Earlier today I was reminiscing about the dinner parties I would throw in my previous life pre-kids. I’ve always loved cooking for people, but these were the sorts of evenings that despite my intention of being casual, collected and breezy, I would obsess about the food, obsess over the finer details, how tidy the house or flat was, and how put together I would look and feel. They were still fun (I hope!) but looking back there was so much time spent worrying!
This worry was probably why I was hesitant to rejoin the world of dinner party throwers after having kids. Kids are always such a highly sensitive variable, unpredictable no matter what type of schedule they are used to, and even more so when they get older and actually join in at the table!
Since Nell has gotten older and Isla has gotten a tiny bit more adventurous in her eating, we’ve started having friends over to eat more often. And after some trial and error we’ve made a few rules for ourselves to help manage any stress. If it’s the weekend and everyone is participating in the eating, we stick to lunch. If it’s a weekday thing we serve an early dinner (before the major grumpy kicks in) with a focus on the kids eating and the parents mostly just nibbling as we chat. The dishes are simple to ensure there is something everyone will eat- lasagna, baked potato bars, mild curries, one pot pasta dishes and so on. I tend to serve things family style, with various little bits for people to opt in or opt out of without any fuss. There is coffee, or wine, and always milk on hand to drink.
Now a days rarely are the toys put away. Rarely am I wearing something important that can’t be spilled on or used to spontaneously to wipe something up (a nose, spilled milk etc) . Sometimes I haven’t even thought through the menu before an impromptu ‘dinner party’ breaks out (read: everyone gets hangry) and it becomes make-shift quesadillas. But despite all of this, or perhaps actually because of it, these are possibly the most enjoyable parties I’ve ever thrown. Everybody eating, everybody chatting and laughing (or the occasional tantrum because that’s just life). So messy. So fun. So very little worry or stress.
Why it took me so long to let go of the pressure I put myself under and to just enjoy the company of others, I’m not sure. But a big thank you to my kids (and to those we have over who understand and accept this) for helping me to embrace the mess!