Dear Father Hood: what’s the secret to making new dad mates?
Greetings, readers. You join me live at a massive party featuring bouncy castles, vociferous conversations, beer, an array of barbecued meat, televised sport and lots of men laughing while transporting their children around in Baby Bjorns. Yup, it’s a bona fide dad-fest and do you know what? It’s all in my head, because in the 11 months since my child arrived in this world I have made a few acquaintances, but absolutely no ‘give me five and hug it out, let’s have a swift couple after work’ buddies.
For the benefit of my ego, I’d love to tell you my wife was having similar issues, but in reality she’s been inundated with friend requests. Yesterday, she went on a play date with a new mate. Next week, she’s got two or three social events in the diary. And right now, she’s downstairs having popcorn and cake with three girls she met through our National Childbirth Trust (NCT) classes. So why is she succeeding where I am failing?
Having considered this query long and hard over the past few days, I have absolutely no idea. So. Um. Awkward. Anyone seen any good movies recently? Obviously, I am only pulling your leg. I’ve actually come up with five things that have been hindering my dad mate quest. Are you ready to learn from these revelations? Brilliant, because quite frankly I’m running out of other stuff to say…
The wolf pack mentality
I’ve had most of my good mates since school. We are brothers-in-arms, the jolly boys, a wolf pack and a number of other stereotypical sayings. We know what each other likes and doesn’t like, we keep each other’s secrets and we know how to make each member of the group laugh. It’s a bond that’s been forged over many life experiences, weekends away and hungover Sunday brunches. Key word in the previous sentence? Many. It took years for me to develop these relationships, so why on earth would I expect to feel a similar connection within the space of a five-minute chat after an NCT meeting or chance encounter at the zoo? I don’t know. But that is what I have been doing. I have been meeting new dads, and instantly attempting to assess whether they’re suitable to howl with my old pack. Do you know how silly this is? Save your breath, the answer is very.
A fear of rejection
In the last few months, my wife has swapped numbers with a number of mums she’s met at classes or in the street. Have I done the same with the dads I’ve got chatting to at the station or down the soft play? Have I heck. I mean, what if they reject me? Or come on to strong? Or give me their number and then don’t reply to the message? Or…stop, stop, stop, stop, STOP! If you don’t ask, you don’t get, so if I really want to make new dad mates, I need to pluck up the courage to request some digits.
An outdated social currency
My default opening grunt towards a potential new buddy has always revolved around “grabbing a drink”. This worked a treat when I was single, but now it’s just not going to happen. What with picking the little man up from nursery, and making his dinner, and helping with his bath. And having to drive to collect the pram we left at his grandparents. And getting a two-day hangover after having more than four drinks. Conclusion? I need to reboot this grunt so it offers options like: coffee, lunch, coming round our house or going for a walk. Sure, 26-year-old, childless me just read that last sentence and made an offensive hand gesture. But he no longer exists. And if he wants to make any friends, 36-year-old, father-of-one me needs to appreciate this.
Forgetting about the kids
Pop quiz, readers: aside from a Y chromosome and all that comes with it, what is the one thing that any new dad mates and myself are guaranteed to have in common? No, it’s not Calvin Klein boxer shorts (although I agree that is almost certain). It’s our babies. So whenever the NCT lads and myself have gone out, we’ve always masked over the lulls in conversation by playing with our kids, right? Wrong. Unlike our wives, who quickly realised that the presence of their babies would boost the bonding process, we’ve always left the kids at home, gone down the pub and spent the majority of the evening talking about poop, staring into space or saying “sport”.
Where are all the men?
I’m going to ease my foot off the self-criticism pedal in this final entry. Why the change of focus? Here’s why. I’ve been going to baby classes for around six months, and do you know how many other dads I’ve seen in that time? The answer is two. That’s pathetic, men. And what’s even more pathetic is the fact that I’ve heard the expression “you’re brave, there’s no way my husband would ever come to a class” nearly 100 times. What’s wrong with you people? It’s a baby class, not a public back waxing. Sure it’s not any adult’s idea of fun and frolics, but that’s not the point. The point is your kid gets something from these classes, so grow a pair, slide your shoes off and start singing. Who knows? It might not be as bad as you think and – duh, duh, duh – you could meet a lovely new dad friend, like me.