Our baby son is enjoying the friendships we are forcing on him – but what choice do adults have?
After a few months of somewhat patchy interactions with other babies, it’s a surprise to find my son is now something of a social butterfly. In fact, given the demands of parenting and my fondness for my own company, it’s fair to say he meets more of his friends than I do.
Perhaps it’s my insecurity about this that makes me question the nature of these friendships. The relationships he has with these other people, all babies, are speculative at best. I mean, we usually have to tell him that these are his friends in the same way we might say, ‘This is a pot plant.’ By contrast, my wife only has to remind me who my friends are a couple of times each year, when I seek to deny any knowledge of a long-standing dinner obligation.
Forcing your friends’ children on your own as boil-in-the-bag best mates is essentially a function of a parent’s social life at this stage. It’s cute to imagine your friends’ kids as their own pals, but what are the chances they’d select them independently? I mean, they say you can’t choose your family, but you can’t really choose your friends either.
Outside of siblings and cousins, the first friendships we forge are due to our mums and dads wanting a break from the tedium of solitary parenting. You’re more or less assigned friends throughout childhood, based on school, geographical location, or whichever of your parents’ friends they continue to like as you grow older. And then you’re stuck with them. Every adult still has a friend who raps the theme to The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air when drunk. Surely if we could choose our friends, this wouldn’t be true.
In any case, we’re seeing progress and, though my son was initially hesitant in his interactions, he now delights in his companions. He used to deploy studious caution with new people. Much like an adult, he considered long and hard before putting his hands in their mouth.
Now, he has no such compunctions. He’s breezily indiscriminate in his affections for new people, babies and adults alike, even as his interest in boring old me appears on the wane. Once his favourite, he now reacts to my best material with the diffident glare of a tern rescued from an oil slick. Meanwhile, during the five seconds it takes me to sign for a package, he will have forged such a bond with the delivery man, he’s apt to cry once he leaves.
There’s not much you can do about this. You can’t force a six-month-old to love you, any more than they can choose their own pals, and if you try locking that delivery man in your house to placate the child, you get sternly worded letters from Amazon. For the time being, his social circle will have to put up with this newfound clinginess. I mean, it’s not like they have much say in hanging out with him, either.