I know there are some people who are firmly in the "my child has always been my favorite person to hang out with" camp. I can also assume, to some degree, that those individuals believe I'm emotionally deficient and don't love my kid enough to value their company above all others since birth. If that's how you feel, it's cool. Because I know there are people who definitely understand what I'm talking about when I say my spawn hasn't always been my favorite person to be around. My kid is dangerously close to being my favorite human to hang out with now, though, and there are moments when that's painfully obvious.
I was lucky enough, in my pre-kid life, to have a lot of great friends. I mean exceptionally rewarding and fulfilling friendships. When I was pregnant, and especially during the first year or two of parenthood — which is when things feel the most all-consuming and leave the least free time for the other people in your life — I missed my friends immensely. I found those same times to be unspeakably challenging and illuminating and fun and weird on the parenting front, so it's not like I was bored or unhappy. I simultaneously valued the hell out of the relationship that was getting almost all of my attention while also feeling acutely sad about the other relationships I was neglecting. But as my kid got older, I incrementally got more of my time back to spend alone or with other adults, and everything was cool.
But lately, something unexpected has happened. My kid just turned 5, and without belaboring his many exceedingly cool qualities — he's hella articulate and loaded with attitude; wicked sense of humor; kind of a heartless sociopath in a way that makes me really examine the root necessity of compassion as I'm explaining it to him; for starters — the point is that I haven't just started to deeply enjoy spending time with him, there are actually times when I prefer it to being alone or being with my friends.
Look, I get that that might still sound awful, like I'm surprised that being with my kid isn't more enjoyable than being alone or with other adults. But whatever, I really don't understand anyone who can't relate to that. Of course I like being alone. I've always liked being alone. The desire to be a parent was one massive concession of alone time, and if I'd decided never to have kids, the unmitigated retention of my alone time would've been cited as a primary reason. So yeah, I missed it. And I'm not intellectually stimulated by teaching a tiny human how to read or tie shoes. It's sweet and endearing and I do it and love it, but is it the most exciting way I can think of to spend an afternoon? Ugh, no!
So the point is, I've been surprised to slowly realize that my kid is unexpectedly shifting from this person I've willingly agreed to be bored by to someone I'm usually sure I'll have more fun with than anyone else. Maybe you don't relate, but if you do, you probably noticed some of these signs as that change is occurring:
You Don't Always Try To Rope Other People Into Hanging Out
I'm a single mom, so maybe this pastime is more pronounced for me being that I lacked another parent to provide adult company. Either way, when my kid was really little I was constantly trying to talk my friends and family into joining us. Please. I'll pay for everything. Just please come give me another pair of human eyes so I have someone to roll mine at during hour 47 of Disney on Ice.
At some point recently, my kid started being sufficient. I can roll my eyes at him. It's kinda great. Not incidentally, my friends are way more into doing stuff with us now. Thanks, guys.
You Don't Have To Fake Interest In What They're Saying As Often
I can't overstate what a relief this is. My kid will spend 20 minutes on his iPad (OK, an hour and a half and so, go ahead, judge away) and come out of it knowing everything about, say, sinkholes. F*cking everything. And you know what? I kinda want to know some sh*t about sinkholes! Lay it on me, dude. I'm legit into hearing what he has to say a lot of the time now.
You Actually Get Excited About Activities You Have Planned With Them
You know what's extremely not fun? Mommy and Me music class. It's annoying and boring and I always left with a headache. Those songs are torturous and babies are rarely musically talented.
You know what is quite fun? Riding bikes with my kid on a nice Saturday afternoon and then having lunch and maybe ice cream and then going home and watching some sinkhole videos and not having to carry them or a stroller the whole damn time.
Your Conversations About What To Do Sound Like A Conversation You'd Have With A Friend
Part of liking to hear what my 5-year-old kid has to say these days is hearing what his opinions are about how we spend our day. Like, I'm still his mom, and if he's gotta go to the dentist, it's not like we're going to decide democratically whether or not to keep that appointment. But when there's nothing essential on the schedule, it's pretty rad to be like, "I don't know, what do you want to do?" and have your kid come back with actual opinions and suggestions.
Even if his suggestion is "go get ice cream" 97 percent of the time, being able to have a joint discussion about how to spend the day isn't just charming in a "look at my little human engaging in full-ass conversation" way, but it's a great chance to give them practice making their preferences known, hearing the wants and needs of other people, and negotiating something that works for the whole team.
You Pick Doing Stuff With Them Over Doing Stuff With Other People
And I don't just mean in a "this is my kid, so obviously time with them is valuable and I prioritize it over time spent with the other people in my life, because I enjoy basking in the love I feel for my child, and also I'm just being a good parent" kind of way. We all (hopefully) pick our kids over other people in our lives quite frequently from the time they're born, years before they become objectively enjoyable company by any measure.
What I'm talking about is when you have the choice between doing something with friends (or alone) and doing something with your kid, and based on no factors other than what will be the most enjoyable way for you to spend your time, you choose to hang with your offspring. Like, that's what sounds like the most fun to you. Not what you "should" do, or what's easiest and most beneficial for the most people — it's literally the most appealing option on the table, so you choose it.
They Make You Laugh
"Mom, you're laughing differently."
Yeah, that's because I'm actually laughing because you finally said something that's actually funny. You've never heard this before because you've never done that before. It's a whole new world for both of us, kid.
You Don't Feel Starved For Social Interaction After Spending A Lot Of Time With Them
When my kid was a baby and a toddler, spending a whole day with just him meant that by the end of the day I was desperate to speak to another adult. Prolonged absence of social interaction with someone whose brain development even approaches your own does weird things to you. Slowly, I stopped feeling as mentally numbed out at the end of days where I didn't hang out with anyone but my son. At this point, by the time my little extrovert stops talking and crashes at the end of the day, I don't quite feel that way. Except that I'm probably exhausted and ready to have a drink with someone, which is one area where the company of our kids will always fall short no matter how rad they become.