The ironclad rule of Southern Ladyhood Hospitality, or so I have gleaned from polling everyone that I knew would agree with me, is that if you really want to invite someone, whether to an event or just to hang out, is you do it yourself. You don’t necessarily have to send a handwritten note: a card, a phone call, even a text message is fine. Secondhand invitations, we all agreed, are out, even if they come via a close family member, like, just to use an example pulled out of thin air, a son.
Okay, in other, totally unrelated news: we had a visit from my son, his GF, and my steppish (to use my son’s term) grandson over Memorial Day weekend. They were actually in town for Neal’s stepmom’s family get-together, but they stayed with us because his stepmom ran out of room. They also extended their stay a few extra days to have time to spend with us. Yay! Having a four year old underfoot is more exhausting than I remembered from my days when I worked with them for half an hour at a time and then handed them back to their moms, but it was fun, too, and way too quiet when he left. I am just now getting to the point where I don’t hear the little one’s voice around the house and remember his shampoo and toothpaste smell. We took him to the aquarium in New Orleans and to the local park, which has a Splash Pad, read a lot of books, and patronized a few local restaurants. We also had "quiet time" (a euphemism for nap time) at home, which Nonna needed, whether Ace did or not.
Four year olds are fun, if wearing. Like his coevals, Ace asks a lot of why questions. He also talks right over the answers, usually with another why question. My attempts to answer his questions were frequently punctuated by low-voiced utterances of “Mom” by my son, when he deemed my answers too complex, too abrupt, too God-knows-what, leading me to finally complain to my husband, “If that little brat doesn’t quit his whining, I’m going to smack him one. Thank goodness that at least the four-year-old knows how to behave.”
One of the “why” questions I did not have a satisfactory answer for is why I didn’t go with them to Neal’s dad’s house to go swimming. When they first arrived, Neal told me that his stepsister had told him that I was welcome to come to her house to swim with them so I could spend more time with Ace. He understood why I didn’t feel comfortable with that. I told him I like his stepmother and stepsister, and to say I appreciated the offer, but that John and I also needed some alone time anyway, since John had just come in from an out of town trip and was preparing for another one.
Ace, however, did not understand why I didn’t just come along with them every time they went. I could hardly tell a four year old the real reason that I don’t want to be around my son’s dad, and it was hard to say no to meltingly brown eyes, so this rapidly became a small problem in an otherwise enjoyable visit.
My son finally admitted on their last day that Ace had been overhearing his stepmother keep telling Neal that he was welcome to bring us along with him to play in the pool, and that Ace had overheard. In addition to being eternal askers of “why”, four year olds are the original pitchers that have big ears. Don’t say anything in front of them that you don’t want repeated, and repeated, and repeated elsewhere.
Which reminds me: I did, despite my son’s lack of faith in my ability to understand four year olds, get to babysit for Ace while my son and his intended went out to dinner. I’m not sure of all of what I said to the little one before he finally fell asleep, but I bet it made for some merry conversation on the four hour drive back to Houston.
But at least I wasn’t there to hear, “Mom!”