I've been spending a lot of time with other parents these days. God, I hate it.
Like gasoline huffers, we stand around with glazed eyes and smarmy smiles, in a trance that pretends that nothing in the world exists—nothing, except our wonderful children.
Except, I worry that the other parents aren't pretending. Sometimes, when my gas bottle goes empty, I make a sardonic remark to see if I can get a laugh. I ask people about their work, to try to rouse them from their stupor and get them talking about something outside this sno-globe. I say something negative about the Chicago Public Schools, to see if they'll acknowledge reality.
Usually I get the brush-off, a polite laugh, a clipped answer that says, "I'm in kid mode. Buzz off."
What is the source of this instinct? Why, when they have a chance to connect with another adult in the same age and similar life circumstance, would you strangle the relationship with inspidity? Why is kid mode so utterly disconnected, in the minds of these people, from the funny, dirty, dangerous, exciting rest of life?
I don't want to be rude. Perhaps, when I'm blown off in this way, I'll slip them a little card, titled, "A Few Questions."
1. How is your kid supposed to learn what an adult is if the adults she knows best are deranged eunuchs who appear to care only about kids and have no passions of their own?
2. You can't explain to your kid how to conduct friendships, to dig into work, to play violently and relax completely. You can only show him. But if all you do in front of him is drive to and from soccer practice, how will you do that?
3. What will you possibly have in common with a teenage kid who is discovering sex and ideas and music and life if all you've ever done for the past 15 years is pack lunches and schedule play dates and stand around at all these activities with the smarmy Parent Night Smile the whole time?
What right do you have to expect your child to listen to a word you say about how to be a whole human being … unless you are a whole human being, right there in front of him?
Parents who perform "parenting" as a wholly separate activity from living—or try to—are doing their kids an unbelievable disservice, out of an astonishing lack of understanding of what makes kids into adults.
It's hard to live your own life and raise kids at the same time.
But it's the only responsible thing to do.