At times, I envy the ease with which my toddler makes friends.
When we are at the park, now that we're (mostly) past the how-dare-you-play-on-MY-slide phase, making friends is generally as simple as "I'm small; you're small; let's play!" And off Bug goes with whatever other little kid happens to be there that day, while I look on wistfully.
|Best buddies. (For real, actually.)|
As an adult, I find that making friends is actually pretty hard. I like to think that I'm a nice, likeable person. And it's not that hard to find people to socialize with. The mother of that child at the park, for example. There's always basic conversation about their child's name, age, siblings. If the other child is young, I might ask about the birth, or whether they're breastfeeding.
And yet, the conversation rarely goes much farther than that. Seeking out new people in other contexts is usually the same. Whether you find people on sites like Meetup.com, meet them in a group class of some sort, or even stumble across them serendipitously at Starbucks, it's hard to find people you really click with. You can usually tell a kindred spirit when you meet one, but meeting one in the first place seems so rare.
I think that one of my biggest problems is that I overthink friendship. When you're young, it's easy to find some simple similarity and run with it. We live in the same apartment complex. Or we have English class together. Or even we both like cats. But as an adult, we think much more deeply about the people we associate with. And I think being a mother makes it even worse at times.
Sure, we both have preschool-age children is an okay starting point. But how does she parent that child? And how is her parenting style similar to mine? Did she breastfeed, or did she go straight to formula? How does she handle discipline? Does/did she use cloth diapers? How does she intend to school her child?
And more importantly, will she still like me if I do things differently? You can laugh all you like, but I find that as an adult we all care much more than we like to admit about what others think of our actions. Kids fight and make up easily, but adults don't always handle differences of opinion so well. If you're outright against spanking your child, another mother who uses physical punishments on occasion might not want to be your friend. If you're still breastfeeding your two-year-old, another mother who weaned promptly at six months might think you are more than a bit weird. If you would never even dream of taking your child to McDonald's, another mother might think you are some stuck-up health nut.
These scenarios can go either way, of course; you may be just as uncomfortable by the way she parents as she is by you. And the end result of any situation like that is usually that the other mother ends up cancelling playdates at the last minute, or declines your invitation outright. You may see each other in other social situations, but future conversations are awkward or stilted. Eventually the friendship fades away completely, and you delete her number from your cell phone.
Still, I keep on trying. Because you know what? Sometimes you have to go through a lot of acquaintances before you find a true kindred spirit. It's hard to find good friends, people you can truly connect with - as Anne of Green Gables would say, people who are "of the race of Joseph" - but it's worth it.
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"At times, I envy the ease with which my toddler makes friends. When we are at the park, now that we're (mostly) past the how-dare-you-play-on-MY-slide phase, making friends is generally as simple as "I'm small; you're small; let's play!" And off Bug goes with whatever other little kid happens to be there that day, while I look on wistfully."
Follow Holly from Leaves of Lavender
"Before the Internet, moms met each other at Mothers’ Centers, when they dropped off and picked up their kids from nursery school, at child birth classes, in their neighborhood where moms used to knock on each others’ doors for tea and a chat, and at work"