Parenthood changes everything. And I mean EVERYTHING. Even something as simple as going out for dinner can become an ordeal. So, what do parents do to have a little fun when they always have a kid in tow? Invite other parents and their kids over for supper, of course!
The problem is that entertaining has taken on an entirely new meaning for me since becoming a parent. Entertaining used to mean witty repartee between adults, cocktails (lots & lots of cocktails!), lovely hors d'oeuvres, and a delicious meal with a spectacular presentation.
I haven't entertained like that in years. . .at least four years by my calculations. Our house flooded while we were out of town for our anniversary in 2006. You'd think that the house would have been restored by now, wouldn't you? Well, it hasn't been. There are tons of ticky-tacky crap projects that need to be completed and I refused to have anyone over for years after the flood occurred. I finally realized that life is short and friends & family don't give a hoot about your never-ending remodel projects so I started having people over again.
What passes for entertaining these days? I suppose that entertaining now means discussing sleep training with other parents (who may or may not have food in their hair or on their clothes, courtesy of a cranky toddler), juice boxes, kid-friendly snacks, and something easily prepared that the kids will also eat. Yes, parenthood changes everything.
I don't mind most of what I just described, but I balk at the menu. Most kids don't dig haute cuisine and would prefer something along the lines of wieners and fries. That's not exactly something I like and, as a result, I don't often serve up those sorts of meals. My Mom used to say that she wasn't a short-order cook and we could eat whatever it was that she served. I guess her attitude rubbed off on me because I don't prepare separate meals either. I'm lucky that my son isn't a picky eater since I expect him eat what I put in front of him.
We've had family over plenty of times in the two years that my son has been on the planet. We've also had over a few close friends. But, by and large, we really haven't entertained at all since my son arrived.
I'm trying to change that. I've tentatively stepped into the entertaining pool with other parents of toddlers. I was pleasantly surprised at how well an evening went when my house had three mothers and three toddlers. At one point, all three children were busily feeding themselves and the adults were able to actually eat and enjoy a little conversation. I'd wager that the other two mothers were equally surprised at how well the evening went. This experiment emboldened me and I've asked over two other couples and their toddlers for supper.
I've made two wedding celebrations work. I've make beef Wellington on a weeknight. I've hosted parties with myriad cocktails. I roast at least four turkeys every year. I've created countless culinary creations for the delight of my friends and family. I am not afraid of anything related to cooking or entertaining. But I'm terrified to have over two other couples and their children.
What freaks me out the most? The menu. I know that I'm impossibly lucky that my son eats anything that is put in front of him. I think these other two children are good eaters, but you can never predict when a kid will suddenly refuse to eat.
How do I handle fear? I contemplate that which I fear. I know that I need to create a menu that is pleasing to the palates of adults and young children. I know that I need to be mindful of dislikes and allergies. But I also know that I'm a good cook and I know that I'll come up with something tasty.
However, even if dinner is ruined, even if all the kids refuse to eat, even if the kids don't want to share toys, time spent with friends is special. This evening will turn out great no matter what because an evening with friends is always a treat. I'm really looking forward to having a house full of friends in the near future!