When I met my husband in a bar, we bonded over the New England Patriots winning their first Super Bowl in franchise history just a few months earlier. Also a Massachusetts native living in Washington, D.C., he wooed me with the mention of his satellite dish, which would make it possible to watch every Patriots and Red Sox game, even from a distance.
We settled into a comfortable, lazy rhythm on Sundays in those pre-kid years, fueled in the mornings by Dunkin’ Donuts coffee and in the afternoons by beer and lots of football snacks. Like so many other pre-kid activities, we didn’t have a clue about how easy we had it. Then we and the couple we watch every football game with had four kids in four years between us, and the differences between pre- and post-kid football viewing parties became as obvious as a coach’s red challenge flag on the field.
Pre-Kids: I nursed my coffee while leisurely reading the Sunday paper and watching Meet the Press. I checked the fridge to ensure we had enough cold beer.
Post-Kids: I gulp down a large coffee made necessary by four overnight wake-ups. Load the dishwasher, unload the dishwasher, recycle unread newspapers. Take a walk and listen to neighborhood story time. Run to Costco for beer—and yogurt, blueberries, two gallons of milk, a 5-pound bag of baby carrots, and chicken nuggets. Arrive home a half hour before game time and throw beers into freezer to make sure some beer is cold before kickoff.
Pre-Kids: I donned my jersey and took my regular seat on the couch.
Post-Kids: I look for the kids’ jerseys, find them in the laundry pile from last week, decide they pass the smell test and put them on the kids anyway, then guiltily throw rest of the laundry into the washing machine. Set the kids up with assorted toys and activities. Take my seat on the couch only to see a toddler tumble while starting to climb basement stairs. Attempt to rig gate across un-gateable staircase.
Pre-Kids: I laid out copious snacks on coffee table within easy reach for ultimate convenience. Began grazing that would continue through the end of the game.
Post-Kids: I open a bag of tortilla chips and put it on the laundry counter, far out of the reach of toddlers or anyone watching the game who might actually want a snack. Hear a vague beeping coming from upstairs and remember the pizza that went into the oven shortly after arriving home from Costco. Jump over rigged baby gate to keep the one hot snack food from burning. Rapidly eat pizza slice while child clings to my leg.
Pre-Kids: I concentrated intensely on the game as the time ticked down toward the end of the first half.
Post-Kids: I glance at the TV while fishing crayons out of toddler’s mouth, setting up indoor hockey set for older kids, and wiping up spills of undetermined origin. Groan loudly at an interception until realizing that our team actually came away with the ball.
Pre-Kids: I refreshed drinks and snacks and took a bathroom break. Engaged in casual, non-football conversation.
Post-Kids: I pour more milk to replace sippy cups that have been lost during the first half, to be found later in the week fermenting under the couch. Sniff around group of children asking, “Who pooped?” as kids with undeniable need for diaper changes point at each other. Play a quick game of “I’m Thinking of an Animal.” Spy a piece of pepperoni with a preschooler-sized bite taken out of it that’s been placed back on the cheese tray.
Pre-Kids: More snacks. More beer. I had an understanding of which team possessed the ball and a general sense of the score of the game.
Post-Kids: I dump Duplos into a pile for toddlers and open up case of Magna-Tiles for preschoolers. Arbitrate fights over said building materials. Gulp a warm beer while asking my husband the score for the 15th time. Stop toddlers from eating the cracker crumbs that litter the floor. Put warm beer on high windowsill out of children’s reach and forget about it again. Watch no actual football.
Pre-Kids: I anxiously watched the end of the game. Yelled at referees for bad calls. Cheered for late-game heroics.
Post-Kids: I anxiously intercept toddler as she moves swiftly toward the DirecTV receiver with a sly grin on her face. Yell at kids to stop climbing the art easel. Cheer for parental heroics in keeping platter of remaining chocolate cake from being pulled off the counter. Give kids as much chocolate cake as they want at the two-minute warning to allow for at least a little actual football watching.
Pre-Kids: Four people high-fived in relief after a tense win.
Post-Kids: I get to high-five my toddler, my preschooler, and my husband. It’s a win.