We had the pleasure of meeting up with friends from college on a recent trip to North Carolina. It had been nearly two years since we had last seen them and we were dying to catch up and enjoy our short time together. We arrived on their doorstep in Chapel Hill with our two boys ages nine and eleven and the craziness of hugs and luggage ensued peppered with short bursts of conversation.
“We’re so excited to be here. How was your trip? How was the traffic? You look great! Oh, we brought you some wine. Honey, where’s the blue bag. No, the other blue bag. Yes! How’re your parents? Oh, where are the kids?
While we were busy catching up, the kids were busy sizing each other up. Just the way kids do, without abandon and unapologetically. Their kids had the home court advantage and were able to garner first impressions from their lookouts above the foyer. They dashed from spot to spot, calling attention to themselves, while our kids stood helpless in this ritualistic dance of childhood – an awkward mashup.
The adults finally paused long enough to introduce the kids to each other. The expectation was simple yet unspoken: now that we’ve introduced you to each other, we expect you to become best friends, play nicely together, find common ground, share toys and most importantly, leave us alone!
We’ve all experienced the awkward mashup as kids on the host side and the guest side. “Why don’t you show Suzy your room, I’m sure she’d like to play Barbie with you.” Who knew little Suzy was an aspiring beautician keen on giving short haircuts. I endured this torment on countless occasions. I was expected to share my toys and play nice with kids I’d (insert hopefully) never see again. I also have blurry flashbacks to strange houses with even stranger kids, different foods and weird decor while my parents lived it up with their friends. Who were these friends anyway? Not neighbors, not relatives, meet Mr. and Mrs. So-and-So from who knows where. Maybe we’d see their photo on a Christmas card down the road, certainly preferable to enduring another awkward mashup in a strange basement with scary African masks or life-sized posters of Mark Spitz in a Speedo.
In all fairness, the kids did great on this visit. They had never met each other and they were different ages and sexes. Our kids were overtired from a week of family vacation and their kids were exhausted with jet lag after a family vacation in France. What should have been disastrous, limped along aided by a trip to the pool, some food and a movie. While I pine to go back, I’m sure both sets of kids have already moved on. They endured the visit with the comfort of knowing we had a flight to catch and that another awkward mashup was probably two years away – a lifetime. It couldn’t have been too bad, the food was at least familiar and I didn’t spot any life-sized posters of Mark Spitz or creepy African masks.