You, Super Chill Dad Friend. You’re the best. Hanging out with you is never a hassle, even when our entire households are involved. Unlike other dads, you’re not clingy and you’re not competitive in that annoying keeping-up-with-the-Joneses kind of way. You get that we’re both in the thick of this whole parenting thing, and you’re not going to do anything to make it more complicated for either of us.
At the same time, you’re not Mr. Perfect, either, so you’re not going to constantly make me look like the bad husband/father by comparison. You’re just a cool guy who’s easy to be around and makes playdates bearable — enjoyable even.
We met through our wives, who met through our kids’ preschool, which is a great way to start. After all, a good dad friend is hard to find, because friendship isn’t just about us these days.
Before I got married and had kids, I’d wanna hang out with you based on your personality alone and how well that matched up with mine. If you were simply a good-humored guy who could talk politics and pop culture (but neither too much) and also displayed a few other interests beyond your job, we’d probably become fast friends. If you could quote Mel Brooks movies at length? Even better.
But now? Now there are other considerations that matter just as much. First and foremost, our kids have to click. Second but equally important: our wives have to click, too. Otherwise, I honestly don’t know when we’ll get to hang out. You and I have that rare connection. It’s not easy to find.
Take this one guy I know. We have a lot in common. Our kids are the same age and we’re interested in many of the same things. We binge-watch many of same TV shows (Batman: The Animated Series, Westworld) and both obsessively read The Onion. We’re both “foodies” because we’re both serious about food — and because we both take food seriously, we both fucking hate being called “foodies.”
But here’s the big kick to the nads: his kid is kind of a dick. I don’t like to speak ill of a child, but this particular young punk has earned it. He’s mean, moody, and more than a little sadistic. His idea of a good time seems to be inflicting misery on as many peers and siblings as possible, both physically and psychologically. He’s a bully, plain and simple. Making things worse, his parents, despite their own individual attributes, are total enablers and hardly apologize when their wicked spawn wreaks havoc.
While I genuinely like the dad and enjoy his company, the mean-kid factor pretty much rules out any significant friendship. As a father, finding out a potential friend’s kid is a grade-A twerp is like finding out a potential girlfriend’s favorite band of all time is Nickelback. Yeah, she has her good qualities, but do you really want to listen to “How You Remind Me” every day?
Finding out a potential friend’s kid is a grade-A twerp is like finding out a potential girlfriend’s favorite band of all time is Nickelback. Yeah, she has her good qualities, but do you really want to listen to “How You Remind Me” every day?
Here’s why: As is the case with every other dad in the neighborhood, he and I will get a few moments to shoot the shit at pickups, drop-offs, birthday parties, and PTA meetings. We’ll probably have a few good laughs during the occasional dad’s night out at the neighborhood bar. Maybe we’ll even learn a few things about each other along the way. But for any truly meaningful connection, we’ll need more time than just those few minutes. That would mean involving the whole clan. And there’s no way I’m torturing my own precious progeny simply for the sake of male bonding.
Some outside friendships are just doomed from the start. It’s nothing personal. It’s simple math.
Take the size of the average American family (3.14 in 2016) and multiply by two. That’s six-plus people who all need to play nice in the same proverbial sandbox.
Then you factor in the “jerk” element. By my own conservative estimate, at least 1 in 5 Americans can be kind of an asshole. So, the odds are, someone in that six-plus-person box is getting sand in the eye, and two dads who are otherwise totally compatible stand a high risk of falling out simply because of someone else in the group.
Philosophically, I wish this wasn’t the case. Practically speaking, I know it is. Since entering this strange socio-ecological world of nuclear-family life seven years ago, I’ve witnessed an unfortunate number of adult friendships that have suffered because the other people involved don’t quite mesh.
Sometimes, it’s the spouses who clash, complicating a pre-existing friendship that didn’t originally include them. Other times, it’s the kids who can’t get along, spoiling supposed playdates for the adults. In the most egregious instances, it’s head-butting adults who can’t act like grown-ups enough to even endure playdates for the kids’ sake.
That’s why it’s vitally important to find that dad friend whose family also meets the criteria — and one who also feels the same way about yours. A rare find, indeed, which makes this sort of relationship among the most valuable outside of your own family unit.
Sure, every now and then, I’ll get together with a friend who is unmarried or childless or otherwise doesn’t fit the whole-family equation, but that takes planning and accounting for multiple other family members’ own busy schedules. That amounts to little more than once every three or four months. If I’m lucky.
Meeting up with you, my cool dad friend, on the other hand, is easy. No babysitter? No problem. We can all hang out together. It could be something as simple as an impromptu meetup at the park, or as intensive as a weekend away with both crews in tow.
Sometimes, we don’t even have to contact each other ahead of time. Our spouses take care of that because they’re friends too! We just show up.
The kids do their thing, the wives do their thing, and we dads can geek out over the newest Beck tune, or the upcoming season of Mr. Robot, or whatever.
Now that it’s no longer about them, it can finally be about us. Ideally, that’s what friendship is supposed to be about anyway.