Christmas babyMy baby is approaching one year old, so this is her first Christmas out of utero.  That meant her first Christmas party, this past Saturday night.  Being out at night, falling asleep in a strange environment–I wasn’t sure how it would all come together.  Once you’re a parent, you really know what happens to the best-laid plans.

My husband and I gathered all sorts of objects intended for play and soothing and sleep, hoping my daughter would let us have these few hours.  On some level, I was thinking, How do I enjoy myself at this party of adults despite being a mother?

That’s an aspect of parenthood that I still feel we’re not supposed to acknowledge in polite company.  That it can be a drain.  That it can be boring.  That it can be, simply, not what we feel like doing.  We do not feel like taking care of a baby tonight.  We feel like being our old selves.  We feel like partying.

The obvious response: Tough.  Suck it up.  You knew that before you had her.  To which I say: True.  But there’s a big difference between knowing you’re never off the clock, and never being off the clock.  Am I complaining?  A little.  But less all the time.

Because my little girl is really growing up.  Nothing showed it more than the party full of adults (all of them without children of their own, quite happily, and not especially interested in other people’s babies), and my daughter sat among us and made herself a part of the revelry. She watched the glasses twinkle in the candlelight, she let the conversation bubble around her like champagne, she reached for things she shouldn’t have, she played with proffered objects from the table with concentration and amusement, she laughed and she smiled.

She was another guest, not a hindrance.  The warmth of her there on my lap, listening to her upbeat babbles–it made me think that I’d been approaching it all wrong before we got there.  I could enjoy myself and be a mother at the same time.  I could be all parts of myself at once.

Sometimes I think that there can be this artificial separation between motherhood and the rest of ourselves.  What I mean is, we feel like we have to put so much of ourselves aside to care for a baby that it’s hard to remember what’s left.  We might decide not to go to parties because it seems easier to just stay home and tend to the baby.  There are fewer variables that way, less to go wrong.

But there can also be less to go right.  In a sense, I think my daughter really responded to the experience of not being the center of attention, of just being one of the group.  In a culture that’s increasingly child-centric, it can be good for kids not to feel things revolving around them.  They’re in the circle with everyone else, a part of things.  Integrating kids into our lives instead of always accommodating them can be quite valuable.  Sometimes she wants to just be there.  Sometimes she needs to just be.

My daughter taught me that last night.  Oh, and she even slept until 9 a.m. the next morning, as an added bonus.

Merry Christmas, baby!  As Otis crooned, You sure did treat me nice.

Christmas baby photo available from Shutterstock