When I was a boy, I was a fan of horror movies. Sure, the gratuity and gore tended to get old quickly, and the scares were often predictable, but man, did I ever love being afraid.
Fast forward two decades and the very things that excited me the most about scary movies are the things I hate about being a parent. You see, in the case of parenting, the monster out to get us is time.
It chases us, sneers at us as we fight to prepare school lunches. It mocks us as we frantically plan meals and settle into bedtime routines. But at least these horrors are somewhat predictable, the trauma thus somewhat lessened. It was the horrors we didn’t see coming that hurt the most.
During the change in routine from daycare to school, we lost touch with friends that had been in Riley’s life almost since the day he was born.
It was subtle at first.
Weekend playdates kept being pushed back week to week and then month to month until they evaporated almost entirely. It got to the point where I couldn’t remember the names of kids Riley used to call his best friends.
Birthdays tended to be the sole instances that offered the promise of contact with old friends. But they were often bittersweet as new friends monopolized all the attention.
When I realized his friends were drifting apart, I felt that same swell of panic I’d feel as a kid while watching scary movies. What if we lost all his old friends?
Riley’s mother and I tried to come up with a game plan.
Scheduled playdates were a given, but they were always hit and miss. Birthdays of course, but they were few and far between.
We decided to try a group trip to Upper Canada Village to see Pumpkin Inferno.
We spent hours stuck just two kilometres away from the village. One of our group gave up and went home. By the time we got there, some of us were so exasperated we didn’t enjoy ourselves. It was a disaster. I wondered if they’d ever want to do anything with us again.
Things were looking bleak, but Riley’s mother was determined to keep Riley’s friends in our lives.
During the summer, we had made plans to go apple picking, but as so often happens, these plans kept getting pushed back. Before we knew it, apple picking season was over.
It was something we’d done every summer since Riley was born. This was the first year we’d missed it.
Riley’s mother decided to kill two birds with one stone. She called around and managed to get an orchard to open their doors just for our small group.
It was our own private paradise. The sun shone bright and warm while the kids played tag in a lush sea of trees. They held hands as they filled their baskets and bellies with deliciously sweet fruit. But more to the point, they were happy in each other’s company.
Since that day, we’ve been more diligent in planning playdates. We’ve also enrolled Riley in classes with his friends, swimming in winter, soccer in summer. And we’ve taken overnight trips to Brockville and Montreal as a group.
We still don’t see our old friends as often as we like, but when we do, we try to make each instance memorable.