Though this might seem untrue to people who know me well, I’m naturally an introvert. It’s not that I’m shy per se, I’m just a little slow to warm up. I let others speak first, and I don’t generally jump into conversations with strangers. I’ve worked at overcoming this, because I envy people who easily make small talk and connect with new people quickly. While I try to push myself from introversion to extraversion, at times I just stay in the comfortable quiet, if I’m not feeling up to the mental hurdles that speaking up requires.
Recently however, I’ve been chatting with all kinds of strangers. And that’s because I’m a mother to a pair of baby icebreakers. Sitting in the dining hall of a major retailer, people want to know how old they are, if they’re boys or girls, and ask questions about how we’re feeding them. They say, “You’re not getting much sleep, I guess,” in a sympathetic way, and I reply either a sarcastic, “Ha! I’m sleeping like a log!” or a defeated, “No kidding!”
Other mothers make great small-talk companions. I recently sat beside a mother and her little son, just a few months older than the twins. While our babies made goo-goo noises at each other, we discussed first steps, first words, and the value of a good snowsuit. To my delight, one of my twins waved at her, creating a good laugh for us all.
I’ve never enjoyed meeting celebrities. In almost every instance I’ve behaved brutally starstruck, even if I don’t really care one way or another about the celebrity I’m meeting. It’s something about a face from a television appearing in real life; I can’t look at it normally and I catch myself awkwardly staring. This past year I found myself face-to-face with a certain Canadian star I’ve been a fan of for most of my life. It was a stroke of luck that I also happened to have a baby strapped to my chest in a carrier, and she acted as the perfect conversation starter. “And what’s this little one’s name?” he asked, opening the conversation with a child-friendly inflection only another parent would have. By the end of our chat I found the nerve to ask for a group photo, something I’ve never been brave enough to do before.
I guess I always thought mothers were chatty and outgoing, because the experience of becoming a mom made them care a little less about what others think of them. Perhaps that’s part of it. But my recent interactions have made me realize it’s also that the act of becoming a parent makes you part of a special, but rather large, club. The parent club has new members just like you, desperately tired, holding on for dear life, figuring it out. There’s a more experienced subset who have teenagers, who say it all goes by too fast. There’s the not-yet-but-want-to-be-grandparents, who tell you about their adult children, and their dreams of holding a tiny baby again. There’s other twin parents who often share knowing glances, or suggest that things will get easier.
Joining the ‘parent club’ has been an unexpected highlight to the whole experience of having kids. It’s nice to always have a great topic at hand, it’s a joy to connect with other parents, and it’s good to have people around that understand why you think 9pm is late at night.