Monday, April 9, 2012

Practice Baby Part Two: Making Friends

Yesterday was Easter Sunday, but more importantly for my small household, it marked the 2 week anniversary of adopting our dog, Jasper. These past two weeks have been filled with the delights and challenges that, I assume, all new parents face. Again, I don't want to be one of those people that compares having a dog to having a child, but I'm about to so, get over it.

Like all new parents, (ugh, I'm doing it again) our lives have changed considerably in the last two weeks  solely because of the addition of this small creature. I am sleeping less, worrying more and Eric and I spend countless hours recounting to each other every adorable/funny/bad thing that Jasper did when the other person wasn't looking. It's always "Baby, baby, look at him. Oh my god he just did the cutest thing." Or, "Oh my God, you won't believe what Jasper did today. You would have died." Jasper follows us around the house like he can't bare to be away from us for a minute, and gazes into our eyes like we are the best things that have ever happened to him. When we have to leave him at home, he sleeps on the steps so he can see our front door out the window and know exactly when we are coming back so he can greet us at the door with excited kisses. If he weren't so cute, I would find him a terribly annoying dog, but since he's ours, I just find him precious. And did I mention that Eric loves him? And I mean LOVES him.

Being out in the World with a dog is also a relatively new experience for me. I've been out in the World with other people's dogs and other people's babies, but this is the first time that I feel a sense of pride and well being walking around with MY OWN DOG. Until he starts to bark at a random person or dog on the sidewalk and I am flooded with guilt and worry about what I am doing wrong, and how will I ever fix this monster I've created and how, oh God, how will I ever achieve my fantasy of doggie/baby play dates with my friends if my dog barks at random people and dogs on walks??? I wanted to achieve that neighborhood friendliness where we know all the other dog owners' and dogs' names, where we stop and chat about interesting things, maybe politics, music or film. Where some cool looking lady with a cool looking dog turns out to be the Jenji Kohan and hires me (because of my adorable dog, my quick wit and my remarkable writing skills) to write on the next several seasons of Weeds (I mean, it seems like they'll never cancel that show.) But so far there's a 50/50 chance that Jasper will bark and lunge at Jenji Kohan's hypothetical dog and then she will write both Jasper and I off as amateurs and never hire us.

I know that Jasper is just shy, and has anxiety (who doesn't these days) but this barking thing is a a problem, and I am handling it by reading a lot about behavioral issues, asking other dog owners what to do and having intimate talks with Jasper about his behavior. I think this seems like good parenting. I'm always looking out for good parenting examples. I recently had the opportunity to see a lot of good parenting from some cool Hollywood parents I had the opportunity to hang out near at a Easter Party this past Saturday. Notice, I didn't say, "hang out with" I said "hang out near." That is because at this particular party Eric and I were the only couple without at least one well dressed child and so NO ONE spoke to us. No one introduced themselves, no one asked how we knew the nice couple who were hosting the Easter Egg Hunt soiree and no one asked us what the hell we were doing there with out any kids of our own. Sure, my Hollywood social anxiety induced shyness didn't help much, but we were virtually invisible to the adults at this party, so we did what we usually do, we hung out with the kids. I did notice something interesting though, these parents at the party didn't talk to each other much either. They talked to their children, they talked to their spouses, and they talked to the party hosts, but most of the communicating with other adults was through the children. I'll give you an example. Allow me to set the scene.

Colorfully dressed children race around a lovely and expansive Hollywood Hills backyard, complete with outdoor living room space, walled in trampoline full of laughing children and trickling fountains. A well dressed guy in his early 40's, COOL HOLLYWOOD DAD, reclines on a birch lawn chair as his beautiful blond wife and baby sit next to him on the manicured lawn. A second man, SPENCER'S COOL HOLLYWOOD DAD, sits nearby, sipping a beer and talking with his son, SPENCER (6).
                                                                     SPENCER'S COOL HOLLYWOOD DAD
                                              Hey Spencer, what do you think of that baby there?
                                              He's cute.

                                                                     COOL HOLLYWOOD DAD
                                              Oh thanks. I think so too, but I'm biased. Hey, Spencer. How old are you?

                                              I'm a six year old first grader. I'll be 7 soon.

                                                                     SPENCER'S COOL HOLLYWOOD DAD
                                              Wow, slow down, slow down. Stay 6 for now OK, bud.
                                                                     COOL HOLLYWOOD DAD
                                                                   (To his infant son)
                                              You too, buddy. Don't grow up too fast.

                    The two men drink and look around.
                                                                   COOL HOLLYWOOD DAD
                                                               (To his wife)
                                               Do you think we should get one of our boys off the trampoline?
                                               It's looking a little crowded.

                                                                  SPENCER'S COOL HOLLYWOOD DAD
                                                                 (To Spencer)
                                               Yeah, buddy. We'll wait a few minutes to trampoline it up. OK?

Clearly these guys wanted to talk to each other about how hard it is watching one's kids grow up, and how much you want them to stay precious and little forever. But something stopped them. Was it shyness? Were they suffering from Hollywood Social Anxiety too? And is this anxiety so powerful it stops fathers from talking, even about their kids? I think women are different. We can chat about anything, and talking soly about babies and kids feels like a reasonable thing when you are mom (I assume. I talk A LOT about them and I am not a mom, so....) so was this an odd phenomenon I was experiencing at this particular party, or is this how it is in certain parental circles?

I've always assumed that children, like dogs, were a great way to network. Wait, that sounds terrible. Not network maybe, (all though, I'm obviously hoping my cute dog will land me a writing job on Weeds) but a way to socialize and meet new people that are experiencing the same things as you. Isn't that really what Dog Parks and Mommy and me classes are really for? I never assumed this was any one's reason for having children (or dogs), but just an added bonus. You get to hang out with other cool parents and talk about your kids and your lives with your kids, etc. etc. But these people seemed so focused on their kids, they were ignoring all these potential friendships. Random childless couple (Eric and I) aside, they weren't talking to each other! Their peers! I not only felt left out and sorry for myself, but I felt sorry for every one else too, on this beautiful day in a beautiful home in a beautiful city. I mean, at least the food was good and the kids had a blast!

So as I head out today with Jasper, I am going to make an effort to say hi to people, Jasper's barking be damned. I will distract Jasper with chicken flavored treats in an attempt to trick him out of whatever social anxiety he seems to be feeling when we are out for a walk (a trick I learned from my sister, by way of Cesar Millan, the Dog Whisperer). I will encourage both of us to make friends. Hopefully, I won't need the chicken flavored treats though.