COLUMN: Away without kids

This is my weekly column for the Sunday, May 16, 2010 edition of the Hibbing Daily Tribune.

Away without kids
By Aaron J. Brown

My current stage in life, a father of three young boys, frightens those without children. This phase provides, after all, a lot of screaming and fluids coupled with a perpetual thundering sound of uncertain origin. Meantime, parents of older children offer only bemused eye rolling. This time my wife and I are experiencing is a special chapter, kind of like some sort of parental puberty. A wife and home. Three preschool boys. One full time job. A bunch of other jobs, including one you’re reading right now. It’s all so interesting and yet it’s a big, fat cliché.

If people weren’t producing children, who would be alive to buy Diet Coke and bad debt in 2045? If those children weren’t difficult, why would so many of them end up like so many of the warped individuals we now know as adults? Of course they’re difficult, and necessary. That’s the point. This train runs on time, forever.

Nevertheless, sometimes I can’t help longing for the next leg of the journey. I know I’m supposed to be “enjoying this while I can” and “cherishing these special memories,” recollections so precious as to be cast in porcelain, painted and sold at an alarming mark-up. I get it, OK. Hold your letters. I do enjoy the all the stories that our boys play out every day, and I’d share some of those with you right now if this fact wasn’t part of the problem. You see, I want to talk about other things.

Recently my wife Christina and I had the opportunity to go somewhere without the children. This is a thing that other parents talk about, something people do sometimes. It’s supposed to be a big deal, supposedly involving sun, beaches and intricate stage shows starring people whose names we’ve heard on TV. In our case we were going to a wedding a few towns over and decided to stay overnight at a casino hotel. The primary mission of the trip was to engage in conversational topics other than children. The mission started rough as we dropped off three cases of the boys’ old clothes at a secondhand store (a task that begot endless anecdotes of the things the boys broke while wearing the various shirts and pants). But we rallied as the day went on with some free time in the schedule to drive around and chat.

At the wedding reception the usual pack mentality kicks in and we sought refuge with a bunch of people we knew, logic being that by working together we’d have a better chance at a good table and a reliable pipeline to and from the bar. It was all working to plan. There was only one problem. In grouping with the people we did – people we know, all generally within 10 years of our ages – we simultaneously gathered with people who also had loud, moist, destructive children (who are deeply loved and well cared for).

All of us sought to escape the topic. You know. The kid talk. Is Johnny going to kindergarten next year? How’s Mindy’s rash? Did Little Stevie do something adorable the other day? You bet he did! Trying to avoid the topic was like trying to ignore gravity. Remember those old cartoons where someone ran off a ledge and kept running and didn’t fall because he didn’t KNOW he was over the ledge, but then once he realized where he was the gravity took over? Yeah, that’s like trying to avoid kid talk with other parents.

The day will come when our kids are a little older, able to sustain silence when not asleep and involved in their own activities and social lives. I’m told by the wily veterans that my life will change along with all of that. I’m hoping that when that distant dawn arrives you’ll ask me what I think about a topic related to science, history or philosophy. Until then (but not today) ask me about my adorable children. Put that down!

Aaron J. Brown is a columnist for the Hibbing Daily Tribune. Read more at or in his book “Overburden: Modern Life on the Iron Range.”


  1. …or do you ever have that supposed “date night” that somehow turns into the strategic planning session for the radical cleaning/renovation/reorganization of the garage/basement/playroom? So much for discussing literature and the state of things in Tibet.

    Hubby and I look forward to discussing essay topics of your next book…please!

  2. I’m looking forward to writing another book … but (see above). 🙂

    I am working on material all the time, though. My next “paper” book will probably be a novel but I’m considering doing another “greatest hits/original content” hybrid and trying it as an e-book sometime down the line to tide folks over and perhaps sell off a few more copies of Overburden. Stay tuned,

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