Jordan was away last week, traveling for work, so Sam and I went into all-out exploration mode. Being in the house too much when Jordan is gone makes me a little crazy--I start long in-depth one-sided philosophical discussions with Sam, who responds only with benevolent looks, I watch Gilmore Girls (DON'T TELL ANYONE), and I chain-eat bags of microwave popcorn in bed. Last week, to combat the crazies, we took expeditions to Baker Beach, walked around the Presidio, drove up to Tiburon, tried out new cafes, went swimming at a friend's condo overlooking the Bay Bridge, met friends for lunch, had people over, and tackled the SF Zoo. (Okay, to give a more well-rounded picture of the week, we also weaned from bottles and had a couple of epic knock-down-drag-out bedtimes, so it wasn't all California sunshine and koala bears. Full disclosure. But mostly we had a great time.)
These days, as we run around San Francisco together, with our usual running dialogue (well, it bears striking resemblance to a monologue, because one of the parties involved can't actually talk), me pointing out sights of interest or abruptly stopping the stroller because one of us happened to catch a glimpse of a plane taking off from SFO or a sea bird diving for a fish, and we stop in our tracks to watch, and Sam points and makes his little affirmative all-purpose chirrup (which sounds similar to a puppy's early forms of barking), and then we stop to share a soft pretzel, which a seagull steals part of and we get very indignant, and then suddenly Sam lurches himself forward with a yelp because he just spotted the Golden Gate Bridge, and we stop to look and wonder and maybe snap a picture, and I map out our next route and tell Sam all about what we'll see when we get there, and then we continue on...I've been realizing how much I have come to enjoy Sam's company.
Here's the thing: there's a special kind of bonding that happens when you get into interesting or unusual circumstances with another person. It doesn't matter how well you knew each other at the start: by the end of it, whether the experience entails a great day of travel, a flat tire, a trip to the ER, or a really good sunset, you feel like you've reached a new level in your relationship. It's a camaraderie that comes from positioning yourselves together towards the world. I've experienced this many times with Jordan, and with old friends and new, but I didn't realize that it was possible--and valuable--for this to happen with your baby. Or toddler.
The more adventures I have with Sam, the more I like him. The more common ground we share. The more stuff we can talk about. Because when he was born, apart from the whole DNA thing, I didn't feel like I had a whole lot in common with him. That has been changing over the last sixteen months, but one of the major catalysts for me in building a new relationship with a new little human is exploring the world with him--and not just the world of baby stuff, I'm talking about the Big World: the one that we all belong to, twenty-somethings and toddlers and elderly people and babies alike. The world of very interesting things to see and do and investigate and experience. Having a baby can be the most isolating thing in the world. But one of the things that has freed me to continue living as an engaged member of the Big World, to see my baby as a genuinely interesting person and also as my pal, to keep my head above water in the sea of bottles and diapers and daily minutia, is to have all kinds of adventures with Sam: everything from exploring our city to learning the names of butterflies at home to hiking the cliffs of California to wandering into coffee shops to introducing him to Brahms in the car.
It's not in any of the baby books. It's not in any of the literature that "prepares you" for parenthood. And it goes a little bit against the grain of what people do with babies. But I am convinced that the idea that babies can do cool stuff is one of the secret keys to adjusting to life with a tiny human. And it's also one of the secret keys to not dreading parenthood. Because it means that although your days will look a little or a lot different now (especially during the Dark Ages of the first few months), you don't have to make this gigantic switch from an interesting life to a boring life, or from a "grown-up world" to a "Babies R Us world." (although the latter is certainly a viable option, and I have some choice words for whoever invented it). Because, with a little encouragement and enthusiasm from you, your kid can get interested in interesting stuff and the two of you can have a great time doing interesting stuff together. You might both become a little more curious. You might forge a friendship together. And that is all very hopeful.
**I've gotten some inquiries about the practical, logistical side of our adventures: "Okay, that's great in theory...but how do you manage adventures?" More on that coming soon. In the meantime, I would love to hear any other questions, feedback, or ideas for further blog posts!
P.S. On a depressing note, Greg and Phil kicked the bucket last week. (And as I flushed them, I thought to myself, "THIS is precisely why I shouldn't buy pets!") Does anyone have some excellent tips on how to keep feeder goldfish alive?