Take a knee, kid. It’s time for a little advice.
I’m going to take advantage of moments like this for as long as I can, when I know you can’t roll your eyes or run away from my sage tidings. Which, by the way, I have in spades. Just ask your mom.
You’re a captive audience for now. Nearly six-month-old fetuses usually are, chained by a lifeline and hibernating in weightless, warm dark.
So here goes. Are you ready?
Know this: Watching your friends grow up is a beautiful oddity, a Tim Burton film brought to life.
Also know this: Sometimes it takes shock value to make you realize their transformation.
There’s an iconic scene in ‘Batman Begins’ where the Caped Crusader’s childhood friend suddenly realizes Bruce Wayne, a sad, orphaned billionaire, lurks beneath the constant scowl and expensive Halloween costume.
“Wait,” Bruce’s friend Rachel Dawes pleads as Batman prepares to jump off a roof and soar into a fear toxin-fueled Gotham war. “You could die. At least tell me your name.”
“It’s not who I am underneath, but what I do that defines me,” the Dark Knight hisses, a nod to advice Rachel gave him earlier in the movie.
Message received: “Bruce?” Rachel whispers as Bats leaps from the ledge.
She’s blindsided by this notion, this sudden, unexpected proof of maturity in her lifelong pal.
I experienced this recently, Bethany. I watched four friends – two to-be moms and dads – go from Bruce to Batman in the blink of an eye. Their respective announcements that they had their own children on the way alerted me to this.
Not to say this hadn’t been happening in front of me. It’s just easy to miss the steps leading up to the moment, I think. Friendships in your late 20s/early 30s are like that. People you’ve known for years and have built a considerable memory resume with can fade into the complicated painting of careers, marriage and distance.
But it’s the oddest thing: when friends like that make their own announcement that someone like you is on the way, it inevitably touches up their corner of the canvas and makes it shine.
Such notifications have happened to me twice over the past few months, and both came with those primitive-looking ultrasound maps where doctors point at a human-ish looking shape and swear it’s a baby; both out-of-the-blue revelations came from friends I’ve known for years.
I was roommates with one, and we still attend superhero flicks wearing superhero shirts. It’s nice to know there’s someone out there who’s comics appreciation is DNA-deep. His wife was the first friend I met at college. I’m glad she stuck around. You should hear them sing together.
Still another was the first person I latched onto in my first newsroom gig. There’s a movie called ‘Superbad’ you’re not allowed to watch until you’re older we can quote every line from. His wife and I are at least in the top 10 when it comes to biggest fans of narrative non-fiction in the free world.
I stood with both couples on their wedding days, honored on a Knights-of-the-Round-Table-caliber. Proud. There we were, pretending we knew what we were doing.
I don’t know, though; there was something about their respective “baby-on-board” announcements that made me see them in a different light; made me tilt my head, squint my eyes, and whisper, “Bruce?”
Because these people I care for, as much as I have always respected them, have – at least from my perspective – thrown on capes and taken it to the next level. Their happiness and anxiousness and general difficulty in finding words to describe their love for a little person they’ve never met personify that. They can all but fly. At the very least, they’ll have to learn.
We’re all trudging the same route, step by nervous, excited step to the fabled Land of Parenthood. Two of them are a bit further ahead, the other pair still catching up. You and their children are all due within four months of each other. I think you planned it that way.
These ideas may be a bit beyond you for awhile, I get that. Friendship during childhood is different, more day-to-day. For me there were a lot more Legos and RC cars involved. I promise you that’ll change someday, that it may even catch you off guard.
And when it happens, when you realize your friends are more Batman than Bruce, it makes you want to be the same way.