Cheese and crackers. A classic pairing that evokes images of childhood. Nursery school. Birthday parties. A snack kids crunch on between rounds with the lawn sprinkler—outside, preferably so that they don’t get crumbs ground into the carpet or the couch.
Adults eat cheese and crackers too, but we dress it up. We call it wine and cheese. The progression seems natural; you hardly notice it. One day you’re on the lawn munching soda biscuits and rubbery cheddar.
Flash forward twenty years and you’re standing at a cocktail party with a glass of Bordeaux in hand as someone passes around the brie. Wine and cheese is accompanied by adult conversation after nine PM—often surrounded by other adults in dressy clothes, avoiding the most adult of adult topics: sex, politics and religion.
It’s a milestone, adulthood. And adulthood goes hand-in-hand with another important milestone: autonomy. A certain freedom of choice. There is a common perception that once we’ve reached adulthood, that’s it. Adults should be adults and want adult time.
But what happens when you have children? How do you handle the integration of children into your now-adult lives? Many people now wait until their thirties or even forties to expand their families—and as anyone with an infant knows, getting out with your significant other after 9PM is a rarity, if a possibility at all. But does that mean an automatic regression to soda biscuits?
I’ve noticed an interesting split among my friends with kids—some abandon their adult lives altogether, and embrace the world of goldfish and juice boxes for the next twenty years, putting on hold any idea of a night out without their kids until said offspring reach university. (“We had kids. We’re going to raise them ourselves.”)
Some hold fiercely to their adult lives, maintaining dinner dates with their significant other, and even vacationing separately from their kids. (“We’re a couple first. We need to take care of that relationship before we can be good parents.”)
I see the benefits to both sides, but, as usual, we don’t fit the mold in either direction. My wife is quite happy in the first camp, having never been a big fan of “adult” life. She probably wouldn’t mind if we never saw the inside of a grown-ups-only restaurant again. I, on the other hand, do miss late-night outings—duelling pianos and the sharp sting of February air in the Byward Market—but still feel like our daughter is too young to be left to a teenage sitter.
This sorts itself out, largely, as the child grows up, but in the stage before they can speak, and you really only want to leave them with family (or one trusted caregiver—who usually runs the daycare and doesn’t want any more kids at night!) what do you do when your family lives hours away?
As it turns out, there’s an elevated version of a play date called “Grown-up cheese and crackers.”
This weekend, friends of ours invited us to an afternoon at their house. They have a son a month older than our daughter, and a live-in nanny who came to the gathering.
Adult wine and cheese in the kitchen—happy children playing in the adjoining living room. I looked around and thought, “This is exactly what I’m talking about!” Integration. A middle ground between having a tea-party at home with my 20-month old, and jet-setting to the Caribbean with Nancy while we both worried about the kid at home. We get to watch the toddler AND talk to other grown-ups. Amazing.
One of my favourite food dates to date, because it involved the whole fam damily. Think I’ll do this more often. 😉
Shout out to Alanna, Asher and Gen. Thanks for an amazing afternoon.