This was a weekend for friendships, old and new. My Little Miss has morphed into quite the social creature ever since she graduated from parallel to interactive play in her development. She is especially interested in what the big kids are up to, observing and mimicking them whenever she gets the chance.
Friday evening, on our walk, Little Miss was invited to an impromptu playdate at a neighbor’s kiddie pool. And so she jumped in. She wasn’t the only one who had fun; I was thrilled, watching her socialize with kids she has never met before.
On Saturday, we caught up with a friend whose daughter attended the same daycare with Little Miss when they were infants. Now we see them occasionally, but when our girls saw each other, it’s just like old times. But better. Because now they really see one another, learning and remembering names. As soon as we parted ways, Little Miss was already calling out to her little friend.
When Sunday rolled around, we soaked in the gorgeous weather at the park with friends and their kids. There were cheese, cookies, and a whole lot of romping. The kids, that is. The adults were engaged in adult activities like eating and wistfully watching their kids and their budding friendships. Well, at least I was. After indulging in innocuous discussions about the weather, summer and food, we said our goodbyes to go back to the constant whir of our busy lives, where the building of our own friendships take a backseat to the setting up of playdates for our kids.
I look at the friendships I’ve developed since Little Miss was born and notice that most of them are with fellow parents. Many of my single or childless friends continue on their travels and salsa nights, as I read up on diaper reviews and join toddler music classes. These friendships were once important to me but have sadly fallen away. But who left who behind? As our situations change, our mutual interests diverge, and while we may be the same people, we now have different priorities. And suddenly our schedules are more in conflict than they are in synch. Soon, we rely solely on Facebook for updates.
The loss of certain friendships made me acutely aware of the ones I do have. I am especially grateful for them, and I find myself working harder to maintain the few I cherish. Fellow parents provide a strong network of support. My old friends from school and my BFF, who lives in another state, consistently ground me and remind me of the person I am. They have all been there for me regardless of my situation - single, married, parent. These are the people who help define me, and yet they are the ones who’re geographically impossible for me to get to on a regular basis. And I miss them. I look all around me in my city of millions, and the no-brainer solution is to make new friends but these days, that’s harder than crossing an ocean to see a familiar face.
When I look at my intrepid Little Miss who smiles herself into a social circle and nudges her way into the big kids’ group at the playground, I am envious of her courage. How I wish I had her guts so I too could, at my age, find a friend in the neighborhood with whom I could share intimate discussions and inside jokes – the stuff that make deeper connections. These days, I’m too worried about intruding on someone’s life to ask if they’d like to go out for coffee with me, and I also wonder, if they already have family and friends within easy reach, where would I even fit in? Or would I?
I know - how grade school of me. Only I don’t think I was ever that way back then. I remember the time when I was seven, and it was my first week in first grade when I walked up to this girl who was drawing an impressive picture of a house. I complimented her on her artistry, “nice house” (I was seven, hello), and we became inseparable soon after. My first best friend. I find that the complexities that increase with adulthood greatly influence the nuances of building new friendships, and as I age, I begin to lose my confidence in decrypting secret handshakes and navigating social circles.
When I think back to the seven-year-old me, a memory as vivid as yesterday’s dinner, I often wonder, where did that bold little person go? Then I remember Little Miss taking the hand of her friend like it’s the most natural thing in the world, and I realize that I am still that girl. Despite my uncertainty, I continue to make the effort. My hand is still out. I’m just waiting for someone to put theirs in mine.
After all, it takes two, no?