Years 0 – 3
Oh my God, fellow new parents, we are gonna hang out ALL! THE! TIME! We’ll have barbecues and picnics in the park every Saturday. We’ll bring acoustic guitars and tambourines and craft beers and rosé and organic grapes and we’ll hire jugglers and balloon-animal makers for the kids. We’ll bask and loll in the hazy summer sun like it’s a goddamn Seurat painting. Holy shit we’ll do potlucks! We’ll start a New Parents’ Fantasy Football league! We’ll get a summer house together next year! Actually, no WAIT, let’s all get a PERMANENT house together: our own radical PARENTOPIA colony — swaddlers and diapers and Baby Bjorns and breast pumps just EVERYWHERE. Like a Jonestown of parenting but without the Kool-Aid, oh man, it’s gonna be so fun!
Years 3 – 7
Whoa, this is a drop-off birthday party? Really? Huh, you don’t say. Well, look, I’m happy to stick around and help watch… Are you sure? You don’t need another set of eyes on the ball pit? Hmm… Well, I guess I could use the time to, uh, run a few errands. I mean, since the house is empty and monastically quiet right now I can’t imagine any reason for just going home… being by myself, maybe seeing what’s up online. So, you know, I’ll just probably sneak off to Home Depot. Get a few things done. Maybe pick up some, I don’t know, mulch? Are you SURE you don’t mind? No? Wow… cool, that’s so great! Hey, is it OK if I grab a slice of this pizza before I go? Thanks! Hey, great seeing you… it’s been a while. We should definitely hang out sometime!
Years 7 – 12
Oh, shit… I’m pretty sure we just noticed each other commuting on the same train. Eye contact, yeah there it is… sigh. And now you’re taking off your headphones and folding up your newspaper and pretending to smile just like I am. Great. Neither of us wants this, let’s face it. It feels like we JUST talked to each other at that PTA thing like three years ago. I mean, this is the only half-hour in the whole goddamn day we can work out a few crossword puzzle answers or fall asleep listening to that one murder podcast from three years ago. We both know it, we’re just gonna end up doing that thing where we awkwardly try not to let on we’ve forgotten each other’s kids’ names. What is it again? Riley, Ryder, Rhymer? Damnit, I know it’s one of those. Or maybe you have a girl instead. Can Rhymer be a girl’s name? Shit, I don’t remember! OK… it’s not too late to just turn around, just forget we saw each other. Maybe a polite yet curt nod of acknowledgment? Can you IMAGINE how utterly freeing that would be? To just embrace our mutual disinterest and not bother? We could even have a good chuckle about how nice that feels, to ourselves, of course…
Years 12 – 16
Whoa, hey pal, take a step back… I guess you didn’t see my blazing red “STOP! DO NOT APPROACH!” service-animal vest? That’s right, people really keep their distance when I wear it, let me tell you. Works like a charm at camp drop-off or fencing practice or wherever else I might risk getting hit up for some good old parental small talk, which, at this point, I mean… come on. I can’t even remember how to tuck in a shirt, never mind conducting earnest human interaction. Whatever neurotransmitter I once had for friendly parental kinship is rusted over like a fuse panel in an abandoned coal mine. I’m empty, done, nothing left in the tank. A dried-out husk flapping in the dark winds of parental autumn. A dead-eyed zombie chauffeur until my kid gets his license. Remember the stump at the end of The Giving Tree? Did it seem like THAT guy was up for some casual chit-chat about orthodontics?
Hey, the kids are all off hanging out with their friends these days… is anyone up for a beer? Or, how about a picnic in the park this weekend, we haven’t done that in forever!