My current clique, ‘the Kidders’

For a true indicator of whether someone has kids, count the photo albums.

Single people and married, childless people might have two or three in their homes. You may not be able to see them, because they’re often buried beneath old PlayStation games in a box in the basement.

Parents can fill up two or three albums strictly with photos from a truly special occasion in their kids’ lives. Like a Thursday.

Just a few years ago, I avoided gatherings where I’d be subjected to endlessly cute stories about little Junior and a slide show of his day-by-day development. Now we host them.

It’s getting more and more difficult to keep friends who don’t have children. We don’t even speak the same language. Something in those conversations always goes haywire.

WHAT THE NON-PARENT HEARS: This guy is so self-centered, he believes everyone has to know the instant his little twerp moves a muscle. If I have to see one more picture of that preschooler pretending to vacuum, I’ll fake an emergency call and escape this joint.

WHAT THE PARENT REALLY SAYS: I have no social life anymore and, thus, nothing else to talk about. But I still value our friendship and, well, you asked what was going on with me. So clear the three Lightning McQueens and two Maters off the chair, have a seat and listen up.

Getting two families together is just more convenient, because everyone pairs off. Dads wander away to sip beverages and grill greasy meat and moms disappear to swap gossip and “gently used” kids’ clothing, while little ones head off to be jealous of each other’s toys.

Parenting is a noble cause, and most of us enjoy making it a top priority. But it’s easier to stick to those guns when single friends aren’t rubbing their socialite status in our faces. They exhaust their small talk pretty quickly.

“You going to Summerfest tomorrow night?”

“Can’t. We’ve got to get up early.”

“Hey, wanna hear a joke? This Illinois guy walks into a pig barn and …”

“Dude, keep it down! The boy’s right over there.”

As someone who always bounced fluidly between cliques, I feel awkward about this development. My school had the Jocks, the Burnouts and the Thrashers. I’m with the Kidders. Step onto our turf and you can expect to be hit by a stray sippy cup.

Part of me wishes we had stayed in regular contact with single friends. I could brag that my coolness level has actually risen in the parental era. Girls come over to take rides in the shiny, red two-seat vehicle parked conspicuously in our garage.

That never happened in my bachelor days. And the top is always down as the little playmates join my son for a lap around the block in that red wagon.

• Reporter Mike Moore writes Daddy Talk, a parenting blog that appears online at www.journaltimes.com.

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