A few weeks ago, I was driving by our old neighborhood and I saw my old neighbor at the school bus stop with her son. For purposes of anonymity, let’s call my neighbor “Jill” and her son “Jack.” Jack is probably about 10 by now. The last time I saw him, he was a about 2.5 years old. Seeing Jack and Jill that morning as I sped away in my minivan reminded me of one of the last dinners we hosted in our old house.
This dinner occurred 8 years ago when Chris and I were a newlywed couple. We didn’t associate much with our neighbors on our street. Most of them were much older than ourselves and we were in very different stages in our lives. We were too busy relishing the carefree existence of life without little ones. I think we routinely slept in till 10am or 11am every weekend to recover from late nights out where we didn’t temper our drinking because one of us had wake-up duty the next day. And then, get this: after sleeping in, we would STILL nap later that day. AND we had TWO incomes…can you even imagine such a nirvana? But like fools, we didn’t fully appreciate the paradise we had created for ourselves when we had it. And now it’s gone forever. But I digress…we did have some neighbors right next to us who were about our age: Jill and her son Jack, along with their husband/father…let’s call him “John.” One day, we saw the three “J’s” in their yard and started chatting. Before we knew it, I had issued a dinner invitation and they had accepted.
To give you an idea of how totally clueless we were about children, we took John and Jill’s word that their kid was not a picky eater completely at face value and prepared grilled lamb kabobs, cucumber salad, cous cous, and grilled veggies. No pasta, no chicken fingers, no fruit, no cheese sticks. I think we even served Jack his beverage in a crystal goblet and I’m sure whatever I served for dessert was riddled with peanuts. Ahhhhh, so naive were we in the ways of Parenting 101 in the year 2004.
We all sat together in our smallish dining room and I do recall dinner being fairly pleasant. Jack was a little squirmy but he did eat his lamb kebob and cous cous. As the grown ups lingered over dinner though, Jack got more and more restless. It was completely understandable but since we were kid-free, we had nothing to offer him as far as toys and our house was a minefield of non-child proofed sharp edges, unlocked drawers, and open staircases. As Jack grew more and more fussy, his mother finally turned to him and said, “Do you want to suck?”
Hmmm…although Chris and I were obviously unfamiliar with parenting skills at this point in our lives, we had certainly never heard this phrase before. What was little Jack supposed to suck on? A pacifier? Or maybe she meant to say “sucker” like a Tootsie Roll pop or something. Before I had any time to decipher her meaning, little Jack immediately yelled “YES!,” hopped out of his chair, and into his mom’s lap where a bare breast was exposed and ready for his eager mouth.
WHAT THE WHAT?! Even with our lack of parenting expertise, Chris and I knew this was not the norm. Chris was sitting directly beside me and we both immediately averted our eyes. Unfortunately, our dining room was small and there was not much else to look at. I knew for certain that I could not look at Chris because if I had made any eye contact with him for even a millisecond, I probably would start shouting, “GRODY!” and dance on top of the chair trying to shake my willies out. So instead, I focused intensely on John, the husband, while his wife and child, who just mere moments before had been chewing and eating LAMB(!), were next to him, caught up in their own very personal moment. Should I have offered them a room? Covered her up with a poncho? Put up a Hooters billboard outside our house? I was and still remain clueless as to the proper etiquette in this particular situation.
At this point in the dinner, I was ready to call it a night. I mean, once someone pulls out a boob for their 2-year old, where else can the evening go, right? But no, our neighbor and her leech-like son simply moved over to our living room and made themselves comfy on our couch. So, the evening wore on thusly: Jack suckling his mama’s breast, John chatting away, and Chris and I darting our pupils in all directions except at the circus show right before our eyes. We never invited them over to our house again.
So, seeing Jack and Jill and the bus stop brought back a very memorable evening for me. I am happy to report that Jack was standing independently and not sucking at his mom’s breast. And apparently, they have been able to un-attach themselves long enough so that he could attend a public school, far from his mom. So that’s progress, right?
And, serendipitously enough, a couple of week’s later, I see this on the news stand:
So Jack, Jill, and John were merely on the cutting edge of a new parenting philosophy called “attachment parenting.” Now, I don’t know if I have my act together enough to actually have a “parenting philosophy” but whatever it is, it is NOT this. And if this is your style of parenting, that’s fine if that’s what works for you. Just don’t expect any invitations to our house for dinner.