A Community of Parents

I have been a bit AWOL over the last two weeks, but we have a new baby. Time has been a bit more limited. As a result of this baby though, I have some more insights into the development of a community that I had hitherto been not a part.

I realized I was in a new community when I stumbled into the local grocery store for a few items soon after the baby’s birth in August of 2008. Because I am not too creative, I call it: “The Tribe of New Parents” (the title works because it is descriptive).

My faltering steps were a result of the previous evening—it was one of those devastatingly disheartening all-night events, during which I wondered if I was going to make it as a new father. While there, I noticed a young mother with a baby that I could easily see as my child in the next few months. I asked her how old he was and she responded that he was four—members of this tribe understand that units of age are typically measured in months. I gave a weary smile and explained that I had a three-day old son.

Suddenly I had a friend.

Within seconds I had just the encouragement and added knowledge I needed to make it through the day. And then the following day, I met another young parent at the pediatrician office. She gave advice about helping with sleeping. A work associate offered very personal encouragement as we have worked through these first few days of adjustment. Other colleagues offered pertinent counsel.

These new parent times are prone to be very tender and it is at moments completely overwhelming to understand how one can care for these little humans. Mothers and mothers-in-laws become saints. Neighbors become family. Strangers become friends.

We look to “What to Expect” and doctors as leaders and to others for support. We give and take encouragement and advice, but are loath to correct—that is sometimes relegated to those who don’t understand because of lack or faded experiences. We receive and make meals and offer and accept gifts. We understand that sometimes we lean and sometimes we bear up.

And now as I have found my footing, I have been able to reach out to others.

Ever since this blessed day—now blessed as I have been able to cope—that we have welcomed a parade of helpers—from our familial, neighborly, religious, and other friend-based circles—offering dinners, baby gifts, flowers, prayers, and companionship for our benefit. It would a have been a truly difficult time without this support.

It is a community that is built on the mutual knowledge that everyone can use some help. It is particularly poignant in this one area to see the succoring offered by those who still have these new experiences fresh in their minds; they are able to truly and acutely empathize with the newest father and mother. It is also a community built somewhat on reciprocity, but more in a “pay it forward” approach.

How grateful I am for this tribe.

When I was in school, I did some research on this parental organization. It is interesting how the product preferences of the parents are passed strongly through this channel. That is a rational concept typically, but the sense of unknowing is so strong that peer influences are all the more powerful. Nappy purchases, for example, had much to do with how they worked with the child and how they fit within the peer group’s desires (particularly when parents moved away from typical disposables).

That is a pretty powerful community.

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