Fatherhood can be tough on friendships. When you’re about to have a kid — or, more accurately, when your partner is, honestly you just stand around like an idiot — you’ll endure a great many warnings about your forthcoming joke of a social life, how your free time is about to be given over to sleep deprivation and Diaper Genie burritos. Those warnings are … well, basically all correct, sorry. Fatherhood does a drunken Irish jig all over what you’ll wistfully recall as your friendships. But as with most things involving fatherhood, you can find ways to manage it, keep yourself reasonably active and maintain a stable of friends while also tending to the leaky needs of a 9-lb. shriek machine. Here are a few ways to keep your friendships in tact during the fog of the first few years.
1. Learn to Love Game Night
Granted, you will likely spend a good percentage of your parenting time stuck on the edge of a Candy Land board, waiting for a frenetic toddler to pull the double-orange already FOR GOD’S SAKE, so you can get out of the peppermint forest or whatever and be done with it. Board games with kids can be a nightmare, but board games with grownups will forever remain an excellent reason to get together and drink. Institute a regular Game Night — which, like most of these, is a flimsy construct for hanging out — and pick a game like One Night Ultimate Werewolf, Sheriff of Nottingham or Spyfall, where you win the game if you know best how to lie. Lying strengthens friendships!
2. Try a Non-Andrew Luck Book Club
The Indianapolis Colts quarterback is known for numerous things, including: 1. Maybe not throwing a football very well ever again? And 2. Being the NFL’s pre-eminent literary nerd, one so devoted to his hobby that he’s instituted his own Andrew Luck Book Club, which offers recommendations to adults and teens four times a year. Andrew can do this because $180 million buys you a lot of books. (It also, I’m pretty sure, buys you all of the Barnes & Noble company.) But you can do it too, on a significantly smaller budget. Neither we nor Luck demand you to read the David McCullough history books or that 40-lb. Hamilton bio (we prefer the audiobook), although Luck’s suggestions are always on point. But read something (maybe one of these books) and get your buddies on board; the point is, this is a fine way to share your interests and force yourself into doing something better with your free time than fantasy sports.
3. Sign Up For Fantasy Sports, But The Good Kind
Yeah, we’re hypocrites. But there are two kinds of fantasy sports: The one in which grown men pretend they’re better at sports than the people in sports, and the one that’s more of an interactive, board-game situation (see No. 1). Fans of the ‘70s and ‘80s will remember games like Strat-O-Matic and APBA Baseball, which both recast “fantasy sports” as something that requires sitting around a table and interacting with other humans. My buddies and I did this for five years running, to the point that we began to develop legitimate feelings of pride and ownership in regards to a game that 95 percent hinges on dice rolls. Bonus: You can still feel righteously superior to your major-league counterparts!
4. Make Like a Wisconsin Grandpa and Start a Supper Club
On the first Friday of every month, find a new restaurant and get everybody there. In this manner my friends and I have discovered a new Asian fusion place, a bar stuffed with ‘80s-era video games, a New Orleans lunch spot, and the idea that forcing yourselves to look up something new on a regular basis is good for the soul.
5. Throw Axes at Your Enemies (Or a Wall) (Probably a Wall)
I can’t speak for your town, but evidently I live in an exceedingly ragey city, because in the past two years we’ve become home to no fewer than a gazillion outlets for working out pent-up male aggression in ways that don’t involve spending actual money on digital guns. If your friends are bearded, try axe throwing. If they’re particularly dexterous, look into an archery range. And if they’re honestly filled with inexplicable rage, seek out an Anger Room, where visitors literally pay hundreds of dollars to go break stuff. Right now, I’m sitting in a karate waiting room right now listening to one khaki-pantsed bruh make a work call around all 30 of us, and some other kid’s phone is blasting a PJ Masks video loud enough that the people at the nail salon next door are probably following the show. Throwing an axe sounds amazing right now.
6. The Running Text Chain Is Your Friend
Seriously. It’s like an endless stream of dumb banter, only you don’t have to interrupt with bothersome hellos and goodbyes. Best done via text messages, where hostile foreign governments are spying on you a little less.
7. Do All of Those. Or None of Those. But Do Something
Look, you’re a grown adult, and you create your own reality. Reach out to your friends sometime. Respond when they reach out to you. Be ever-present when needed at home and save some hours for yourself in the downtime. It’ll be easier than you think.