BBQs and Babies: The Summer Showdown

Finally, the warm weather has arrived! Tis the season for BBQs, pool parties, and weekend gatherings galore. In life before children, there wasn’t a care in the world when it came to summer fun. You did what you wanted and that was that.

But life with little ones changes things. So. Many. Things. Children can make even the simplest of plans far more complicated than you ever thought. Every moment takes planning. (Did you pack the snacks to avoid a meltdown? Where are the extra wipes? Don’t forget the sunscreen!) When it comes to summer parties and BBQs, a not-so-simple thing like a baby’s schedule can really throw a wrench in the evening.

My husband and I have a son who is nearly two years old. He is rambunctious and charming and so much fun. Until he gets tired. Then Mr. Hyde emerges. To keep his dark side from showing up, we’ve learned that he does best when he’s on a schedule. He naps at the same time every day, and he goes to bed at the same time – nice and early, before 7 p.m. We have learned that this doesn’t just work for him, but for most kids as well. Research has even shown that children who go to bed early are generally happier, healthier, and far more pleasant to be around. Because kids need a lot of sleep. Period.

But how do you make that work when the sun is setting at nearly 9 p.m. on a beautiful summer night and all you want to do is have one more drink or hamburger at your friend’s party? That is the question.

In talking with other parents about this, I have learned that everyone handles this matter differently, and it takes a bit of juggling. On the rare occasion, a lot of parents (us included) throw caution to the wind and keep our little one out with us later than we should. But we pay the price. He gets wired, doesn’t fall asleep when we finally get home, and then wakes up way earlier than normal. (Kids actually sleep longer when they go to bed earlier—crazy…)

Other families just call it an early evening for everyone. They all arrive (with kids in tow) when the gathering begins, have some food and small talk, and call it a night at 6 p.m., just in time to head home for bath and bed. I don’t mind that once in awhile, but that’s certainly not fun every time. Sometimes I want to actually be an adult and hang out and talk to people and have a cocktail. I like going to bed after the sun has actually set.

That leaves us with option #3: the couple lottery. One lucky winner gets to stay at the event and have fun, while the other gets baby duty. Of course, this is assuming transportation will allow for it. If you only have one car and you have to drive to the party, you might have to rethink things a bit.

But who gets to stay and who has to leave? Is it a coin toss? Or do you figure out who is better friends with the host and let that be the deciding factor? Plus, what about enjoying a pleasant evening with your partner, having adult time together? In this case, a babysitter would probably be the only viable (albeit more expensive) option.

When you plan to have a baby, so much of the daily juggle is completely unknown. As time goes on, you realize just how different your life is now that you have a mini-you to care for. And they make it worth it. Every minute of it. But they certainly don’t make it simple, that’s for sure.