Many weeknights, my father comes over to our house in the early evening, just before dinner. He sits at our kitchen counter and watches as we arrive home, unload backpacks and lunchboxes, start assembling dinner, and begin preparations for next day.
In short, he has a front row seat to our chaos.
Somehow, it works. The conversations are regularly interrupted with the staccato of children’s outbursts and end-of-day tasks. We’re distracted, but we’re together, and that seems like enough.
Plus, all he asks for is beer and peanuts.
I cannot cook, and I can barely shop for groceries. I don’t know how to stock a kitchen or host with ease. When it comes to planning ahead in the kitchen, it’s all I can do to track the breakfast-lunch-dinner rotation.
But the store nearby sells beer, and I can’t burn a peanut. This is the type of entertaining I can manage.
Eventually, my son climbs up the stool next to my dad and starts shelling peanuts with him. They ask each other what’s new. They test out new nicknames.
My daughter arrives on the other side of the counter to help my husband prepare dinner. I flutter around them all, scooping up messes and leafing through homework and laying out tomorrow’s lunches. By the time dinner is ready, dad is gone.
The ritual is simple. Simple is all we can swing most days. But even when we enjoy the luxury of time and focus, simple still seems just right.
“Beer and peanuts” has now become a shorthand philosophy for our motley crew. My father wants to make t-shirts bearing the refrain. My husband thinks it’s the new “keep calm and carry on.”
I think we might need to wait for nutrition trends to swing in a slightly different direction.
But merchandising aside, I still think a beer-and-peanuts lifestyle can be a success.
A group of girlfriends and I tried for months to plan a night out together. We inevitably got derailed because of work or family. One night, we finally decided to have a quick-and-easy potluck dinner at my house.
We all wore pajamas and no make-up. We all helped with assembling the meal, setting the table, and cleaning up afterwards. No one stayed longer than a couple hours. I was not assigned a single task having to do with cooking.
It wasn’t glamorous, it wasn’t fancy, it wasn’t even outside the zip code we all live in. But it was enough.
More and more I rely on routine in parenting. There’s a pattern to the clothes my children wear and a formula to the lunches I prepare for them. Their schedules are like a second circadian rhythm; my internal clock tells me when it’s time for them to shower, or stop reading and shut off the light, or get out of bed once and for all.
I don’t know when complicating factors came to be seen as signs of triumph. I don’t understand why more is more. I don’t believe everything we do demands everything of us.
It is inevitable that challenges will present themselves, and toil will be required. And sometimes our energy and interest will align, motivating us to make an occasion out of an event. Hopefully, wisdom will grant us the maturity to recognize those times when our output is worth escalating, and the confidence to refrain when it is not.
Hopefully, we can take comfort that sometimes – maybe more times – beer and peanuts are all we need.