Having A Daughter Helped Me Weed Out My Fair-Weather Friends
Going out to dinner with young children is always an adventure, and an arsenal of books and toys is necessary to ensure a level five tantrum doesn’t occur. However, when I go out with understanding family and friends, a dinner date with children is much less nightmarish. Suddenly, everyone is working towards the common goal of making sure the kids don’t end up running around the restaurant with no clothes on. But what happens when a dreaded dinner date is planned with a friend that isn’t used to kids? Prepare yourself because it could be a disaster.
In the summer, one such fated evening occurred when I made plans to meet a previous newspaper editor of mine for a cozy dinner in Toronto. My daughter and I headed to the establishment and upon entering the dimly lit restaurant with black décor and a crowd dressed to impress, I realized with a knot in my stomach that this wasn’t the kid-friendly atmosphere I’d hoped for. It was too late to move venues or cancel altogether so we forged on bravely. Upon being sat down, I moved all glass objects and sharp knives out of the way and set up my daughter with her crayons. My friend arrived and the look on his face as he observed the child colouring at our table said it all. He clearly didn’t think he would be dining with a five-year-old.
Needless to say, the meal was awkward. I felt torn between paying attention to my daughter and making sure I was ‘adulting’ enough, namely talking about topics that didn’t include potty training or learning the ABCs. My daughter ended up frustrated with the lack of attention she was getting from our guest and myself, and no amount of crayons or coloured paper could prevent the ensuing tantrum. The night ended with a rushed hug as he sped out of the door to attend a party surrounded by 20-somethings without kids. I left feeling miserable and relieved the night was over.
I wish I could say this was the one and only time this has happened, but as a young and single mom, that just isn’t the case. Millennials are frequently pegged as a particularly self-involved generation. And while this may be an unfair assessment, in my experience, they aren't great at hanging out with kids. It isn’t always intentional either. A lot of friends mean well, but just haven’t had a lot of experience with younger children and aren’t sure how to act. Luckily my daughter is pretty talkative and can help set people at ease who are willing to make an effort, but it can be stressful if people aren’t comfortable.
Ultimately, I came to a point in my parenting where I had to choose between caring about people who don’t like kids and accepting that I need to hang out with friends who are at least open to being around children. It came down to how it would make my daughter feel if she sensed that the offending adult didn’t like her. As a child, I was very talkative and would feel crushed if I sensed that an adult was annoyed with me. As a result, I never want my little lady to feel unaccepted for being a bubbly energy bunny and so I try not to mix her with friends who aren’t into the exuberant and silly ways of children.
I also want to make a note not to knock my entire generation’s ability to handle kids. I can honestly say I have been pleasantly surprised by many friends and how beautiful and gentle they are when they meet my daughter. It is especially meaningful to see some of my rowdier 20-something male friends turn into a marshmallow around my daughter and allow themselves be bedazzled in hair clips and jewels. Having a child as a young parent really becomes the ultimate measure of how open and accepting a friend is capable of being, and my daughter has helped me get rid of some pretty selfish and silly ‘fair-weather’ pals in the process.
My advice is to let those people go. It will ultimately be beneficial to give time and effort to people who actually enjoy kids and will be true friends for life.