Monday, August 20, 2018

All Aboard the Kiddie Clusterfuck Express! Next Stop: Adulthood

“Welcome to the start of living in your car. This is my first day of school photo,” a friend texted me this morning.

Our kids went back to school in Juneau today, and I wished her luck on the next nine months of Kuber (Kiddie-Uber) driving. Or--if you prefer because they supposedly have better labor practices—Klyft. 

Either way, here we go again. That’s what I thought as I dropped both kids off at school this morning for their first days of fifth and second grades.

Typically, the Juneau School District’s late August start date means a 50-degree sideways monsoon on the first day of school. But July was beautiful; today was the mildest, sunniest August day I can remember since yesterday; and everyone seemed a little bit happier (and tanner) because of it. Parents milled about, taking pictures with their smart phones, chatting about their summers, and marveling at the extra inches the kids had grown. Some children hugged their friends while others clung to their parents, and teachers greeted their pupils.

All the while, I just kept thinking, here we all are, on the Kiddie Clusterfuck Express once again.

There’s an open parenting secret no one tells you—at least not in time to do anything about it: If you choose to have kids (not necessarily something I recommend, by the way) and raise them in conventional American society, you’ll likely end up on a metaphorical express train conducted by your kids and their jam-packed schedules. Your kids’ friends and classmates’ parents will be your fellow travelers and/or Klfyt passengers, and just like a real train, you don’t pick these passengers. You just have to hope you like them, because more often than not, you’ll need them. The practical reality is that I rarely see any adults whose kids’ lives don’t intersect with mine unless I really carve out the time, which between work and home-life is always at a premium for everyone.

It’s an interesting bond—that raising-kids-together-in-a-community bond. The whole “it takes a village thing.” It’s not really ingrained into American society, which fosters nuclear family units marooned in their own isolated silos. But there’s value in pushing back against that default because of the established benefit of many positive adult influences in a child’s life.

There’s a reason most parents feel happier when we’re co-parenting outside our nuclear families--when we know that we are taking care of each others’ kids. My kids were born in Juneau. I’ve known some of my friends since before we had kids, and our kids are now involved in the same activities or go to the same schools. Others I’ve met through my kids, whose sweet young friendships have made us frequent text-buddies and sometimes independent friends.

Regardless, and long after our kids are grown, we’ll always share that unique bond of having taken this journey together.

Here’s to my fellow travelers.

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