I had a chance to be awesome the other day.
It was hosted by AMM and she had also invited one of her friends who has a slightly older girl than the rest of us; a peek into the future for the rest of us. And boy, the future looks pretty freaking adorable.
The MPMs and I were having a conversation about friends, couple friends, pre-kid friends, and post-kid friends. Our revelations? That before you have kids you make people work harder at being interesting before you let them into your “friend circle”; once you have kids, however, you have automatic ice-breakers and perhaps you make it easier for other people to enter your life.
Given the fact that I’ve spent more time with my mom friends in the course of one week than I did with my pre-kid friends over the course of one month, this just seems entirely true.
It’s the playgroups, and wanting our oblivious little children to have BFFs when they’re 6 months old, that encourages, promotes, and forces these friendships on us.
AMM’s friend, with the adorable little girl, then remarked: “I think it’s been hard for me to make those parent friends, because I work. I’m not 100% time, only 70% or so and I’d like to cut it down to about 60% time, but I miss out on those playgroups and playdates and opportunities to create and maintain friendships with other parents.”
This comment provoked a paradigm shift for me, a parenting Copernican Revolution. I almost always view myself as the odd-parent out: the dad, the dude, the one without traumatized nipples or concussed vagina, the one who has to work hard; at fitting in, because in my mind the other moms are almost auto-friends, and I’m just tagging along.
But now, I realized, I have no monopoly on fringe-dwelling. Here was a smart, funny, charming mom who also had to work harder at these friendships. And it had nothing to do with dangly bits or lack thereof, and everything to do with opportunity.
I was stunned by my realization. And I was, like Kant, woken from my dogmatic slumber and inspired to do something. This mom had not asked for help, and perhaps didn’t need any, and maybe didn’t want any. But she had expressed a dissatisfaction with the state of the world, and I could do something about it, in some small way. For her. For my wife, who has to work too much. For the other working parents who feel a little excluded because of circumstance. For the other at-home parents who wished they could do more to help.
And so, on the heels of her confession, my mind raced around and I tried to think of the best, most helpful, inviting, friendly, and caring thing I could say. Because here and now, I could make a difference in this woman’s life and it would cost me nothing and would probably mean a lot to her.
I couldn’t think of anything to say.
No. That’s not true. I could think of something, and it was entirely inappropriate and I don’t even know where it came from.
“Oh. Well. That must be hard.”
I wasn’t going to say it. Because it was trivial. And it was precisely the kind of dismissive comment that I always fear hearing from moms when I offer some participatory remark. Like “Oh, it’s nice of you to try to engage us, Dad, but really you couldn’t possibly have anything interesting to add to our mom-versation. Just sit quietly and we’ll let your daughter play with our kids. Because that’s really all the consideration you deserve.”
So there was no way I was going to say the only thing that flashed through my mind. I was never ever going to subject another person to the kind of trauma I was paranoid about enduring.
But, because I was so focused on what I wasn’t going to say, I never thought of anything I was going to say.
So I sat there. Looking at her. Perhaps prompting her to say something else with a semi-encouraging look. But she had said what was on her mind, and now, four seconds later the conversation had died and needed to move on.
Sorry folks. I am not awesome. But maybe I will be, next time.