Can We Go Somewhere?
I am a homebody. Not a recluse or a hermit. Nothing extreme.
Itís just that my activation energy for going out is a little
higher than some. Without well-laid plans and enough sleep
(proper star alignment doesnít hurt), I tend to default to
relaxation activities that take place in my house with my
family: reading aloud, playing Boggle, eating ice cream. My
birthday and New Yearís almost always end up involving ďhaving
a few people over.Ē
Itís not like Iíve been particularly unhappy about this. Itís
just for being such a big booster of both the cultural and
natural assets of the Capital Region, there are embarrassingly
large numbers of things in both categories that Iíve been
meaning to explore or participate in ever since I got here
and still havenít. Larkfest. Peebles Island. The Schenectady
Museum. The list is long.
I was, not surprisingly, nervous about how this tendency of
mine would interact with becoming a parent. After all, some
of the more common things you hear while expecting your first
child are playful yet totally serious warnings about ďenjoying
your freedom while it lastsĒ and making sure to go out for
dinner and movie a bunch now because it will be a long time
until you can do it again, and so on.
In the very early months, it was like that. Going places with
baby in tow, especially spontaneously, seemed daunting, and
I very often demurred. It takes a while to get into the rhythm
of being able to quickly throw together the right combination
of carrying devices, toys, teething remedies and spare clothes
for a given excursion, to remember whether the diaper bag
needs restocking at any given time, and to not fear that an
unexpected fit will lead the world at large to question your
But as I develop basic proficiency at some of these skills,
Iíve noticed something else unexpected. Iím getting out more.
Not more than when my daughter was a newborn. More than before
I was parent.
See, my 1-year-old is a social critter, and has always been.
This is pretty natural. We are a social species after all.
She loves being around peopleóbig and small. She loves exploring
new places. She loves picking dandelions and playing with
dirt in the community garden.
If we donít get her out of the house at least once
a day she lets us hear about it. She points insistently at
her backpack. She asks for her friend down the street by his
name, which could be a contender for her first word, depending
how you count such things.
Thereís just no way anymore that an entire evening can slip
by with us all absorbed in our computers.
And, so, suddenly, weíve found ourselves seeing our friends
more often. Weíre actually getting to our garden plot more
than once a week. Weíve made it to three First Fridays in
a row. Iíve walked the trail behind the Pruyn House. We went
to the Step It Up rally (on foot). Iím looking forward to
a summer full of finally getting to a whole host of things
Iíve long wanted to do.
Or course there are limits. I havenít made it to any movies
in the theater and few events that would keep us out much
past 9 PM. Long car rides are still pretty iffy. Even among
the possible options, Iíve only started to make a small dint
in my list of things Iíd like to do. But the difference is
The idea that parenthood isolates you from the rest of the
world and reduces you to a babbling idiot who can only recite
Raffi songs doesnít have to be true. In fact, Jean Liedloff,
author of The Continuum Concept, makes a pretty good
argument that such an overly ďchild centeredĒ approach is
not only bad for the parentsí brain, itís bad for the kid.
ď[A] toddler wants to learn what his people do, he expects
to be able to center his attention on an adult who is centered
on her own business.Ē Basically, she says, we evolved to spend
our childhoods watching and imitating adults (and older children),
and itís how we learn, down to subtle things like facial expressions.
I take all parenting prescriptions with a salt shaker, but
this point of Liedloffís resonates. (Of course it also suggests
less exciting things like making time to take kids along when
we go grocery shopping.)
In some ways, itís a less extreme twist on the theme of getting
your own life in orderókicking addictions, trying to curse
less, going back to schoolófor your kids. If I want my kids
to find the world beyond the computer worth paying attention
to and to feel comfortable interacting with a wide range of
people and exploring a wide range of places, I have to model
it. I knew this, but I think I expected it to be one more
thing I was struggling to fit in, rather than a natural consequence.
Raising a social human being wonít get my house clean, get
me to more movies, or give me time to read more novels. But
it does boil down to an iron-clad excuse to get out more.
And, apparently, I needed that.
Check out Miriamís new blog, The Big Questions: The Path to
Albanyís First Comprehensive Plan, at: http://metroland.typepad.com/the_big_questions/