Lois Ann Ell writes a monthly parenting column titled, "Unscripted."

Lois Ann Ell writes a monthly parenting column titled, “Unscripted.”

By Lois Ann Ell

The invitation arrived on our doorstep. It was the first party of the holiday season. A colorful hand-written card; the details penned in curly letters: pupus, live music, 7 p.m. At the bottom, in less curly letters: Adults Only.

This policy prickled me. When I host the occasional party, I have an open door policy; kids, dogs, friends of friends. Being gracious is the sign of a good hostess.

I enjoy a night away from my kids as much as any parent, and luckily, thanks to great family who live on island, we get them. Still, there’s something tacky about stating formally that you don’t want children around.

Nevertheless, I began mentally going down the list of options of if and how we would get to this party, which I knew would be fun if we went.

A lot has changed over the past few generations. When I was a child, parties were for adults and babysitters were a staple at our house on a Saturday night. Today, in the child-centered world we live in, I don’t know many parents who hire babysitters to go out for a night. Either family members help out, or the kids go too.

The whole idea of hiring a babysitter for a few hours one night seems daunting. First, you have to know one, trust one, be willing to pick him or her up, make dinner, go over a list of instructions, remember to call and check in, and wonder the whole time while you are out if your kids are being watched while they are in the bath, or if said babysitter is on their iPhone absorbed in the world of instagram. Oh, and you have to drive him/her home. And pay a decent wage.

Our regular reliable family members were unavailable that night.  My husband and I have been known to flip a coin to see who gets to go solo, and who stays home with the kids. But it’s not as great as it seems. You are out a dancing partner, and if you are the one who gets to go, you have winner’s guilt, and have to play down how much fun you had. It also helps to bring a to-go plate home.

As we debated over what to do, it seemed easier to RSVP no. And as we talked about it more, I eventually conceded that an adult holiday party is not always the best place for kids; we all can get overly festive and imbibe beyond our best intentions at these events.

And just because kids have become the center of my life doesn’t mean they have to be the center of everyone else’s life.

The evening of the party, while others dressed up, got their bubbly on and socialized, a few miles away, our family of five went down to the beach and played a sandy game of football, roasted s’mores, and counted stars as the moon rose in the sky. It was a perfect, intimate holiday party.

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