I knew having children would change everything — I just never thought it would dictate my friends.
This year going into Passover, the Jewish holiday commemorating freedom from slavery in Egypt a whole bunch of years ago, I was prepared for waves of nostalgia and sadness to come over me as I made my way through each night’s four obligatory cups of wine in Seders with families of my daughters’ classmates.
A number of high school seniors sat at each table, kids I’ve known since they were 2 or 3 years old, and the adults all wondered how life would change next year, when our offspring depart for college and lives outside of Brooklyn.
I was ready for those sentimental moments, as the parents present shared memories stretching back to preschool — but it really struck me then how much having children has impacted the life I lead.
This may seem obvious — of course reproducing is going to affect you in so many, many ways. There are whole sections of bookstores and magazine racks filled with tomes telling you kids will change your marriage, your sex life, your friendships like a tiny, very cute, nuclear explosion in the center of your lifestyle.
Certainly for me, from the birth of my first child and for the next six years, my daughters’ existence filled every aspect of my life. Even when apart, they still ruled me, requiring check-ins and worries about the babysitter I had found.
When that phase ended — which it does since sooner or later the little creatures got bigger and I became a more confident and badass father — I found that my friends were the parents I met through playgroups, playgrounds, and school.
Sharing those first, anxiety filled experiences with other adults going through the same thing — bloody noses from the monkey bars or fights in the sandbox, head lice, and the rest — built bonds that lasted.
Perhaps this phenomenon was exaggerated for me because I have no local family. My network of people, connected through my girls, were the same bodies populating my holidays and birthdays, whom I see on vacations and the neighborhood streets. They took the place of aunts, uncles, and cousins. They are neighbors in an old-fashioned way, representing a web of relations, connecting and enveloping my day-to-day existence.
Now, eighteen years later, these are the same people I sit next to at Passover and watching events, watching our teenagers play softball and flute together. These are the families we share celebrations and tragedies with. These friends populate my life because of my children.
As my oldest girl leaves home, hurtling me into a new phase of parenthood, I expect to share this experience with these other parents, just as, together, we faced fears of the first parties our kids went to and the traumas of childhood injuries and illnesses.
I can already imagine filling a table or two at my daughters’ weddings, the one for friends of the bride’s parents. There’s one at every party, filled with a seemingly odd group who whoop it up and have the best time.Read The Dad every other Thursday on BrooklynPaper.com.