WHAT better place than an engagement party to demonstrate to my friends that they should consider remaining free-swinging, childless singles for the rest of their lives?
My wife and I are in a very different circumstance than everyone else who was at this party. For starters, I have a wife. My wife has a husband. We have a child, which means we have the disposable income of a smallish coat rack and the social calendar of a young Notre Dame hunchback.
Everyone else at the party still has their freedom. They haven't been peed on recently (probably). They drop shots of hard alcohol into mugs of beer and then drink the whole thing all at once. They smell nice.
My little family arrived at the party - smelling of juice and kisses and just a little bit of pee - and were greeted warmly by the happily engaged couple and our other lovely friends who we never have time to see any more. Our two-year-old son went straight to work, charming everyone in the room, including the dog. Weapon No. 1 was his outfit, a cool little argyle sweater straight out of the pages of Toddler's Quarterly Magazine. Nothing impresses nonparents more than a toddler dressed in hipster clothing. Prop him up in front of a tiny glockenspiel and he could have been the newest member of Vampire Weekend.
Then came the greetings. Our little guy has the fist bump down. He's got the high five. Show him both palms and he'll scream "Ten!" and explode with delight, slapping 'em both. He's even got an adorable faux-formal handshake he'll bust out, offering his teeny little hand and saying, "Please a MEET you."
He then went about the place spreading toddler magic on everything he touched. His routine basically involved doing everyday things - sitting on chairs, eating cheese, petting the dog, sneezing - but doing them five times smaller and 1,000 times more adorably than normal-sized humans.
Later in the day the show got even better. To raucous cheers he started running laps around the coffee table. Every 30 seconds or so he would wriggle away from us and race over to the hors d'oeuvre table and try to cram an entire smoked salmon and capers bagel into his mouth.
It's not as if my friends have never been around a rascally cute kid before, but in certain social situations a solitary tyke can own a room full of adults. At this point our son had become a high-fiving billboard for marriage and baby-making.
"Wow, kids are great," every guy in the place seemed to be thinking. "Maybe I should find a nice girl, settle down and make a bunch of babies." Meanwhile every ovary in the place was firing like an Angry Birds slingshot.
Then, the inevitable. Jacked up on sugar and racing towards bedtime, the little guy was all over the place. Any parent can tell you what came next.
After grabbing his 47th grape off of the snack table and stuffing it in his mouth, he decided to go for a run. We have a family rule now that we sit when we eat. It's a fairly sensible rule, particularly when the toddler is eating a food that is custom fit for a two-year-old's trachea.
He, however, didn't appreciate our attempts to sit him back down. It wasn't even a big meltdown - on a scale of one-to-Charlie Sheen, it was about a three - but it was enough.
The room went quiet, like an old-timey saloon just after the bad guy has sauntered through the swinging doors. Squirmy, squawky protests from our son filled the silence. It was over in an instant but the damage was done. The women in the house all powered their ovaries down and cancelled that crib-shopping trip. The dudes all looked away, took a long swig of beer and reminded themselves to practise their, "Hey, I had a great time tonight but I've got an early meeting tomorrow. . . ." routine.
As for me, I grabbed one more huge handful of prosciutto - Daddy's got to get his thrills somewhere - and stuffed it down. Then I caught the little guy, hugged him close and told him it was just about time to go.
I felt like telling my friends that when you have kids of your own, one little laugh outweighs a thousand meltdowns, that the first time he smiles at you makes up for every scream, every tantrum to come for the rest of eternity.
I'm sure my friends all understand this to be true but, on the other hand, you can't really know what it's like until you've done it yourself. I certainly didn't know it before my guy came along.
I'm glad I know it now. As we said our goodbyes the meltdown became a distant memory and our son turned on the charm once again, tossing out hugs and "See ya laters" on the way out the door.
As we drove off, missing the rowdiest part of the evening so that we could make it home for a proper bedtime, one thought kept dancing through my mind: Man I could sure go for a Jager bomb.