Visiting kids

No post yesterday, despite being rained out for tennis.  Worn down from a kid visit and late night poker.  Let’s pick it up early today before wishing everyone a happy holiday weekend.

I’ve mentioned before how much I like kids.  All shapes, sizes and ages.  The feeling seems to be mutual.  Kids (and dogs) all seem to like me.  Perhaps it’s because they sense I’m a perfect combination of fun and harmless (might explain why I have so many female friends but no wife, too).

Yesterday, I visited a friend and her 10-month old son.  He’s big for his months, surely looking more than a year old.  I had a good time playing with him (and occasionally having a conversation with his Mom).  Babies (a classification I use longer than most parents) are a different form of play, less physical but more animated.

I’m amused by the effects babies have on adults.  Our behavior changes to a degree we would otherwise be tremendously embarrassed in any other setting (or not, in my case, which might also explain my marital status).  Our faces contort, our voices rise in pitch and our language skills disappear.  I wonder if the baby might not be just as entertained with ordinary speech patterns, but it seems universally agreed that silly is best.

I am lucky to have a number of friends with children ranging from baby age to teens.  That allows me to visit each age group and employ the appropriate “kid-centric” behavior.  For example, another friend has two kids in the upper single digits, boy and girl.  These two have a strong inclination for physical activity (ball play being a biggie, along with swimming).  A particular favorite of theirs is the “airplane spin”.  I am still fit enough (and they are still small enough) that I can do a few for both individually and occasionally one with both of them (phew!).  None of us can stand very well after that exercise.

The single-digit years, I have found, are the most frequent for the “Again!” and “One More!” requests (“one more” really means “again”, since it’s immediately followed by another “one more”).  It’s also at this age period that the boys and girls start dividing in activities (though not in clamoring for attention).

So while the girl wants to read to (and with) me, the boy still wants to wrestle or play with various action toys.  Finding the balance as a visitor is just as challenging as it is for the parent (maybe more so, since my time is limited).  Inevitably, my departure is always “too soon” for the kids.

Being single has its advantages, mind you.  For one, I can stir up the kids as much as I want…I’m not the one who has to get them to settle down later!  Along the same lines, I can expend a vast amount of energy playing with them, since I know I’ll be leaving at some point and have the luxury of rest and recovery, something the parent(s) does not.  On the flip side, that sets the bar pretty high with the young kids and they expect me to be “on my game” when I come to visit.

From a teen perspective, my wacky personality is now evident and it both puzzles and amuses the kids.  This is especially true for those that I have been around since the earlier age groups, such as my nieces or my friends’ teens.  My steadfast refusal to conform to “standard” adult behavior is often labeled “weird” or “strange”, but just as often elicits a “you’re the most fun…(fill in the appropriate name here – uncle, person, etc.)”.

There are many distractions on the beach when I’m there writing, but the most compelling one for me is watching the kids play in the sand or surf.  Yes, there are some attractive women on the beach and yes, I certainly observe them…I’m not that “weird” or “strange”.  But I’m not at the beach to pick up women, especially those with kids, suggesting they already have someone who can observe them more regularly.

It’s the exuberance and carefree play of the kids that captures my fancy and brings a smile to my face.  Occasionally one will waddle by and I’ll wave or say hi.  Most of the time, they’re in their own little beach world and I can go back to my writing after a few seconds of watching.

I’ve always encouraged my friends to bring their kids to my BBQs.  I have a large grassy, tree area out back (a shared area at least as big as a football field) and I have balls and toys for them to play with.  I think it makes it easier for the parents, not having to look for babysitters, but still getting some “quiet time” on the patio as the kids play together out back.

I’ve often wondered how I would do as a Dad.  Mixing in the required discipline and teaching with my preferred desire to goof around might have been challenging for me.  That challenge has most likely passed, though I think I’ve learned enough from all the other parents and kids over time to give me my answer.

Nowadays, I’m more than happy to spend my time visiting kids.  Hopefully I’ll never grow too adult for them to enjoy me as much as I do them!

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