Thoughts on Friendship

It was a very social weekend, and I’m exhausted today. Tired less from the events themselves and more, I think, from worrying how baby would fit in.

We’re more relaxed when we take him out, because Felix’s usually a calm little guy in a social setting. Often, by the time we meet up with people, he’s asleep, lulled by the stroller or subway ride. And once we’re in a new place there are so many things for him to look at and listen to; he’s distracted to no end. (Sometimes too much so—the only time he ever had trouble latching on was in a loud, crowded pub.)

Having people over is another matter. On home turf, Felix’s moods are difficult to control or even predict. On his sleepy days, our guests find him a quiet presence, a warm bundle of cuteness we all pass around. And on those few and far between days when the nap to waking ratio is just right he does even better with company. He’s quietly alert, looking into people’s eyes, flashing smiles, interacting with coos and burbles—in short, as charming as a seven week old baby can be. It’s the wakeful days that are problematic.

Of course, for our first dinner party—a small gathering, with only six of us total—he was in the middle of a seven hour stretch of activity. Our hopes of getting him down for a nap went out the door when our guests arrived with the usual flurry of greetings, drink making, music and laughter. Still, with new hands to hold him, he stayed calm for the first couple of hours, and his swing chair kept him occupied through dinner. By dessert though, his fussiness couldn’t be contained. He went from person to person to varying degrees of success, quieting for a few moments with this one, wailing when in the arms of that one. As the night wore on the quiet bits became increasingly shorter, and the cries not only more frequent, but louder.

Finally S and I excused ourselves to give him a bath and start the bedtime routine. We had warned our friends that the party, which started earlier than usual, might end before ten. Not only did they get on their way promptly and with no qualms, but they did the dishes and straightened up the kitchen before they left! More importantly, they never made us feel like having a baby around curbed the party, or that it made us any less fun to hang out with.

This was something that I feared, knowing people who lost friends or found relationships strained when baby came along. We’re the first among our immediate circle to have a child, and we have encountered people—acquaintances, really, not friends—who predicted that procreating would end our social life. One person said that we weren’t going to “be normal” for the next eighteen years. Thanks a lot! I don’t think he wanted to make us feel like social pariahs, but that’s certainly what came across, and whether or not we accept his definition of normal (which of course we don’t) it automatically put us on the defensive.

So it’s come as a huge relief to find that we can, with some preparation and a little adjustment, incorporate Felix into our social life. Partly his calm disposition makes this possible, but it’s also the result of friends who love us and go with the punches even when he’s being restless.

It is true what everyone says, that a baby changes your life. I’ve come to see nearly all of the relationships I have in a new light in the past seven weeks, and I’m pretty lucky to say that almost every one of them has deepened and grown.

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