“Uncle Tim went to boyfriend heaven, where forty-one-year-old men remain little boys forever, with their vodka tonics and their Blackberrys, and their snowboarding weekends and their twenty-six-year-old “friends” named Cathy. And they never get to play with the big girls who think it’s important to be on time for things, to not lie, and to have plans for the future.”
The most important thing to remember about your friends with kids is that they don’t like people without kids to wax wise about parenting. Their children, however, are little sponges. They innately know you have a lot to offer. They’re like how your friends used to be before they had kids.
Now way back, my friends and I all vowed that we weren’t going to allow being parents to change us, to turn us into conservative, frazzled neurotics. I hope it doesn’t sound smug to say that I seem to be the only one who took those vows seriously. You may think it’s inappropriate to speak to children the way I do, but I’ve always been of the firm belief that we talk down to them way too much. Also, I like to remain unalloyed in their presence because children have the best bullshit detectors around.
For instance, when my six-year-old nephew once asked me why I never got mad at him for making messes when I baby-sit, I didn’t candy-coat it.
“It’s because I’m thinner than your mother,” I said. “Thin people tend to be more relaxed when they’re wallowing in filth. In anything, actually. Even dress pants from H&M.”
But relationships are a two-way street. Children have to give a little, too, though they often need some coaxing.
A couple of weeks ago, my friend asked me to pick up her kid after school because her car was in the shop for a few days. I wasn’t doing anything but trying to finish a novel, so I was feeling generous. Kerry was ten at the time, closer to my age than my other friends’ kids, so I looked forward to our drives. I appreciated her particular brand of wisdom. She was almost Yoda-like in the way she parsed out guidance, without coming right out and telling me what to do all the time, like her mother, who knows nothing of the hell of dating because she’s a lesbian.
“So, remember yesterday, Kerry, when I asked you if I should call Tim, and you said to do whatever I wanted to do? Did you mean that I should call Tim, or that I shouldn’t?”