Blast From the Past,  Deep Thoughts

Sappy But Happy

In the days of Disco Break and Saturday Night Fever, it felt like our parents partied all the time. Every weekend my sisters and I would watch Hee-Haw or The Love Boat while my mom put on a chiffon skirt and purple sequin halter top and my dad shaved and dabbed on Aqua-Velva. Then the tottering blue-haired babysitter would arrive, and my parents would be off. For a while they went to The Tango, a disco at the top of a new building near Joy Young’s, the Chinese restaurant.

(That building is now the office where Bill and I work. Sometimes when I get off the elevator I see a disco ball and hear “I Will Survive” but that’s just my mind playing tricks on me.)

Other nights my parents would host grownup parties. My mom would fix Sausage Pinwheels, and olives embedded in a bisquick batter and baked, and my favorite fancy appetizer, water chestnuts rolled in bacon, secured with a toothpick and run under the broiler. The Glamores come by their bacon addiction honestly. We’d get to eat a couple before we were banished upstairs for the remainder of the night.

My mom would set out ashtrays throughout the house, and my dad got the bar ready. Everyone drank hard liquor, and I was most fascinated by the Mai-Tai’s, which they created by mixing a white powder with rum and ice and adding a maraschino cherry. When my mom wasn’t around Aunt Su and I would steal a packet of Mai-Tai mix and suck the sour, fruity powder off our fingers.

My parents went on vacations several times a year without us as well. My dad would take my mom along on medical convention trips, or vacations with other couples, and we’d stay home with the maid, Ozella.

The way we raise our children is very different.

I was thinking about all this a couple of days ago. Porter and Drew have guitar lessons in a building across from the football field where the grade-schoolers play their games during the week. In the break between their lessons, I walk up and down the sidelines and chat with my friends watching their players.

Inevitably, someone will say to me, “I haven’t seen you in ages!”

And I say, “Well, unless you’ve been at Publix, riding in my van, or sitting on the counter in my kitchen, I’d be hard to find.”

And so a friend and I started talking about where we have been, and the answer is that we’ve been hanging out with our kids.

What I’m talking about is very different from helicopter parenting. We’re not letting the boys call the shots; in fact, we’ve told them there will be no winter sports so we can have more time together during the week as a family and go visit Bill’s parents in Auburn on the weekends.

Our decision has been driven by the realization that now that the boys are 9,9 and almost 12, they are enormously entertaining people to spend time with. Our adventures in New York and Portugal have been extreme examples. (Drew is still trying to order barnacles at every restaurant we’ve been to since the trip, with no luck.) Steaming mussels in wine with garlic and onions was equally exciting last night.


I’m sure that the Doorknob/Safety game will be the talk of rehearsal dinners to come. My Lord, I’m talking about weddings now. Cue Seasons in the Sun stat!

But you see, the Finn, Porter and Drew of yesterday are hard to remember. People say time flies but when you look at pictures like this

fin Finn, pissed

port Porter, tied

drew Drew, contained

and compare them to this

fin2 Finn, chilling

swif Porter, Swiffering

drew3 Drew, goofy

college and the empty nest don’t seem far off.

My medical history and the sudden loss of my mom might have contributed to our family’s carpe diem philosophy, but I don’t think they’re solely responsible. As I look around, I see more of our friends doing the same– families gathering with kids to watch the football game and cook out or head to the lake. The family hibernation phenomenon seems to me to be a generational trend, with families with similar interests (and styles of discipline) forming social communes to head to the BMX track or Peru.

So what do you think– is it generational? Do you see this happening where you live? What do you do with your family and friends?

Two Years Ago in My Tiny Kingdom: Tub Talk


  • Jeni

    Me, too!

    Holy moly, your kids look so old! I can’t believe how big the twins are, and Finn pretty much looks like a teenager. Wow.

    I hope that, when raising Hosea, I spend so much time just enjoying his company. He’s already pretty entertaining as a newborn; I’m excited to see what toddlerhood and all the rest hold!

  • Kathy

    Hey, we even skipped baseball practice tonight for sitting at home, cooking and eating together, the kids playing outside a bit, and watching the NLCS together. Mine are 9, 9, and 11 and we’re enjoying the heck out of ’em. Well, except when Mr. 11 year old tries to be Mr. 15 year old. LOL

  • mandy

    My kids are wayy younger, but we live by the same philosphy. My husband and I go to an occasional concert or something alone, but are best times are all together. We tale solace in our routines and daily rituals. They do grow so fast…that means we get older just as fast by the way. 🙁 Total home-bodies. We love being together. We became a family and had babies so we can enjoy just that, being a family. Wouldn’t have it any other way, most days.

  • joyce

    We’ve done the same thing…and now that they are 17 and 20 I’m so glad we did. Time really does fly! My family was close, but my mom and dad never even thought of going to my sports stuff. Joe and I wouldn’t miss the sports, band or whatever. We banned organized sports teams for our kids in the summer, leaving us free to spend lots of time at the lake without a TV…hanging out together.

    Through the years we’ve also made an effort to just go out alone too…don’t want to get thrown for a loop when all the sudden the only ones home are us!

  • atwitsend

    It seems generational to me — kind of a homing instinct borne of our widening, yet more physically impersonal, social circles (look at this blog!) We may need more familial closeness as ballast against the crowds we join everyday (at sports practices, pta, school functions, etc.) Sometimes it feels like we are all jetting in different directions (like the opening to the Jetsons), and we need to hunker down in the house to keep our bearings.

  • Barbara

    I’m not sure how to answer the question of whether it is generational, because I do know other parents that are less than involved with their children and more self involved.

    As far as our family, we too enjoy spending our time together. It may only be sitting around the pool or running errands, but we often choose to do it together because, gasp, we like being together. My girls are 6 (7 next month) and 8.

    I was 35 when I had my first daughter. I waited a long time for her, and her sister was a happy surprise. I want to do as much as I can with them, for as long as they will have me.

    I hope I can say that we like to spend our time together for a long time . . .

  • Sandra

    I agree with Barbara – I’m not sure it is generational. We spend a lot of time as a family – Both Dad and I go to Son’s basketball games. We sit and watch his swimming lessons and basketball practice, I don’t just drop him off. We cottage as a family in the summer. But I have friends (and relatives) that drop their kids in every and any activity each night. And vacation away from the kids. And have full time nannies, even if they work part time. I don’t just LOVE my Son, I LIKE him, and like spending time with him. But my in-laws were a lot like your parents – Not a lot of time spent with kids. MIL was more obsessed about cleaning the house it seemed. “Get the kids out the door by 9am, and have the laundry on the line by 10”, was her mantra.
    Oh well, my husband turned out OK. As did I, and my parents did a lot of stuff with us, but also banished us upstairs during parties. And my Mom wore caftans, not sequined halters!

  • Traci

    I have a friend who is constantly trying to get me out of the house for a “girl’s night” – saying I need to get out and “have some fun.” She just doesn’t understand that I have the most fun when I stay in with my family. I’m much happier spending my Friday nights watching cheesy movies and eating bad takeout than I would be anywhere else.

  • Amy

    This is a great post. Your parent’s were way cooler than mine! We went camping as a family, the 4 of us, A LOT. And I appreciate it (taking my family camping next week). I’m not sure if it’s generational or not. We do a great deal of family time / family vacations but Mr. P and I also deliberately do long weekends and sometimes a real vacation alone, and we do Symphony nights and various fund-raiser type of evenings out. My sister-in-law and her husband are very self-absorbed and not into their kids much. But we really enjoy doing things with our boys. (Your boys are really handsome little buggers!! Are the girls calling yet?)

  • mrsmogul

    WHen I was growing up my parents worked hard and had their own businesses. I was pretty much left alone to play. SOB! LOL anyway I plan to travel a lot again in the future.

  • Susu

    It’s all about the boys down here – some days I try to think of one thing that I did not related to one of them – does reading your blog count??

    My parents would have friends over from church, who brought their kids, and they would play cards and listen to Richard Pryor jokes on an 8 track tape player!! We would sneak to the steps and listen in, they try to repeat the jokes to each other.

    My brother and his family, who live on the lake, have spontaneous “outside” parties with Ipod music playing. Anyone who comes by on their boat or walks up is invited. Oh, how I wish we lived closer.

  • zoe

    i grew up in a commune of sorts..lot of parties..but kids were involved. however my parents did LOTS of stuff without us. i personally can’t imagine taking a vacation without my kids…they grow up way too fast.

  • Cassie

    Snort we do everything as a family. Jenna started dance last year, this year I take it. We’re not in the same class, but we will dance on stage at the recital together, if I don’t kill myself first.

    Bill and Boo take karate together, not in the same class again, but something they can share.

    We haven’t focused much on family vacations since Jenna is just now to the point we can stand to be in the car with her now. So we’re going to Disney this fall, and Cancun next summer. I can’t wait. I don’t want to vacation without my kids, I want to spend all the time in the world with them.

    They grow up way too fast!

  • Charro

    Well, having raised two boys, who seem to have turned out to be well adjusted men, my husband and I spent all of our time with them… All of the sports, ballroom, scouts, guitar and then once they got old enough..hunting. Our social life evolved around their practices and games ! Once all that was over, we had NO social life… (we have since found it ). Anyway, they do grow up way too fast and I enjoyed every second with them. Now we are grandparents, which is the best thing in the world, so we are starting another generation of being involved with them. Would not have it any other way.

  • Karin

    I don’t know if it has anything to do with generations, but I can honestly say that we spend a lot of time at home with our kids, and we attend their “events”. My in-laws traveled all over the world, and they had parties. They attended lots of other people’s parties as well. After my mother-in-laws death, my father-in-law would make his obligatory Christmas visit only to rush off to another social event afterwards. Then he flew west to go skiing.

    My own parents stayed at home. They read a lot and argued a lot. Sometimes they went to movies or concerts. They loved to garden. They were not particularly participating in my activities.

    One thing I learned was that kids do grow up so fast. I also truly enjoy being with them and doing things with them. We have also done work with a lot of charity or art groups. However, the kids come first.

  • Ellen Bird

    Yikes, I have 3, just you wait. I only allow one extracurricular activity at a time per kid. The youngest, 11, does soccer. Middle,15, football, started the first week in June, we have been at the school 5 days a week, every week (except 4th of July) since he started in 2006! I hear the rugby team goes to Venezuela in the spring. The oldest, 22, has moved from sports to men and is planning a trip to San Francisco next week with a guy that is divorced with two kids- clearly the thanks I get for the C-section and private school tuition for 12 years. Pray for me.

  • Heather

    What gorgeous boys!

    I grew up with parents who were always broke…blue collar dad, stay at home mom. They rarely had money for family vacations, much less couple only ones. We spent our time hanging with family and a couple friend of my parents who had kids the same age as me and my sister.

    Now, well the boys just are getting to the age where we can do stuff that even hubs and I consider fun. We’re just starting that road…can’t wait to see where it takes us!

  • Shawn

    I think you are right on. I had similar experiences growing up. And today we are going to two parties, both kid-centered. No martinis for me!

  • Ricardo

    I think there are class/ethnic issues as well. I’m Hispanic and even though my parents were separated, we always had time with them. Saturdays with mom and Sundays with dad. Yes, my mom went out on weekend nights, and we had our share of babysitters, but there were also lots of trips to the beach or to the park, and I don’t remember them vacationing without my brother and me.

    Now, my wife and I spend as much time with our kid as we can, but I actually believe it may be less time than my parents spend with us. He’s an only child, and so likes to have playdates. His mom and I both work outside the home, and have jobs that overflow into the weekend quite often. My parents never worked weekends!

  • Jenni

    I think we’ve managed a great balance. So often my husband’s and my idea of a great time is getting a couple of other families together, throwing the kids in one room or the backyard to play (ghost in the graveyard, anyone?) and the parents hang out in the kitchen or on the deck. Drinks for the grownups, but we still get to enjoy the kids, and they feel like part of “it”. And if we’re lucky, someone offers to let the kids sleep at their house for the night so the other grownups get a little time alone at the end of the night. To sleep, undisturbed, of course!

  • Jen

    I think there’s a balance. My folks went out quite a bit (I could smell Shalimar while reading your post!), but we also did family things. They took vacations without us, but we did more family vacations than not. I, personally, think it’s really important to have that adult time so that when the kids are gone, we still know how to enjoy each other. On the other hand, I enjoy spending time with my kids. Most weekends we hang out. We do a lot of trips together. But hubby and I also have an occasional trip alone. My parents STILL take the same trip every year that they took when we were kids. They swear it’s kept their marriage alive.

  • Lake Lurker

    Anne- I just read your latest tale having had withdrawls since I left for a hospital/legal conf in S.F.We had our 4th serving of mussels since Tuesday. There are no door knob rules on the left coast!!As a parent of three, you’re right on!They grow up fast and it’s all about the stories and times that the five of us relish. But even though we are empty nesters, the fact that we stay together as much as possible is the greatest blessing of all.You and Bill should stick to your guns, you’ll love the outcome.

  • Jordan

    Great post. Our kids are younger but we’re trying to do something similar. I have only let my 2nd grader to one activity (soccer) this fall – when I told a friend that my son comes home every day after school (soccer is in the evening and weekends) to do homework and hang out I thought her jaw was going to hit the floor. What’s nice is that our neighbors’ kids are around, too, so they play out in the yard a lot. So much more relaxing for me, and we really get to enjoy each other. I love it! And by the way, I see a lot more people living this way here in Chicago than I did in San Francisco. It’s one of the things I love here.

  • mom2ameliaB

    My momma and daddy were also keen on trippin’ the light fantastic whenever possible, but they also made a point of allowing our house to be the gathering place for the extended family, which included my first cousin who was more like a sister. I spend almost all my time with my daughter and husband, but occasionally get to take in a movie by myself. We really don’t have any friends and my husband’s brothers are SOOO involved in their children’s lives that they don’t even have time for family gatherings like I enjoyed as a child.

  • Paige

    We went to Baton Rouge last weekend to stay with friends and go to the football game. But more often than not, we appear to be replicating our parents’ habits of getting together with friends and drinking/eating while the children play in the house and yard.

    I don’t think that’s so bad.

  • Major Bedhead

    My parents did a little of both – some going out/vacationing alone, some as a family, with other friends thrown in. It was good. I spent a lot of time with adults, since my parents didn’t tend to have friends with children my age. I was also an avid reader, so when I got banished to my room on the nights of the parties, it was more of a relief for me than anything.

    We tend to do things as a family most of the time. My husband and I will go out together, alone, sometimes. I go out on Friday nights, to a book group or to a friend’s house, just for a break from everything. Once the babies are a bit older, we’ll probably start doing more day trips as a family. Right now they’re too young to get too much out of it, but it won’t be much longer.

  • Alli ~Mrs. Fussypants

    Oh, those boys are growing up to be so handsome. I have all boys-9,6,3,1 and one on the way. As the oldest son gets bigger, I appriciate the little ones more and more…
    My childhood? A lonely only! That’s why I have a big family now, i guess!
    Welcome to our Cliq! This is my first visit to your blog. Where have I been…under a rock? How’d I miss you all this time? D’oh! I have alot of archives to go through!
    Hugs, Alli aka-Fussy

  • Tiffany

    We do both. We have friends over, while the kids are up, and while they are in bed.

    We do tend to have date night and go out a couple times a month. Usually only once, but I don’t think its a bad thing.

    I truly think there is a healthy balance. Family time, kid time, mom and dad time. While its very important for us to spend time with our kids and have family time. I think parents need friend time and couple time too.

  • K

    my parents had friends over and went to friends for Rook, socializing, but we kids went too and played with the friends’ kids. My husband and I have followed our kids all over the country with the sport they were involved with – they were both determined to play ball and subsequently earned scholarships, but it was hard work for all. Our “vacations” were taken in cities where there were American Legion tournaments or AAU tournaments (Pensacola, Knoxville, Nashville, St. Louis, Walt Disney World, Panama City, Dallas/Fort Worth, Chattanooga, etc.etc.)so we got to travel too. I think a big reason parents stay with their kids these days is that the world is so scary, you wouldn’t dream of just dropping your kid off at a social event and picking them up later (common in my town in the seventies). I do see some parents who take it a little too far and the kids are too dependent on them to function once they fall out of the nest. You have to have a balance of responsibility, which I think you do beautifully.