expected to attend the ballet recital."
"I have to go to the recital?" This was obviously news to him.
"Yes. Not only do you have to go, but you have to sit attentively through the whole entire thing and clap politely after every number, even if they really weren't very good at all." His face fell.
"But when they are a little older..." he started hopefully, but I interrupted him.
"When they are a little older, they will both be in soccer on different fields on different nights. Your only hope is to make sure your kids are the same ages as Liam's kids, so maybe you can get both yours and Liam's kids on the same teams." It was coming around full-circle.
"That way, you can squeeze in a quick conversation on the sidelines of the soccer game. In the cold."