Oh, look who’s here! And so soon too. We’ve been having a blast. See how your kids are playing outside with my kids, who are also outside? Trampoline, tetherball, chaos tag—they’re going to sleep well tonight. A second ago, we were having a competition to see who could yell out the most classics of American literature while in the air. And that craft project over there, with the clay—we didn’t make a lot of headway, but I’d love to have those blobs fired in a kiln. Do you have a kiln at your house? I’m thinking of getting a kiln.
I hope you can gather from my breathing that I have been personally engaged in physical activity with your kids. We were about to head to the park when you pulled up, but I suppose they can hike and press leaves into the pages of their journals another time. And I’ve started lanyards for them—here, I’ve done the hardest part; now it’s just a matter of weaving the top strand under the loop that the bottom strand just went over. You’ll be done in no time.
No, don’t thank me—thank yourself. Thank yourself and your parenting and your genetics. Your kids have been such a joy, so thoughtful and polite, or I believe they would have been, had I engaged with them in any way, before fifteen minutes ago, when you texted you were coming over and I killed the Wi-Fi and forced them out of the house.
The rest of the time, I have no idea what the fuck they were doing. I was out working on the deck, and they were inside with nineteen iPads, two TVs, and an Xbox.
But fifteen minutes ago, they dropped their devices and staggered like escaped convicts into the sun. And look at them now—these are the moments they’ll remember. Seriously, most kids have a memory like my aunt Mary. If you cram those last fifteen minutes with activities, they’ll forget they spent most of the day on the couch, staring into the void. That way, when you ask them in the car about their playdate, you’ll think I’ve been running a goddamn Camp Kikiwaka over here.
I’m sure I will have a similarly compressed sense of the afternoon, though my memory is muddled by a couple of bourbons and a Candy Crush marathon. That’s what I meant by “working on the deck.”
One thing you should know: I had to bribe the kids with ice cream to keep them from killing each other, even for fifteen minutes. I know it’s dinner time, but I believe in delivering on my promises, so if you could swing by Baskin-Robbins on your way home, because those store-bought tubs won’t do once you’ve committed to a waffle cone.
Come to think of it, until the last quarter hour, they haven’t been much interested in “food” at all. There was one awkward exchange with the older boy while his iPad was updating. He followed me around the kitchen, saying, “Can I have a bite of that?” I think it was the older boy; I had sunglasses on. Whoever it was, I threw him a bag of Goldfish, and he went away.
Anyway, thanks again for suggesting a playdate and then suggesting my house as the location. The only thing I like better than playing with my children is playing with other people’s children, so I don’t mind sacrificing a portion of my Saturday to the task. And don’t feel like you now have to reciprocate by having my kids over and entertaining them, outside, without screens. It’s just something I genuinely enjoy doing, for about fifteen minutes, toward the end of our kids’ time together.