Have you disappeared down the parenting rabbit hole?

My parents think I don’t understand them (at least I think they think that). So today I’m making an effort to get into their brains. [Full disclosure: MY PARENTS ARE TOTALLY BORING. FEEL FREE TO SKIP TODAY’S POST.]

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After seven years of parenting, my mum and dad aren’t doing so well in the social department. While they were never so outgoing that they had to fend off friends, prior to this millennium they at least hung out with people, phoned people, and found themselves in mingling situations more than once every two years.

Simultaneous nap. As rare as a blue moon. (I think they’re faking.)

Parenthood changes the way you make friends—profoundly. No longer do you make connections casually, gradually, or naturally. The intense first year with a newborn, during which you get an immediate burst of attention and then withdraw into diapers and mush, effectively destroys whatever spontaneity you once had. At first friends call…barbecues, dinner parties, golf games, poker nights…but if the invitations don’t jive with naps, or feedings, or bedtime, you turn them down. Turn them down for long enough, and people don’t call any more. And you don’t call them, because you’re tired. You can’t hold a conversation without interruption any more. You can’t hold a coherent thought in your head. Pretty soon, nobody calls anybody, ever.

You realize you don’t know anybody. Moreover, you’re barely fit for human company. But that constant barrage of parenting advice that streams from the ether is commanding you to socialize your child.

So you find yourself at playgrounds, scoping out other families. Gone are the days when friendship sprouted organically. A newfound desperation to network finds you sizing up the kids…Are they the right age? Do they play nicely? Do they look like they have the occasional bath? Do they bite? Could they possibly be inbred?

Then, secondarily—and distantly so—do the parents look okay? Because the thing is, okay will do. If they seem nonviolent, moderately social, aren’t screeching profanities, and have kids that will play with yours, it’s now or never. You’re going to make it click. And so, like a speed-dater, you court them, aware that any second one of your respective spawns will start caterwauling and truncate any opportunity to network on their behalf.

A week later you’re sitting in a strange family’s living room wishing you’d had the foresight to medicate your allergies against their seven cats. You’re wondering why anyone needs 14 bibles and how these juxtapose with the Harlequin-romance-stuffed shelves. Casual conversation reveals your new friends don’t allow their boy-children to play with pink or purple toys for fear of homosexual contagion, further armor against which (you fear) might be offered by an improperly stored firearm somewhere in the house. Aphorisms chatter from copious wall plaques, and you glean from the family’s countless photo collages that the kids are busily engaged in cheerleading, apologetics camp, and—yes—beauty pageantry.

You realize that if and when you reciprocate with a playdate at your house—if it’s to be a repeat event (and aren’t your kids playing nicely together?)—you’ll need to hide half your books and at least one painting. You probably shouldn’t mention the alcoholic bear who lives with you and whose typing you do, nor should you heed random temptations to diss Mitt Romney or ask, “How about those freaks outside BC Women’s Hospital? Forty days, huh?” Already, in their house, the Third Rail is arcing electrically, taunting you to leap upon it…

But your kids LOVE each other.

You realize that, in your own way, you’re probably being more inwardly judgmental than your hosts ever would be toward you. You wonder…are you being a snob? Are your misgivings valid? Or should you just tamp them down for the sake of your kids, who don’t know or care about the politics or lifestyle mismatches you think are such an obstacle?

With your kid(s) at playdate age, the tail has been wagging the dog for a long time. Socially, you’ve disappeared down a rabbit hole. You probably go days on end without anyone calling you by your given name. It has not been about you for a very long time. And until grade school, when the little ones start making their own friends, awkward playdates are a fact of life.

Fact 1: The weirder the other parents are, the more your kids will attach to theirs.

Fact 2: The weirder the other parents are, the more inclined you’ll be to always be present for the playdates. Just because.

Fact 3: After years of uncomfortable playdates, you’ll have no idea how to make your own friends any more.

If you’re very lucky, by the time Kindergarten dawns, some of your playdates will have translated into genuine parental friendships. When naps and baby food are phases of the past, you might just be able to hang out with the adults while the kids play. Sure, they’ll have a fight every two minutes or so, but you’ll be able to complete a sentence here and there, and eventually get to know each other as adults, above and beyond your kids. And then you can be yourself and let it all hang out. And then you can allow the resident alcoholic bear onto the counter, where he can sample from everyone’s glass. And there won’t be a resultant awkward silence. You can explain that he’s your bear, not your kids’, and that he’s an alcoholic. And that since he’s beyond hope, everyone should just keep pouring for him.

Really.

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109 thoughts on “Have you disappeared down the parenting rabbit hole?

  1. Oh my god so bloody funny I can recall some very strange play dates iv been one where I got there lady answered door with towel wrapped around her get inside say oh you just got out shower sorry if I’m early to be told no we are nudest family my husband just upstairs he be down soon to join us for lunch. I texted my sister telling her to call me say there’s an emergency. But that was most uneasy. Play date

    1. That’s awesome!
      Some of our good playdate friends (one we’ve clicked with) call themselves nudists, but they always have clothes on when we visit.
      Thanks for reading; your comment made my day.

  2. Reblogged this on The Waiting and commented:
    In fourteen months of blogging, I have never reblogged anything (except guest spots I did for other people.) Today I am breaking my streak. This is just too perfect not to share.

  3. Had I read this prior to having kids I would have scoffed and gone on my way of denial. Now that I have kids I can laugh heartily knowing that every single one of these words is true. Hilarious!!

    1. Thank you!! We’ve been thinking about this for a long time…yesterday actually marked a transition out of this phase because Miss P, the eldest, went on a playdate by herself to the home of a classmate whose parents we don’t really know. So all these ideas welled up…

  4. I had one scary incident bringing my 3 year old to a ‘swim’ party that a parent invited all the kids in my kid’s preschool to. We were the only ones that came from school….another family (their friends) showed up at 10:30AM with cheap beers, drunk already, kid with an attitude and a lot swearing at the kid. Then the host’s boyfriend came reeling out of their apartment completely plastered and pretty much offered my 3 year old a beer. I had to feign illness to make a quick escape.

      1. Not for kids – I am not from a prudish family and we sport tats and noserings etc.. but I was pretty scared at this party..I was afraid of being totally obvious as to why I was leaving. I’m just not down with 10:30AM drunkards lunging at my kid with a creepy smile and an offer of beer….call me crazy…

        1. Not cool! I was totally joking about it being our kind of thing. I mean, it’s MY kind of thing for sure but, I mean, look at me.
          Those people actually probably deserve a visit from Child Services…

  5. This was wonderful and oh so true! My favorite place to “parent” is at the beach with family or friends. You can sit and talk while your kids wander off, er I mean, play in the sand. It ends up being a good day for everyone. So basically, given my calculations, you have a day or two each year to look forward to. haha!

  6. LB — if you can ever drag your parents across the Straight of Georgia — know that you will all be welcomed, (and not judged in any way).

  7. It’s been a long time since I was in that pre-Kindergarten-dawn stage, but you’ve brought it all back with such humor and disturbing detail! Very funny.

  8. Oh my God this is so funny and so spot on!!! No wonder I have no friends and feel socially awkward at all the PTA meeting and the parent pick up huddles in the school yard. I am so glad this is “normal”. 🙂 Please tell me this is normal…

  9. Why do they never tell you this kind of stuff before hand? It’s a really cruel conspiracy to ensure continued propagation of the species, the necessity of which, is questionable at best. And still we do it. But would we do it again… Let me get back to you on that.

  10. I really enjoyed reading this. I am so glad than my inappropriate books are in my summer house at the bottom of the garden. Hidden from prying eyes, my girls and especially the monster in laws *sigh*

    1. OMG, your post is brilliant!!! Even though these types are all 100% TRUE, and I could peg everyone else we’ve ever met, I couldn’t peg my own mum, maybe cuz she’s too close. But this was hilarious.
      Thanks for reading!!

  11. Too funny and too sad because it’s true. Sigh, I’m so tired of awkward playdates. Plus we moved to a new city with our small ones which has made it even harder to meet people. We have to find them first.

  12. I know the creepy family of which you speak. If you put them off long enough and offer distraction eventually your own crotch fruit will forget about their hellish offspring (NUT doesn’t fall far from the tree) that s/he played so well with.

    1. That’s very true, and being less than proactive about all things social, we’ve used that strategy to good advantage in the past. (Although, even a year later, the kids will ask, “Can we have a playdate with E…? Or J…?” Then you have to say, “Look! A puppy!”

  13. Very funny, and very well written! As a stay at home dad, I’m usually the only man at the playground on any given day, so I admit to being a little self conscious and also sizing up the other people at the playground all the time. Are they normal looking ? Will they run away if I go over there and talk to them? Will they think I’m some crazy guy? “Hey wait! Don’t run away! I just want to get my kid socialized, I’m not a weirdo!”

    1. Thanks! We always notice the dads at the playground because they are so outnumbered. It’s much harder to network as a dad because every so often a mom will mistakenly assume there’s romantic interest (like it’s ever about the parents any more!), which puts so many innocent topics off-limits.
      I find playground moms are sometimes suspicious of dads too…despite touting feminism and non-gendered parenting roles, the bottom line is that many of these moms want to know why you’re there instead of the mom, and by extension they want to know everything else about your marriage/finances. But they will never ask you directly, which produces built-in awkwardness from the get-go.

  14. Ahhh.. the horror of discovering that I fell through that damn hole too… – and there are others like me.. 🙂 Cracker of a blog.. loved it! I have a bear at home too… and being Danish (.. at least that’s my excuse…) we are always plenty stocked in the Alcoholic beverage department… Cheers, Stina

  15. I now know why I have very few friends. My daughter is six, my son is three and I have yet to go on one of these elusive “play dates” you speak of. I am naturally distrustful and don’t give addresses, phone numbers or emails to random people. Ah the joys of “Failure Parenting” lol I imagine my kids will spend thousands of dollars in therapy bills some day because of the lack of play dates and playgroups and group activities disguised as play we attend. lol

    1. It feels very artificial setting up a playdate. We make a lot of effort to do it at least once a week because we remember (my parents do at least) being little and having the run of the neighborhood…all day and just showing up for dinner. Nobody worried and the day was one unending playdate. But that was pre-Clifford Olson, and everything changed after that. Things have swung 180 degrees, which is very sad. But we all end up needing therapy for some reason, and the perceived overprotectiveness of parents comes from a very loving, well-intentioned place, so there can only be so much future blame.

        1. Serial killer in British Columbia, Canada (where I live). I think he was apprehended sometime around 1980. Last I read about him, he had terminal cancer. But he made such an impact on everyone’s thinking about childhood and the safety of letting children roam.

  16. Instant classic. The absolutely cracked me up, because I’m way beyond the rabbit hole. I’m about to have tea with the Hatter. Great post.

  17. I loved this! I understand the need for playdates, but then after going to the other child’s home, I might have to reciprocate, which would require that I clean my house and yard. Neither are suitable for human life at the moment, much less company. My kids will just have to make friends at school.

    1. Ha! We have a good friend we visit with–she cooks/cleans in front of us and vice versa. Good conversation makes crappy tasks tolerable. But she’s the only playdate mum we do this with; it’s exceedingly rare to have the kids and the parents both connect so well, I think.

  18. OMG so funny and true…I’m so glad I settled into a group of mom friends, also that my friends are starting to have babies. For a while there I was trying to talk to people at the park. But i live in a more populated area so parents look at you like you’re canvassing the park looking for kids to kidnap. Lol.

    1. Yeah, we’ve had some weird encounters at the park. Some people just don’t seem to need friends, or maybe they have a hundred relatives who all live on the same block–anyway, they don’t need us, and they look like at us like we’re on crack when we strike up a conversation.

      1. Who knows, maybe when I’ve tried to make friendships at the park I’ve come off as desperate and honestly at some points I was. Maybe what was going through their head was “what’s wrong with this person that that they have no friends to have playdates with and are so desperate for interaction they’re picking up people at a park” lol

  19. Yeah, the ONLY thing the parents that I know do is talk about their kids. In America, that is. In other countries, parents are more likely to have their own lives.

    1. I’ve heard that before about North America specifically. I think parents here overcompensate for the lost freedom they perceive their kids (unknowingly) have, just because over the last generation or two paranoia about child abduction has heightened. Nobody kept their kids indoors 30 years ago, but now we do because we’re afraid of predators, so we feel we need to go crazy entertaining them. And we lose ourselves.

    1. Thanks for reading! It’s true, there is something new every day. The five-year-old had her birthday party today and we met a dozen new parents and their kids–so many different personalities and parenting styles, so many neat little characters.

  20. Yep, this is exactly where I am in my life! I have in the past even tried to set up playdates (unintentionally) for my husband too. Woe is me…
    Hopefully there are other cool parents down in the rabbithole with me and we can all at least try to have a good time 🙂

  21. I’m not alone. It is really hard to make new friends after becoming a mom! last weekend, my son bopped his best-friend in the nose for not stopping when he said to stop dunking him under the water…Now, the friends are not speaking and neither are the moms….

  22. Funny stuff. I understand, wait till they get to High School and College. Accept my invitation to read my blog of parenting one in High School and one in Law School, and taking up blogging during the most contentious political atmosphere I can ever recall. You will survive, I promise. I feel your pain on the playgroup parents, been there done that!

  23. Oh my goodness, you know me intimately well. How sad that this is my exact situation-except for the alcoholic bear luckily! My only consolation now is that my kids play out on the close most of the time so I could have one or two uninterrupted conversations, but for the fact that I’m so used to not conversing with anyone that I end up reading your wonderful blog posts instead,

  24. I may miss my wee little ones, on occasion, but just today I was thinking: “Man it’s good to have mostly grown up conversations.” I thought this after watching a youngish mom chat with her two year old all the way through Costco. I came home and started writing… ’cause that’s what we do! And then you stopped by my blog and I found this post. Hmm, the stars lined up perfectly. Nice post, that hits that nail right on the head!

    I am dying to know how you get the Freshly Pressed icon to put on your blog. I was FP’ed a while back, and only recently have been seeing them. Do you mind sharing your secret? I look forward to reading more posts. 🙂

    1. Thanks for reading! The Freshly Pressed logo widget appears on your dashboard after you’ve been FP’d; you just drag it to wherever you want on your page.
      As for grown-up conversations, I don’t think I’ve ever had one…

  25. Oh! PS) yesterday my FB status read: “Help! I’ve fallen down the rabbit hole and I can’t stop.” (After I got stuck watching “best marriage proposals ever” videos on youtube). See what happens when your kids grow up. You have an empty hole that only youtube can fill. :-p

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