Wednesday, April 6, 2011

On Friendship

One of the qualities I admire most in my husband is his ability to strike up a conversation, and often a friendship, with just about anyone. This is one of the first things I learned about him -- he makes friends easily and with a wide variety of people.  On our very first date we were accompanied by four of his friends.  An eclectic group that I would never have imagined went together.  But somehow, with him as the center, they made sense.  Some friendships last, some fade away, but his talents for finding commonality and easy conversation, skills cultivated growing up as a Navy brat, have served him well over the years.

William, age 8... I can see so much of Remy in this picture.

My own friendship style is much more subtle, quiet & gradual.  School & work set the stage for the majority of my relationships to develop.  I don’t let people in easily, but once established, my loyalty runs deep.  I met my first friend from childhood more than 38 years ago & she is still a very important part of my life.  I talk several times a week with the best friend I met on the first day of junior high.  My cherished girl’s night out dates are with a group of women I have known since freshman year of college.  Facebook often drives me crazy for its ability to suck time, but I love how easy it is to stay in touch with friends around the globe. We may all live far apart & have our own busy lives, but it is these connections that help keep me going on the toughest days.  The comfort & company of people who know me, helps me re-charge, fueling me to be a better mother, wife, and person.

Becoming a mother forced me to find a new way of developing friendships.  With the absence of school or work to provide the framework, I have had to come out of my shell and actively seek new connections.  It is really humbling, as a forty-something, grown-up woman, to realize how hard it can be to make new friends.  Some days I long for the simplicity I remember from childhood.  When all you had to do was say, “I like you.  Do you want to play?”  Bonding quickly over sparkly bike seats & crushes on cute boys & which flavor of ice cream is the best.  Sometimes I wish it could be that easy as adult.  To be able to meet a mom at the park & say, “I like you.  Want to get a coffee?”  without sounding too desperate, or like some kind of freaky stalker.

In the early days after Quinn’s birth, I would often watch groups of women at the park… talking, laughing and fluidly caring for each other’s children.  I longed for this sense of community.  For the feeling of having someone local to turn to, helping to guide me in the confusing, sleepy fog of new motherhood.  For some reason being a part of this kind of group felt out of reach when I first entered the mother-hood.  My shy nature & unique child made me hang back even more.  Afraid to reach out for fear of rejection… rejection not just of me, but of my child.  I can see now that I was the only one holding myself back.  That the bulk of my insecurities stemmed from the inevitable shift that happens in new motherhood.  But at the time, I blamed Down Syndrome.  Once Remy was born & those feelings were still kicking around, I began to take responsibility for my own experience.  Realizing that having my own friendships is as important as caring for my family.

As Quinn gets ready to leave the softly feathered nest of pre-school & its closely-supervised interactions between the kids, I worry about him making friends in Kindergarten.  About the wide gap between his level of social skills & those of his future classmates.  Part of the reason we are pushing for him to start K this fall is to have a “practice” year.  A year of social learning to prepare for a more academic focus the next.  It all sounds good in theory, but like so many things, only time will tell.

I can already see that Remy is more like his Dad in this department, so I tend to worry less about his ability to make friends.  At the tender age of 3, he will go up to kids of all ages & say “I’m Remy, what’s your name?  Do you want to play with me?”   I do worry about how easily his feelings are bruised.  He has perfected the hurt look, his head hung low, mouth a classic pout, arms held straight against his body.  His emotions are mercurial and run close to the surface, changing direction quickly.  I am hoping this has more to do with being three than a sign of his future temperament.  

Watching my boys learn how to make friends, how to be a friend… these are skills I hope to teach well.  To lead by a good example in cherishing my friendships. Making new friends as a mom is tough.  Orchestrating schedules, adjusting to non-linear conversations, navigating play-date etiquette… just finding the time to get to know one another… are all big challenges.  But as I have found, so very worth the effort.

Caught this brief expression of brotherly love driving home the other day.  The boys had been apart most of the day & were so glad to be together again.

To me, the mark of success in life is knowing that if I really needed something, there is a long list of people who would drop everything & come to my aide.  A long list of people that I would do the exact same thing for.  
And that, is a pretty wonderful feeling.


Anonymous said...

I'm a ball of emotions lately, but still...that last picture brought tears to my eyes. So sweet.

And YOU, my dear, are an excellent writer. It was a pleasure to read this post. It reminds me why I love you and our friendship.

Hang in there lovely girl. You'll navigate your friendships the way that is right for you. And all of us, near and far, will be SO pleased to see you when we can.


larajanepark said...

I'm with Sharon. You are a fabulous writer! There's a lesson in everything you post. You are such a wise and lucky woman with an amazing family. I feel so honored to be able to "look in" at your life.

I have admired you and William for a long time. I think you're doing it "right".

Love Lara