Ptolemaic Parenting

It's natural for friendships to change and evolve when children enter the picture.

Several years ago, when our closest friends had their first child, my husband and I were happy to make little changes in our get-togethers. We ate take-out pizza at their house instead of going out. We shared their excitement over their son's first steps, marveled at his intelligence, laughed at his antics. But it wasn't until he was put to bed that we could have the adult conversations we always enjoyed.

Naturally enough, their son had become the center of their universe.

My sister-in-law has always put her daughters first. She often pauses in the middle of our long-distance phone calls to answer the girls' questions or referee disputes.

Before I had a child, this Ptolemaic point of reference was understandable on an intellectual level, but frustrating on a personal one. Were such friendships destined to devolve into half-relationships squeezed into moments when the kids were asleep? Was an uninterrupted phone call too much to ask?

Since I've become a parent, the universe has indeed shifted. I am no stranger to take-out pizza. Phone calls are quick, monosyllabic affairs - I ask if I can call back when my son's in bed to be assured of uninterrupted conversation.

When my son is a little older, I plan to try a technique I learned from a colleague. If she is talking to another adult and her son wants to get her attention, he uses a signal: a gentle touch on her arm. That way, my friend doesn't ignore her son, but he understands that interruptions are impolite.

My world may have contracted, but I am determined that my friendships won't suffer. While my son's needs are important, so too is my need for adult companionship. And, perhaps most important, my son needs to learn that he is not the center of everyone's universe.

Just don't tell that to his grandparents.

* April Austin is an editor in Homefront. Write to the Homefront Editor, One Norway Street, Boston, MA 02115 or e-mail home@csps.com

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