I went for dinner with some friends last night. This in itself, I am aware, is not especially notable, but stay with me. You see dinner, anywhere but my dining room table, is a rarity for me. A true novelty.
Leaving the house after 5pm, alone, is unheard of. (Unless it’s the Brownies or Stagecoach run, which I also quietly enjoy very much because Joel is usually home to have Leo and I can actually hear both my own thoughts and my podcasts in the car).
Breastfeeding Leo to sleep means that I’ve dug a rather large zero-availability-in-the-evenings shaped hole for myself. Invites to dinners, drinks, parties have always been declined, because I’d have to be back for bedtime. (We made exceptions for weddings, because we wanted to keep our friends.)
But then I was invited to dinner with a group of women from my NCT group. I hadn’t seen them in a while and wasn’t going to miss it.
“You’re going..”Joel said.
“But what about Leo?” I hesitantly asked.
“I’ll figure it out..” He said.
My favourite words.
We were meeting at 7:30, which is bang on Leo’s bedtime, so I wondered what Joel’s strategy was going to be. Keep him up till I arrived home? (Unadvised). Or attempt to get him to sleep himself. I prayed for the latter.
My NCT friends and I met two years ago, virtually, through a Zoom-delivered antenatal class. We were all heavily pregnant and, like everyone else, fed up of lockdown.
A trusty WhatsApp group kept us all in contact for a while, each of us posting photos when our babies were born, comparing notes and congratulating each other. It would be another eight months after Leo’s birth before I actually met any of these women face to face. We eventually got together for NCT-run Walk and Talks, picnics and playdates.
Fast forward two years and Joel and I are stood at a two year old’s Birthday party (an NCT friend’s daughter) stuffing mini muffins in our mouths.
“You should come to dinner next week, a group of us go all the time!” said another NCT friend I hadn’t seen in over a year. (I had been rather despicable at remaining in contact with the group.)
“I’ll be there!”
I arrived and immediately felt welcomed.
“Oh he’s good..a maniac..but good..”.
We talked about our offspring with a beautiful and brutal honesty, knowing an unspoken mutual understanding existed between us all. I lit up when a friend told me she’d managed to wean her son from being fed to sleep (just like Leo) in only two nights.
I felt reassured when another said her little boy seemed to love going to nursery one day a week, and didn’t cry at all. There were all the usual recommendations: best local swimming lessons, toddler gymnastics sessions, a comparison of soft-play centres. And of course the “how many days a week do you work and how is that going?” conversation.
At 9:30pm I checked my phone. Miracles had occurred somewhere between our main course and dessert. My son, my feeding-obsessed, forever hyper at bedtime, impossible yet adorable son, was asleep. Asleep. In dreamland. Out like a light. (A light that takes an hour to turn off..) “He’s asleep!” I announced to the women I was chatting to, proudly showing them the photographic proof Joel had sent me.
I drove back beaming, returning home to a proud father and a glorious success story.
“You did it!” I said, eager for all the details of this epic triumph.
“He did it..remember to congratulate him in the morning.” Joel replied, half-asleep himself.
And to think, all it took was one dinner. I’m going out again on Friday with some school friends. Determined to make it a habit now.