Since having Sophie, our conversations have shifted completely.
Now, rather than simply debate the ins and outs of Blackburn Rovers’ transfer policy (with more people than you’d think!), how work is or the political issues of the day (Ok, that didn’t happen with many!), the young baby in my arms has made a huge difference to the subject matter.
And often, it’s all about her, perpetuated with various oohs and aahs as she does incredibly advanced (in our eyes) things.
So what does this change look like?
Three ways in which Sophie has altered social encounters.
1. Conversation starter
A child is a great leveller. No matter the gender, age, occupation, religion, ethnic group… if you and the other person have both been up to all hours of the night with a screaming child or had to change powerful nappies then you’ve got an inspiring shared experience. With that, you can reminisce together and share horror stories.
If one of the two people has not got a child but would really like one, suddenly the conversation becomes free-flowing: What’s it like? What’s she like? Aw, isn’t she cute? etc
2. Four easy questions
It reminds me a little bit of the first few days at university when the only way to have conversations was to find out where people were from, what subject they were studying and whereabouts they were living.
With a baby, the key questions go as follows:
- What’s her name?
- How old is she?
- How much did she weigh?
- Are they good at sleeping?
These questions are the key to unlocking a conversation with a new parent and we all fall into the trap of asking them. They’re a safety net when there’s nothing else to say and I think we’re all grateful for them!
3. Apologies…and I’m so sorry that this happens!
Why is it that we find ourselves apologising so often for our children? Sophie isn’t being naughty or causing trouble. She’s not stealing toys off other children or insolently refusing to do as she is told. I’ve been reassured that all this is to come…
And yet, if she doesn’t smile or interact with whoever we’re talking to, we feel the need to apologise profusely. “Sorry, she’s usually much more smiley than this.” Or “I’m sorry she’s crying. It’s nothing you’re doing.”
Now I know this is all social niceties but it seems so false. My wife is the sunniest person I know, but she doesn’t smile at everyone and everything, all of the time. Even I, if you can believe it (!), get grumpy and miserable sometimes. And Sophie is not even 6 months old. She could be frustrated and upset with all sorts of things that we can’t understand. She’s not a robot who smiles on demands but a human being with wants, needs and sinful desires. Smiling doesn’t just happen.
So this is my resolve – to stop apologising for my daughter and to enjoy lots of conversations with different people. After all, it’s good to talk.