By: Amber Leventry
When everyone of my five member family is home, it’s loud, messy, and usually chaotic. It’s great to have such animated, strong-willed, confident kids, but it’s also exhausting. Our three kids, ages five and two and a half, love each other, show each other kindness, and have (short) stretches of time when they play nicely and calmly as a triad. But they are more likely to be playing individually, narrating whatever story they have running in their heads, fighting, or—on the other end of the spectrum—happily roughhousing until someone gets hurt and then cries. I will repeat: our house is loud.
When we leave the house, we bring our noise with us. Despite numerous attempts to teach our children how to behave while out in public, in the shared space of others not accustomed to our volume, the shamelessness of children cannot compete with reason. Another phenomenon competing with logic is the willingness of our kid-free friends to still swing by our house or, even more daring, invite us to theirs. Our non-parent friends actually want to see us, they enjoy our feral children, and they support us unconditionally. Even crazier is the fact that my partner, Amy, and I believe their sincerity; obligation is not a good enough reason to hang with us.
Our kid-free friends provide us with fresh energy, free babysitting, and good gossip that has nothing to do with parenting. Instead of picking them up off of a Denny’s parking lot or pulling the car over a few blocks from their house so they can vomit after a long night of drinking, our friends are now holding us up as we try to keep our sanity during this parenting journey. Just like we didn’t mind—and still don’t—taking care of them, they don’t seem to mind taking care of us through the birth stories, diaper blowouts, and snot-nosed kids.
These kid-free friends knew us when we were kid-free too. They are our history, our reminders of what it was like to be spontaneous, and evidence that we weren’t always preoccupied with living the suburban lesbian dream. Amy and I wouldn’t trade our lives for a minute, but we are a bit envious and bummed when we know our friends are going out to dinner, to a bar to watch a game, or a movie that is playing in an actual movie theater. We miss doing those things, but mostly we miss doing those things with the friends who are there without us.
When Amy and I do have the chance to get out of the house, we usually take time for just us, to reconnect, to nurture our marriage. But we want our friends to know this: we wish we were better about nurturing our friendship with you. We know you know this parenting thing is hard. And we know you don’t fault us or keep track of who called who. That’s why we are still friends. But know we are so thankful for you and your willingness to be one of the circles in our five ring circus.
You are our kids’ favorite aunties and uncles. You are the ones who take the kids on the adventures they talk about for weeks. You are the ones they tell their friends about. You are the ones they think are the funniest and coolest people in the world. You are the ones who unselfishly let our relationship change without it becoming weaker.
Sometimes I walk through the grocery store, with my noisy twin toddlers begrudgingly buckled into the cart, and I see exasperated faces and hear sighs of annoyance from other shoppers. I assume these people have either never had kids or have forgotten what it was like to have tiny human beings chip away at your soul each day. I don’t feel apologetic for my guys laughing too loud or whining to be done. But when I catch an eye roll, I am tempted to tell them I am annoyed too. If I had the choice, I wouldn’t be at the grocery store with my kids either, but here we all are.
I have learned that my kid-free friends are like kind strangers in the grocery store, who for whatever reason, get it. Under different circumstances, nobody would have to choose yogurt flavors while dodging Goldfish crackers. In a previous life, drinking beer around a dinner table would have had fewer Goldfish too. I love my life and the youngest members who make it so noisy, even on the days nobody—myself included—wants to be sitting next to them. But here you all are. Thank you.