who you know…

There were two things that happened last week that are stories about social networks- it’s no surprise that people tend to be friends with similar people, but suddenly when you have kids, you need friends with kids.

On Monday, we were at the playground and met a really friendly woman with a 3.5 month old baby. She was super nice, and we had a good time talking to her, but I could sense how she has no adults to talk to during the day- she said that all of the people she had known either had older, school-age kids, so were back at work, or hadn’t had kids yet, so even though she knew lots of people in the area, she was pretty much alone during the work week all day, every day. And it didn’t help that her baby was born in January- who wants to drag a newborn out in the middle of winter? So it was a nice day, she packed up her baby and walked down to the tot lot, even though the little girl couldn’t care less- she was too little even for baby swings- and finally found someone to talk to. I can remember being in the exact same place, and going to the playground to talk to either moms with pre-walkers, or moms with kids old enough that they didn’t need much supervision (there was a gap from cruising until about two years old where I had to follow behind Noah to catch him when he fell every 20 seconds).

Then on Thursday, Noah stayed at school for lunch bunch because I was trying to get extra work done. When I picked him up at three, I saw my friend’s husband walking around with a random little boy (not his own), looking for his car seat. (?) I almost pointed out that he had grabbed the wrong kid, but I figured he had probably noticed already.

The whole story is that this boy’s mom walked into the pre-school office this morning, dropped off the car seat, and said she needed someone to drive him home at three. It sounds presumptuous, but she really had no choice- she is a single, working mom, and I know know what part of her usual system fell apart, but she has a teenage daughter who would be home that afternoon to watch him, but was too young to drive to pick him up. And she didn’t have anyone else to ask for help…because she works full time, she doesn’t know any of the dozens of moms that I know who are home during the day.

If I’d only known, it would have been such an easy favor to do her, because I was showing up to get Noah, and when he stays late we usually take the long way home so he falls asleep in the car…a little extra drive would be no big deal but she doesn’t know me, she has no idea who could do that favour effortlessly. Instead, the preschool was madly scrambling around looking for a responsible adult to do this, because they were really busy getting ready for an author event the next day, etc. There’s so many favors that are so easy for some people to do, but so hard to find the right person to do it…

Before Noah was born, I barely knew anyone with kids. My friend Jody had a pre-schooler, and he would sometimes come along for happy hour or whatever, and was adorable and precocious, but that was it. And for someone without kids, people with young kids are hard to be friends with- they go home really early in the evening, and during the day they have to plan around naptime, snacks, running around, boredom, and diaper change stations. (When we stayed with Dave’s cousins at Thanksgiving, we were trying to keep Noah quiet from 7 am until late morning when they got up, then by the time they were ready to go out we had to think about naptime, so we only saw them for a few hours in the afternoon/evening.)

I guess what I’m thinking about is how you suddenly need a whole new peer group when you become a parent- and that’s not so easy to pull off. Somehow, things worked out for us that Noah has lots of friends his age and I’m friends with their parents, but I know that I was magically lucky.

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