A few weeks ago we went out to celebrate my little brother's 28th birthday. Dinner with family and friends followed by the inevitable question. Go out or go to bed? We were in New York, Brooklyn specifically, and my parents had graciously offered to take Nora back to the hotel so that J and I could join the celebration. I thought about it and decided that, yes, we should go out. But not until 3 a.m., I said. I said it about ten times.
Being a parent hasn't deterred us from going out now and then, having drinks and late nights with our friends, not at all. But I will say that the majority of our evenings revolve around eating dinner and reading in bed and going to sleep early. Well, the going to sleep early part is a regular thing for me, at least. J's a little more of a night owl (owl reference, I know, you're welcome).
This is because, yeah, obviously, we have a child who we take care of on a daily basis. But it's also because it's what we like to do at this point in our lives and that has to do with many factors. Nora and habit and our age and the fact that you can get HBO series like "The Wire" on demand and, oh my God, have you seen it? "The Wire?"
Having a night out, however, is a really great release for parents, in my opinion. Whether it's a quiet dinner together, or a get together with your brother and friends that involves beers. Like millions of beers, even though you totally told your parents, don't worry, we are not going to stay out until 3 a.m. and you truly meant it when you said it.
The problem is that even a semi-late night sometimes prompts me to say things like, "Wow, I can't handle those nights anymore," and guys, that actually is lame. I don't mean my being tired after staying out past 10 (that's right I like to go to bed at 10), because we have to get up at 7:30 or so every morning and take care of a toddler, which requires a good night's sleep. It makes sense.
The lame part is feeling the need to analyze my behavior and physical state. Especially because the analysis almost always stems from my concern that maybe I'm too old, too adult, too much of a mother to ever do anything remotely related to my younger self, like, for instance, go out for my brother's birthday and drink millions of beers.
It's like I'm not quite sure I always know my place, and this goes beyond birthday celebrations in Brooklyn. How I'm still figuring out my career path and don't have an exactly regular paycheck. How I don't understand the stock market. How I still look to my parents as pillars of advice, still feel very much their child. But then I have a child, too. Every once in a while I catch myself wondering just how much of a grown up I really am.
Then there are moments of certainty. The other day I was driving with Nora somewhere and I took an extremely rare break from public radio, flipping through the commercial stations. I heard this song by Justin Bieber and Ludacris. Right? Justin Bieber and Ludacris? Yeah, I haven't been keeping up as well as I should with pop culture, but isn't Justin Bieber, like, 9-years-old? And not someone you'd picture doing a duet with Ludacris?
This is what I was thinking about when I realized the very obvious fact that Nora was so much younger than all the Justin Bieber fans out there. That God knows what would be popular someday when she was a teenager. A teenager! I felt so much like a mom, and it felt really good, honestly, daydreaming about how one day I wouldn't "get" her music.
I know, I know, the night of one million beers. I'm getting to that, but I wanted to point out the opposite first. The moments where I feel so mature and perfectly suited to my current role.
A couple tequila shots in and singing "Only The Good Die Young" at the top of my lungs at some hole in the wall in Gowanus? Not so much. And, of course, we got back to the hotel at exactly 3 in the morning.
I could have - normally would have - woken up the next morning and questioned my actions, thinking about how - despite the fact that I'm normally sipping a cup of tea and devouring a mystery novel by 9:30 - I shouldn't, ever, stay out late and drink beer, and especially drink tequila. Even though tequila is the only shot worth taking if you're going to take a shot, and has never dealt me a bad hand. I didn't even have a hangover.
Not the point, though. The point is that I didn't wake up and immediately begin punishing myself for staying out late and celebrating my brother's birthday, and I think the reason is because I'd had so much fun. Fun of the going-out-late sort that I hadn't had in so long, where everyone's singing and dancing, really letting loose. I'm not advocating tequila shots or anything (but if you'd been there that night I would have, very much), I'm just saying I had fun. That's it. And then when I woke up, I was still Nora's mother, in need of a lot more coffee than usual.
I know there will be both kinds of moments in all our coming years - moments when I feel so much, so easily the parent and moments when I'm still trying to figure myself out.
Most of the time, though, are the moments I like best, and, to tell you the truth, they're the times that sort of fade into the background. Most of the time we've both had plenty of sleep and I'm not trying to analyze anything. The other day I took Nora to a favorite coffee shop where she ate a bagel and babbled incessantly to me and to a few kind strangers. I was holding her close on my lap and Feist, who was on Sesame Street by the way, was playing and I'm sure anyone who saw us would have realized that we were mother and daughter. Although to me, it was just us, listening to music we could both get into, hanging out somewhere warm on a cold afternoon.