Yesterday, I needed to ask my neighbor something. But I didn’t. I had a busy day. I was out and about. I wasn’t thinking of it at any of the convenient times. And then, around 8 pm, I was out walking past her apartment and I saw her in the yard doing some sort of yardwork. So I asked her the thing. And she said, “You know, you could have just knocked on my door any time and asked me that.” And it’s true, I suppose. I could have done that. But I didn’t. Because she has kids. And when you have kids, there is no good time for someone to knock on your door.
First of all, what time do kids get up? My kids get up anywhere from 3 am to 10 am, and so anyone knocking on my door between those hours takes the chance that they will be sleeping. Which means I will be sleeping. Because if my kids are still sleeping at 10 am, it means they were probably up from 1 am to 5 am kicking me in the back while head-butting my wife in the face. And I don’t know when other people’s kids sleep, especially in the summer, so mornings are pretty much out.
That leads us into nap time. If you child has gotten up early, they will most likely need a nap, and it may need to be in the morning. 10 am to noon is prime morning nap time, so I would never knock on any parents’ door during those times, because if my child had just gone down for a nap, and then was awakened by the doorbell, whoever’s finger was last touching that doorbell would not survive my wrath. Late mornings are out for neighborly visits.
Of course you don’t want to bother people during lunch time. So noon-ish is out too. And afternoon, starting at around 1 is afternoon nap time. Because if your kid naps, and it did not feel like napping in the morning, it is going to nap sometime between 1 and 4. I am not going to ring your doorbell then, parents of children under 5.
Between 4 and 5 pm is probably the best time to go unexpectedly visit a parent of a young child, although even then you run the risk of hitting a late nap, or interrupting that magical hour when your child goes from “tired” to “tired and hungry.” This is the witching hour in my house. The fights break out at this time, the house gets slowly and systematically dismantled, and if you knocked on my door you would probably find at least one child hanging off of me, a crazed and helplessly desperate look in my eyes. Are you coming to save me? Are you here to borrow the children? No? Then get out.
Dinner time is nebulous as well. It can start at 5, and it can go till 7, or even later if the kids do “sports.” Nobody goes a-calling at dinner time, even if one does not have kids. No, unplanned visits do not occur between 5 and 7 for any reason other than to borrow a dinner ingredient.
Once 7 pm hits, you are into bedtime. And again, every parent has a different bedtime schedule, so you are running a risk here. Can I really knock on your door at 8 pm? Or are you putting kids to bed? Are you in the middle of a delicate routine that, if disturbed even in the slightest, by the distant call of a bird, or a faint knock at the door, will collapse into an evening of chasing your maniacal loved one around the house and trying to force them under some covers? I can’t take that chance.
That brings us to 9 o’clock. Hopefully the children are in bed by now, unless they are teenagers, in which case they are probably out drinking, smoking, having sex, doing drugs, and listening to rap music (or so I am told), and so I am hesitant to knock on a door, because not only might I wake the children up, but I would be disturbing those few precious moments that parents have to themselves, between the time the child finally falls asleep, and ten minutes later when the parent, having locked the door, gotten a drink, and set themselves up on the couch with the Netflix, finally fall asleep themselves, slumped over onto the arm of the sofa while the light from “Breaking Bad” flickers across their motionless faces.
And so you see, I can never, ever, just knock on the door of anyone with small children. If I happen to see you out and about, cool. And I might text you, or set up an appointment for hanging out, or ask you a question via Facebook message. But I will never just show up at your door. Because when you have kids, it’s always a bad time.