I used to be quite the social butterfly. As was Hubbs. Last minute invitations were opportunities for spontaneous socializing, and we were up for it most of the time, whether it was an impromptu night at a friend's, a midnight movie, or munchies at some dive in the wee hours. Being night owls and extroverts, these sort of social gatherings were ideal times to hang out and bond.
In those days, "no" was sort of a dirty word that we didn't like to say. It seemed like turning down an invitation would mean missing out on delicious meals and great conversations and fun.
Then we got older and had Little L. Now, saying no is not only our right and privilege, but often our responsibility. So often we see parents whose desire to say yes compromises their kids' well-being. For instance, the parents who drag their little kids out past their bedtimes on a regular basis so that the grown-ups can continue to maintain social commitments, be it a Bible study or an evening with friends. Or the parents who force their toddlers to endure marathon dinners that extend well past anyone's limits of patience. And parents who take their kids out for play dates when either their child or another's, is still contagiously sick. Or, those folks that take their babies to Disney and stay all day long, or ones that leave them in baby carrier seats for hours at a time so that they can shop or run errands or have coffee with a friend.
I'm sure my opinions on this don't win me any friends, just as I'm certain that our frequent "No, thank-you's" don't either. However, it's our job, like it or not. We have been charged with caring for and raising Little L, and though there are times when it sucks to have to turn down invitations, she has to be prioritized. I am well aware that many might caution us against making her an idol and the centre of our universe; although I agree with that sentiment whole-heartedly, I would also caution against the reverse - where you are making yourself the centre of the universe and forcing your kids to cater to your desires! Sometimes I think that the pressure of social obligation forces parents to make choices that do not serve their children well, and though an occasional exception might need to be made, these compromises should really be rare.
It isn't easy to just say no, but I think it's our job to do this, especially when our tykes are young. I mean, I don't love being the one who keeps rejecting invitations to last-minute soirees or evening fundraising concerts or fancy dinners or impromptu movie nights or parties out in the 'burbs, but it's not about me. Hubbs and I have had to leave 3-hour, 10-course banquet meals after only half the food has been served. We've had to turn down free meals, period. And we have had to cancel on booked play dates because either Little L or the other kid(s) have fallen ill. We have had to say no to double-dates because they start before Little L's bedtime. We have missed weddings due their locations and the difficulty of traveling long hours with our toddler in a car. And even with our church small group, we have had to take turns attending given that it happens over Little L's bedtime so she can't go, and needs one of us to help put her to bed.
Is this the end of our social lives? I hope not! But it is for the season, and while our baby still needs naps and the comfort of her parents to help her sleep at night, we will have to make concessions in our own lives to help preserve the quality of hers. Until she is old enough, saying no is just going to have to be an option. We owe it to our darling girl to be fair to her, and developmentally, we all know that little ones do best with routine and structure and consistency. How can we possibly give her anything less than our best, then?