Starving for infantile conversation

I went to two adult birthday parties this weekend, and had a ball, in no small part because they included the chance to hang with the under-two set.

I don't mean to imply that my grown-up friends are not engaging and enjoyable company. I thrive on their presence, too. But there's something uniquely delightful about sharing a smile with a beautiful six-month-old who is fascinated -- FASCINATED -- by your clunky necklace (and your beer -- no, sorry, sweetie, you can't have any, not for twenty-and-a-half years). And about a toddler chanting your name in between gales of laughter at his own cleverness, for which you are both accomplice and audience.

Not-quite-two-year-old Asa came to my rescue at party number two, Sunday afternoon. I had been there just long enough to settle my gift and pick up a plate of snacks when my introvert-overload sensor went off -- I realized that I had been around people enough for 24 hours, and any more small talk, however pleasant, was going to be positively draining. I wanted to be there out of love for the guest of honor, but given my druthers I'd have run home for a nap.

As I said to Asa's Mommy when they arrived, he looked like I felt -- shy and a little sleepy. If I had had a mommy present in whose skirts to hide my face, and if that had been an acceptable action for someone old enough to be a mommy herself, I would have liked to have done so.

But Asa and I got our second winds as he eventually grew comfortable enough to detach himself from Mommy's leg, and I took to following him around and keeping his fingers out of electrical sockets so that Mommy could talk with the other grown-ups for a bit. It was refreshing not to have to form complete sentences for a while. We ran up and down the hall. We played with a toy yellow bus ("beep-beep!") and a soft multi-colored ball. He showed me his furniture-climbing skills. He fed me grapes. He offered to feed me jam off of tiny sticky fingers, but I declined. I gently pulled his persistent hands away from the salsa bowl. (I did not quite succeed in keeping him out of the cake.)

I can understand my friends who are mothers needing to have a quota of adult interaction in their lives. I think I've always implicitly understood that, even when I was still a child myself. (Although I don't think I understood that I myself might not count as an adult.) What I haven't understood so much until recently is my need, as a non-mother, to have children in my life. Thank God I have friends with kids to remind me of that, and create opportunities to fill that need.


Sarah said...

One of the ordination vows for United Methodists is to spend time with the children of the parish.

I've often found it interesting that this is something Wesley highlighted. Follow Christ, don't get in debt, keep pastoral confidences, etc. And visit with the kids.

I've also found it interesting that most UMC pastors fulfill this part of their ordination vows by giving a trite, meaningless, and often heretical children's sermon.

"Will you diligently instruct the children?"
"Why yes, for ninety seconds every week!"

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