In the Javanese city of Surabaya, I am sitting at an air-conditioned cafe with a man named Sudargo. He speaks slightly more English than I do Indonesian, but conversation is awkward. So far I’ve learned that he’s a chef/manager for this cafe chain, Ijen, and mostly travels around Indonesia setting up new franchises. That’s about it, and so I sip my coffee—pretty good stuff, actually—more and more frequently.
Then I remember what I’m supposed to say: “Do you have children?”
Instantly, he lights up, tells me he has two boys and two girls, and that they and their mother come with him when he’s sent to new locations. It sounds like a complicated life to lead, but I guess he’s happy with it. In any case, we get to stretch the conversation out for a few more minutes and pretend like we’re becoming friends.
So, yes, I love this question. “Do you have children?” is not the kind of thing I ever would’ve thought of before I had them myself, but now that I do I can ask it, coo over iPhone photos of other people’s toddlers and teens, and show my own as well. It’s a surprisingly good and direct route to connect with strangers, and makes me feel like, you know, an adult for once.
And yet I keep forgetting to do it. It’s still not the kind of question that pops into my mind at first (though maybe it will now that I’ve written this post). But man, it works damn well. So, yeah, that’s about it. You probably already know this, unless of course you don’t have kids. So, single pre-breeders! Attention! Make friends with adults by asking them about their kids. They will love you.