Getting out of the Social Crib
Last Friday night, I took my baby into the kitchen of a Capitol Hill row house, put her on a changing pad on the counter, and proceeded to change her diaper. It felt awkward, but it wasn’t the diaper change alone that made it feel that way.
It was the Coldplay song jamming in the background, the crowd of young hipsters bustling with conversation in the next room, and the young man and woman standing next to the baby and me, making small talk, while I said, “Good girl! I’m almost finished cleaning you up!”
I was changing my baby’s diaper in the middle of party full of young, mostly-single people. Yes, it was awkward.
Don’t get me wrong; it was a fairly low-key party, we had a good time, and some of our dearest friends in D.C. were there. But then the baby needed to be fed, and with little time before the baby started freaking out, we decided to go ahead and feed her at the party. We went to the couch at the far end of the large room where people were socializing, and there my wife discreetly fed our daughter.
If there was any doubt in our minds that life as we knew it was over, that moment alone forever removed any question of it. I looked over at my wife and said, “You know, we really don’t belong here.” I was preaching to the choir, of course.
As we drove away from the party, the temptation to begin the process of socially disengaging presented itself, and I think we could both feel it. Before the baby was born, we had said we weren’t going to make our life about “play dates” with other, young parents, checking out on our non-parental and single friends. But after walking away from an experience like that, where we felt so out of the loop, we saw how easy it would be.
Despite the temptation to withdraw, we both made the decision that night that, although the Capitol Hill party scene may not exactly be the right place for an infant, disengaging from the people who make up that scene wasn’t the right thing for our family. Life had, indeed, changed, but our perspective was big enough for us to realize we still needed all kinds of people in it, whether they could relate to us in every way or not.
Not everyone feels this way.
I’ve seen people leave churches over petty, social differences (everyone’s too old, there are too many kids, there are too many single people, etc.), avoid elderly grandparents who talk too much about being sick, and back away from neighbors who practice a different religion. It’s no surprise that people do this, and, in fact, I think our culture discourages diverse, sometimes awkward, engagement with people with whom we can’t relate (not to mention the fact that pulling away from those who are different comes very naturally to most of us anyway).
Think of all the organizations, especially churches, which divide people based on age or – even worse – marital status. This can’t be healthy. You end up with single people who hang out with other single people who are convinced the world revolves around their quest for the perfect mate; or you end up with new parents who all hang out together and think the world revolves around their babies. Life is too short, and we all need each other too much to only spend time with those who want to hear about our latest double date or the consistency of our child’s bowel movements.
Since that party and our decision to maintain broad, relational horizons, my wife and I have spent time at our home with two single people, two married people who have no kids, and some endearing neighbors who affectionately call my daughter “the little crumb snatcher.” The baby was there during each of these interactions, and though it isn’t the same as it used to be, now that she’s in the picture, I’m glad a diversity of people are in her life and that they allow us to be in theirs.
It’s a big world, one I can’t imagine living in without my wife and daughter – and a wide variety of friends.