Mastering the Art of the Baby Juggle at Holiday Gatherings

My husband and I have it down to a science. Since our son was born, we have been to countless family and social gatherings, and have had no choice but to learn how to manage the baby as a team, while simultaneously making a concerted effort to be somewhat gracious guests. One of us is always on baby duty upon arrival, while the other gets us both drinks, and says hello to everyone there. Then there is a switch, so the first parent can grab an hor d’oeuvre and a quick conversation with another guest. When mealtime arrives, the baby plays musical knees, going back and forth between us, so the other can scarf down his or her food. Sometimes Jake squirms, insisting on making a run for it, so one of us follows while the other cleans his plate. It is a seamless dance my husband and I do, with no need for verbal communication. One after the other we chase and wrangle and feed while the other socializes and eats as quickly as possible. If alcohol is consumed, it is minimal – no one can afford to lose focus of the operation at hand.

We were once great at going out. We would mingle, catch up with our respective friends, and come back together throughout the night. We would hold hands and get tipsy. We were a cute couple and we could read each other from across a crowded room, fully aware of when the other had had enough of the party or needed saving from a talkative guest.

Now our ninja-like connection is being put to use in another way, juggling our baby when we are at someone’s house for dinner. Not surprisingly, hours seem to vanish when we are out with our son. The time we spend chasing him around other people’s homes while attempting to taste the food and beverages being offered flies by, and before we know it, it is time to leave. Perhaps it is because a virtual obstacle course of un-baby-proofed outlets, sharp coffee table corners, and un-gated stairways keeps us on our toes. Or because of the tremendous effort it takes to engage in meaningful conversations (in which we can actually listen to what the other person is saying) while remaining at the ready to run off and stop the baby from pulling a knife off of a nearby table.

No, going out is clearly not the same anymore. It has become challenging, to say the least, to participate in holiday gatherings the way we used to. But here’s the funny part: we don’t mind it. When our son is at other people’s homes during parties, he is having the time of his life. He gets to interact with new people, or see family who adore him. He gets to try new food that we don’t usually give him at home, or cuddle with someone else’s pet. And there is honestly nothing better than watching your child laugh or see and experience something new – which is exactly what happens when we are out.

With Thanksgiving approaching this week, we know what we are in for. Since I will be helping my family cook, my husband will have to take on the lion’s share of the chasing. But he is a pro (who luckily isn’t a football fan), and I will be happy to take over throughout the day so that he can have his plates of turkey and pie. And our son, most importantly, will get time with his cousins whom he loves, and eat his first Thanksgiving feast now that he is old enough and has a few teeth. I will be happy to burn some pecan pie calories as we do laps around my brother’s living room over and over again. And for all of this, I am grateful.