In 2009, when I was 19 years old, I travelled to New Zealand for a six-month gap year program at a bible college. More than a decade later, I couldn’t tell you what topics the weekly guest lecturers covered. What I remember are the people – the Canadian, American, European and Kiwi young adults I lived with from February to July. As with most relationships, I’ve lost touch with many of those people in the intervening years, although I remain close with a few.
Recently, I’ve reconnected with one of those old friends. Hailing from South Dakota, Stephen was four years older than me. We connected over a love of reading, writing and the guitar.
After leaving New Zealand, we kept contact for a while but as the decade passed, we eventually lost touch. An occasional update on his life would come across my social media feed. Since we’d last spoken, he’d become a high school English teacher, gotten married and was self-publishing a series of fantasy books.
About a month after my son was born this summer, I saw that his wife had also given birth to their first child. I sent him a quick congratulatory note, but that was the extent of it.
Then, in early October, as I sat in our nursery rocking my son to sleep at some ungodly hour, it occurred to me the probability my old friend was doing the same was very high. I typed a quick message on Facebook and sent it into the night.
I didn’t hear back from him for a few days. Eventually, though, a notification popped up on my Messenger app. For the past month, we’ve kept a steady stream of correspondence, comparing notes on the experience of being new dads – the colic, the sleepless nights, the diapers. So many diapers.
We’ve discussed the unusual experience of having your first kid in the middle of a global pandemic, comparing the health restrictions in place at the hospitals where our sons were born. We’ve talked about the bit of isolation COVID-19 has caused, curtailing family visits. We’ve chatted about sleep routines, milestones and the adjustments our growing families have had to make.
I’ve also been finding out more about how he’s living now. We now live in the same time zone, and sometimes when I’m changing my son’s diaper in the dark of night, I like to imagine he's doing the same thing a little farther south.
I’m learning parenthood gives you a point of common ground with other people who have kids. It is an immediate connection with strangers or old acquaintances with whom you may not otherwise have something in common. I’ve really enjoyed reconnecting with my old pal over this new life stage, and I’m hopeful our correspondence continues for years.