One Of The Magical Things About Parenthood Is That You Make Friends With A Lot Of Assholes

It’s a secret that goes unmentioned in the parenting books.

Justin Courter
Slackjaw

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Photo by Robert Collins on Unsplash

It’s a secret that goes unmentioned in the parenting books. Before becoming a parent, you blithely cruise through life, pursuing your own interests. You become somewhat isolated because you’re only friends with people whose company you enjoy. But a couple of years after your first child is born, you find yourself stranded on a playground where your child is discovering the joys of playing with his generation. Then a dad door opens for you. A new world is conjured. A parallel universe blooms.

You learn that someone you never would have spoken to before — a man who does some marvelously dull work with data sets — also has a fascinatingly inane interest in old cars. And speaking of cars, you really get to know the prick of a neighbor who left a note on your windshield threatening to have your car towed if you park too close to his driveway again. Since his kids are the same age as yours, you discover that not only is he rude, but also highly materialistic and has a wife who is like a lonely bowl of oatmeal. Then there is the triumphant queen bee mom of the neighborhood, who buzzes with advice and gossip.

Under the spell of parenthood, you converse at length with these people while your children go down the slide and play tag. It is like going to a party in a ghost town. Time goes by and you materialize at cookouts and parties with these other parents. They are the people with whom you realized you could no longer play when you were just a few years older than your child; they are the ones you shunned in high school for lack of imagination; the ones you vowed never to become like in college because of their appalling conformity. But now, the alchemy wrought via the extraordinarily pedestrian coincidence of having been engaged in the act of procreation at approximately the same time has brought you together.

When you are refreshingly half-in-the-bag at some burlesque of a house party or trying to muster the stamina to power through a corny outdoor birthday party where the children are in an ecstasy of excitement over a bouncy house, you are lulled into communion with absolute shithead adults whose very existence makes you depressed. You begin with small talk so tiny that it often begins with Legos. It grows into conversations related to the cliché enthusiasms of these dolts. You tell them you’ll check out the intriguingly boring television series for which they apparently forgo precious hours of sleep to stay up and watch after their kids have gone to bed. You relate humorous childcare horror stories you have lived through that are similar to their stories. You revel in the revelation: you have joined the league of consternation.

Somewhere in the back of your mind is the vague hope that your child is having fun with the progeny of these lumpen grownups and not unconscious, bleeding-out beneath a picnic table. Because, at the moment, conversation of any kind with another adult is as important to you as Minecraft is to your son and his friends. Like your child, you are beginning to bond over the glaringly ordinary with these wonderfully fatuous bastards. You are relearning how to play nice with nasty, self-absorbed schmucks. As tenuous as your ties to them are, you might as well love them, for they are the motherfuckers of the moment, and your child lives for the moment. Yes, wise wizard, you have joined a coven, an ad-hoc family of assholes.

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Justin Courter
Slackjaw

More humor pieces at McSweeney’s, Little Old Lady Comedy, Points in Case. Books include the novel The Heart of It All.