My daughter Jane claims to have seven friends. No, they’re not the dwarfs of Disney fame, although that would make for a nice blog post. She’s referring to the members of the families that we have gotten close to over the two and a half years I’ve been a stay at home dad and my daughter has been alive.
I think that many of us as parents have “special” close friends. Sure, we belong to some large social groups or internet groups like MomsCharlotte, but there are one or two parents whose kid your kid “clicks” with and you just happen to “click” with the other parent. You really start to support each other, get to know each other’s families, and rely on each other as someone to talk to when this whole parenting thing gets to be too much.
We have two close family friends like this. Please bear with me while I explain them and their relevance to us.
The first mom EVER to talk to me at one of the library story times has a daughter, Grayson, who is just around three months younger than Jane. We consider Grayson to be Jane’s first friend. Grayson’s mother, Donna, is also considered, by my daughter, to be one of her friends (she calls her “Mommy Gray”). Grayson’s two dogs, Cabbie and Marty, also count as one friend a piece to Jane. So there’s four of my daughter’s seven friends right there.
I also consider these folks to be good friends. As I mentioned, Donna was the first mom to ever strike up a conversation with me (I think it was over something like our strollers matching). It was like it wasn’t at all weird to her that there was a guy at story time with his kid, and that was exactly what I needed at the time.
Over the last couple of years we’ve done lunches together, kid’s birthdays, family dinners, playdates, family pumpkin patch visits, you name it. I even babysat for Grayson when the family had to put one of the dogs to sleep (so, yeah, my daughter has one less friend than she thinks). Being a stay at home parent has really forced me out of my shell, and I think Donna and her family are largely responsible for me having the confidence I have today going into any traditional “mom’s only” type of situation.
My daughter’s other friends are (almost 2 year old) Dean, his mom Celeste (or “Mommy Dean” as my daughter calls her), and Dean’s dog, Layla. We probably see Dean and Celeste at least four days a week. At music class my daughter sits in Mommy Dean’s lap while Dean sits in mine. We’ve tried to institute a standing Pizza Night with their family, and on a rainy day it’s pretty much a given that we’ll be at their house or they’ll be at ours. My daughter talks about Dean first thing in the morning and last thing at night. She always asks where he is when we haven’t seen him for a day or two.
All of this is a roundabout way to say that when her grandparents ask Jane who her friends are she says:
“Dean, Mommy Dean, Grayson, Mommy Gray, Layla, Cabbie, and Marty”. And it breaks my heart.
It breaks my heart for her that both of these families will have moved away from Charlotte by May (Grayson to Virginia in May, Dean to Chapel Hill any day now).
It also leaves me feeling like the rug of support has been jerked out from under me.
I’m stepping up the preschool timetable a little bit in response to this change and I know that Jane will ultimately find more close friends. It’s not like these are the only people we socialize with, even though they are the folks we socialize with the most. I also think Jane will ultimately be fine- I couldn’t tell you the first thing about who I was hanging out with when I was two and I certainly don’t pine for them today. It seems unlikely to me that Jane will be any different.
But still, I can’t deny that a large part of my daily emotional support system is also moving away with these friends. I feel as if the main characters of my story on being a stay at home dad are all moving away in the second or third chapter. Right after I’d really gotten to know them. It's clear these are not only Jane's friends, but my close friends, too.
Yesterday, at a crowded library storytime and a rare day where we’ve not seen any of these friends (I believe they were all house hunting), Jane raised both of her arms and looked up at me with a worried look.
“Daddy??” she asked. “Where are all of my friends? I miss my friends!”
I looked at her little face, amazed that she was thinking the exact same thing I was.
“I miss them too”, was all I could choke out as a reply.