Friday, August 19, 2011

Our First Playdate is Today!!

As I’ve mentioned here before, I’ve always been a very one-dimensional person.  From the time I was 20, it was all about work.  Driven by a single goal to be the best.  No time for vacations.  No time for goofing off.  No time for friends, unless of course, they’re work ‘friends’.  Gotta work.  Why?  I dunno, because that’s what I do.  That’s who I am.  So, who am I now that I don’t work and I’m a stay-at-home dad (SAHD) to Jack?  Well, I guess that’s what I’m trying to figure out...

Although we’ve lived in this town for many years, all of our friends are work friends.  And, now that I’m not working, those friends are mostly gone.  People move around in our field.  A few years in undergraduate, then move.  Off to graduate school.  Move again.  Do a postdoc or two, move a couple more times.  Start a job, move again.  Get a better job, move again.  California, Florida, Montana, Hawaii, Illinois, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Utah…where am I from, anyway?  It’s easy to not make deep friendships or keep up with your family with this lifestyle. 

I used to scoff at people who never really moved.  Stayed within miles of where they grew up, hung out with their high school friends, had dinner several times a week with their parents and other family.  Those people weren’t serious about their careers, I thought.  How can you find family and friends more important than work?  Work is life, and you have to live where the work is best.  What a fool I was!  Now that Jack’s in our lives, my wife and I look at people who live in the same town with their families with envy.  How I wish we could just hang out with parents, brothers, nephews, aunts, cousins without taking a plane.  Friends outside of work?  How do you even go about meeting them?  Well, I guess you would meet folks if you had hobbies, but we’ve already covered that, haven’t we.  My hobby was to work.

Now, Jack’s been with other kids on occasion.  He’s hung out with them at the gym daycare for an hour or so; with an acquaintance or two with young kids; or, when grabbing other kids’ hair or stealing their toys at the park.  But, we don’t really know many people with kids Jack’s age.  And, until I became a SAHD, the nanny spent as much non-sleeping time with Jack as we did, so we wanted our family time. 

Life is very different now.  We want to hang out with people who are experiencing the same things we are.  We want Jack to have friends.  We want friends! How do we find them? 

Everyone says: “find a playgroup”. Uh, sure…  How do I find a playgroup?  I joined about 6 such groups a few weeks ago on, but thus far, the activity level is nearly 0.  Sometimes we meet people at the park and have a nice conversation, but never have the guts to ask for their number or make a playdate.  Plus, being a SAHD--an older one at that (see my post about growing up in the 1980s) usually with messed up hair (what’s left of it) and baby food on my non-matching clothes—it’s a bit awkward talking with the (mostly) young and very stylish moms at the park...they might get the wrong idea.  You know, like Hugh Grant’s character in About a Boy--which was a great book by Nick Hornby before it became a movie.  This is harder than real dating!

Yesterday, late in the afternoon, Jack started getting really cranky.  His mom was feeling down, and so I took him out for some fresh air in his new wagon to give her some space and Jack some outside time.  We decided to go a different way than we usually go, and 2 blocks from the house in a grassy park, we see some folks hanging around with some babies.  Well, Jack jumped out of his wagon, and went racing over to them (well, sort of a wobbling bear-crawl/walk mixture).  I thought it was so cute, he was going to play with these other kids.  Well, not so much. He was after the cool car/wagon-thing the other kid had lost interest in.  After getting his head stuck under the steering wheel, Jack jumped in and had a blast.  I got to talking with the parents, and it turns out they all just moved to town and didn’t know many people either.  But, they did know there are like 3 other kids Jack’s age on the block.  Seriously, could this be true?  People around here with kids Jack’s age, but with few friends/family in town?  Let’s not blow this one Jackie-boy.  Let’s reel ‘em in and get some friends.  How?  I don’t know, I’ve never really done it.

Well, we already had a few strikes on us: First, Jack was covered in the avocado he had just eaten (one of the best baby foods ever) and had no pants on (see my post about the awesomeness of wearing Bum Genius diapers).  I was similarly bedraggled (well, I did have pants on); being a SAHD can wreak havoc on your personal hygiene if you’re not careful.  Second, these looked like pretty cool and hip parents who were at least 10 years my junior. Third, I’ve never been a good conversationalist, and I am still getting used to my new identity of being a SAHD, which is difficult to talk about when you used to identify yourself only through your work. 

After 45 minutes of babies romping around and parents chatting, Jack had charmed them enough, and I didn’t botch it.  They invited us over to the park again this afternoon for a happy hour/playdate!  Four kids and Eight adults.  Crawling around in the grass for the kids and beer for the adults!  Wahoo….we’re in!

Man, this is really harder than dating! I sure hope we don’t blow it!  Hmmmm…maybe I should give Jack a bath and find some pants for him.  And, perhaps take a shower myself? 

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