Now that I have a baby, should I hang out with other parents?
My son turned four months old on Christmas. My husband and I are close with exactly two people who have babies: my cousin Rhoades and his wife Hannah, who live in Providence, Rhode Island, and have a one-and-a-half-year-old daughter, and Logan and Thuy, who live half the year in Ithaca and have a nine-month-old daughter. Most of our friends are single. It’s not uncommon for them to say things like, “You know, I’ve never liked kids before, but I love Oliver.”
Luckily, Oliver is happy and charming on the subway, in museums, at restaurants, at our friends’ apartments and even at raucous parties. So far (and I stress “so far” to avoid jinxing it), he seems to have two switches: giggling, cooing, enchanting little person, and so-asleep-a-hundred-people-singing-happy-birthday-can’t-wake-him-up. So our social lives haven’t changed much since becoming parents, except that we don’t stay out as late, we see fewer movies, and we mostly take turns going to concerts and plays rather than going together. I was smug in my resolution to just keep hanging out with all our single friends exclusively and to studiously avoid Mommy & Me-style gatherings.
Then one day, my mother called from the other room, “Wow, he really likes this Huggies baby.” Neal and I had stopped by for a drink and she’d volunteered to change him while I flipped through the paper. I went into the other room and, sure enough, Oliver was staring at the Huggies baby, mesmerized. He reached out to the plastic baby and petted him. He wouldn’t look away. It was kind of sweet and also sort of sad, like he was some kind of baby raised in the jungle by monkeys seeing a fellow human for the first time.
Shortly thereafter, we went to a Christmas party where there was a six-month-old baby. Oliver reached out for him; the other baby grabbed Oliver’s head. They held onto each other for dear life. It was adorable, but, again, I started to think maybe they were trying to tell us something.
And I suddenly remembered what it was like growing up an only child in the city: all the dinner parties and museums and other adult-zones are great. And being able to have precocious conversations with grown-ups is great, too. But sometimes you really just need someone your own age to clutch at and drool on.
That goes for us, too. That baby’s parents knew about a terrific preschool in our neighborhood. And as it’s turned out, talking to them and to the other new parents we’ve met – people who can totally relate when it comes to teething and swings and vaccinations and rolling over – is surprisingly fun. The new-parent club is kind of like the philosophy club, but with better wine, less sleet and no aura of desperation. And, as you can tell from the picture above, Oliver seems pretty happy to finally have playmates who are neither his parents nor diaper-package illustrations.