Just to illustrate how rabidly uninterested I was in anything to do with babies -- a few years back a close friend of mine told me her brother's wife was having a baby, that day, and I wondered where she was going with the story, what the point was. When I saw others around me acting like it was a big deal, I tried to summon up at least as much enthusiasm as if I'd caught sight of a Mr. Softee truck. Same thing I do when I hear about an engagement. Maybe because it's all so overdone that a blasé reaction is just one way to try to combat that. And the truth is newborns really are incredibly dull if they're not your own. But...
Yesterday Wally called a pen a "Mommy crayon". And given that we'd never referred to it as a crayon (and he's pretty delayed in speech compared to other kids his age) I was really happy. That was my first thought followed immediately by -- don't tell anyone! Make sure that doesn't come up in conversation (or make its way to the blog -- ha!). That's the kind of inane drivel that makes people hate people with kids. "You won't believe what Tommy said today" and all that. But later I was thinking -- why is it that things that are big (kids learning to walk, to talk, to ask questions about the sky) are treated as small? Why do they feel so small? But someone drinking coffee or starting to get a cold is reported on Facebook like late-breaking news. And seems to be treated that way. I guess partly it's that most of us know how to walk fairly well and use a spoon and there's no reason we should care that someone else is learning how to do this. And maybe it's because we, legitimately, care what friends are up to, but not what their kids are up to (see Elinor's brilliant comment on New Parent Rules).
But I think it's also partly our disconnection and isolation. Generations don't mingle a whole lot. Grandparents live on their own. Families live far away from each other. People are not overly involved in each others' lives. Visits are short. In-laws don't come by on Sundays. No one asks for big favors or wants to be roped in to giving them in return. No one drives anyone to the airport (or the New York equivalent). Walks each others' dogs. Babysits each others' kids. People don't want to go one block out of their way most nights. ("Which way are you heading?" "East." "I'm going West." "Okay, bye.") Like even to finish the conversation, I'm always surprised when someone says they'll walk me a little ways. I used to do it all the time to people then realized they were just rushing along to catch the 5:15 to Valley Stream and I gave up.
I am speaking in broad terms of course and yes some people do babysit and some of my friends have, including Dario (How's that for free-range parenting?) and others have offered. Plus most people have so many friends, so scattered and spread out, that they're not going to be super-ultra close to one person's kids. They're not going to be an "aunt" or godparent. They're not going to sit squeezed between someone else's offspring in the back seat of a 2-door 1973 Plymouth Duster no air, no radio in August for a 4-hour car ride to Cape Cod.
I know some people will.
Some people might even go so ludicrously far as to try to convince me that they like knowing that Wally said, 'Mommy crayon'.
And some people are going to respond to this like they respond to every argument I posit: "Well, it is and it isn't." I won't know which part they're referring exactly to but either way that's often true but not too exciting. Just like it pretty much always "is what it is" (hate that expression, hate it). The fastest way to end a conversation, I think. Other than, "You should donate your brain to science -- and fast."