By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3
Married people like to hang out with other married people, but not just any other couple will do. When you go out as a group, you want everyone to get along and like each other. You want the conversation to be easy and the laughs to be frequent. But finding the right couples to hang out with requires a test drive. Some couples just seem to click while others don’t.
Typically, women set up these double dates. When women become friends, we want our husbands to be buddies, too. So we ask each other questions and hope to find common ground between our guys. Maybe they both play golf or they’re both into cars or they do the same type of work. We don’t really care what it is. We just need one little link of commonality to get the ball rolling.
My guess is that most husbands aren’t too crazy about these first dates with people they don’t know. But a good husband will usually agree to something he knows will make his wife happy. And most guys are nothing if not practical, so they figure that, even in a worst case scenario, they’ll still be out somewhere eating a good steak.
Last weekend I invited a friend and her family to spend the day with our family at the lake. I’ve known this family for a couple of years because our oldest son and their oldest son became friends on the first day of kindergarten. Soon after that, we realized that we both have three kids almost exactly the same ages. Between our two families, there are two second graders, two kindergarteners and two toddlers. For the past two years, we’ve seen them at elementary school, soccer games, basketball games and birthday parties, and we’ve dropped kids off at each other’s houses for occasional play dates.
Even though I already knew them and liked them, I felt a little nervous on the way to the lake because this would be the first chance for the adults to hang out together. I wanted them to think Tom and I were fun and interesting, and I wanted us to feel the same about them. Most of all, I wanted it to be relaxed and not plagued by those awkward silences or foot-in-mouth moments that kill some evenings out with new people.
After a few hours of boating and swimming and riding the inner tube with the six kids, we went to the cabin to have dinner and talk. With that many little kids running around, I wasn’t sure conversation would even be possible. But the kids entertained each other and, to our amazement, let the grown-ups eat in peace. We had a chance to visit and laugh and compare notes on raising kids and the funny quirks of each child’s personality. It was interesting to talk with people who seem to be living a life so parallel to our own, and it was reassuring to know that they, too, are figuring things out as they go along, just like we are.
The weekend was great. The kids had fun, and the grown-ups did, too. We told them we’d love it if they’d come back again sometime, and I hope they’ll take us up on it.
Many families like mine don’t live in the same town or even the same state with their extended families. My kids don’t have cousins nearby to play with or uncles and aunts that they see more than a couple times a year. I wish that weren’t the case but it is. So it’s that much more important for us to build a strong network of friends – people to laugh with, people to learn from and people to keep us company on this adventure we call parenthood.
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(Note: The picture at the top with the gorgeous wedding bands called “Piaget Possession” is a photo of the same style of rings worn by Eva Longoria Parker of Desperate Housewives and her basketball-playing hubby, Tony Parker. They’re a beautiful couple with a couple of stunning rings! Wow.)