1. They have a kid/kids Stella's age.
2. They live close by.
3. They parent in a laid-back, non-judgmental way.
4. They are smart, funny and easy to talk to.
However, until recently, that was about all I knew about these people. In fact, in many cases, I had no idea what their names were, other than "Willa's mom" or "Sam's dad."
Meeting people is ridiculously easy when you're a new parent. People strike up conversations on the playground, moms ask for your number so you can arrange an indoor play-date on a crappy day, dads suggest a mid-day beer (with kids in tow, of course) via the local parent-centric message board.
I can't think of another situation, other than being a dog-owner perhaps, where people are more open to hanging out with you so frequently based on so little information. I mean, can you imagine being young and single, moving to a new neighborhood and just asking for someone's number that you meet at the coffee shop so you can just hang out? She'd think you were a crazy stalker.
But being a new parent is hard and lonely, especially if you're staying at home a significant amount of time. So it makes sense that our guards would be down, that our protective walls would tumble and we'd open ourselves up to meeting other folks in similar boats and hanging out.
What's strange, though, is how very little we know about each others' lives PRE-baby. As I hang out with my circle of friends more and more, their pasts are being revealed to me little by little and it's incredibly interesting, sometimes surprising, often quite intriguing.
There are people who used to work with celebrities. People who've written books -- the kind that have been published. People who've performed -- in a theater, on a screen, in bands. People who were wild and reckless. People who were activists and anarchists. People who once swore they'd never have kids.
And now they're the people swapping recipes for pumpkin muffins with me and discussing effective potty-training methods.
It reminds me a bit of Internet dating (not that I ever did that sort of thing before I met Dave...). You meet someone, you have chemistry, you enjoy each other's company. And, little by little, your pasts open up to each other, either like an onion or a blooming rose, depending on the details you learn and how you feel about them. And then you begin to view that person differently, as if you've just put on 3D glasses and all their dimensions are suddenly visible.
So, I maintain that I know a lot of cool parents. Not just because they see eye to eye with me about things like fostering creativity and developing consistent disciplinary measures and encouraging a love of literacy and cooking healthy, sustainable meals for our little ones. But also because they know a lot about politics and read interesting books and have travelled to amazing places and have degrees in crazy areas and can go head-to-head with me when discussing topics like religion or education reform or the role of feminism in American history.
Now I just have to find a way to keep learning more about them while keeping Stella from falling off the jungle gym and persuading her to eat her carrots.