Have you noticed how hard it is to have friends once you’re a mom? And it only gets harder as your kids age.
In our pre-kid era, ‘Love and I were part of a group of folks–mostly young marrieds–who would gather weekly. It started as an inter-church Bible study, but when the leaders moved out-of-state, it turned into a weekly social hour (or three).
Conveniently, several of the couples in the group had babies within about a year of each other. No longer able to have freewheeling evenings, we turned to group cookouts and weekday playdates. This worked wonderfully when the kids were infants and toddlers, but as they grew, it began to be more difficult.
For one, there’s the difference in parenting styles. “Mary” was a laid-back, live-and-let-live kind of mom who let her kids “sort out their own battles” as toddlers and preschoolers. In her mind, as long as everyone made it through the day alive, it was all good. “Martha” was a more intensely involved mom, careful about everything from manners and diet to clothing and toys. It rubbed her all wrong when Mary offered her kids Cheetos while Mary’s children threw toys around the room. I found my parenting style to be more in line with Martha’s than with Mary’s, but often found myself listening to complaints from both.
As the kids got older, personality differences came into play. Mary’s kids were hellions indoors, but set wild in the yard or at a park, they were energetic, imaginative playmates. Martha’s child had a strong personality and a high decibel level both indoors and out. Inside, my older two played quietly on their own, ignoring the loud and crazy antics of the other kids; outdoors, they gravitated toward Mary’s kids and were often in tears after being chased by or shouted at by Martha’s child.
I had always assumed that having friends meant that your children would automatically be friends, as well. I found it strangely jarring that my children felt no bond with these kids whom they had known since infancy and had seen on a fairly regular basis.
Frustrated by the indoor destruction perpetrated by Mary’s children, both Martha and I stopped initiating inside playdates. When their kids started preschool and the weather turned cool, we hardly saw Mary or Martha anymore.
It has now been more than two years since that time. While I still communicate with Mary and Martha via Facebook and the occasional email, we almost never see each other anymore. Since then, I’ve tried to fill the gap. I joined a MOMS Club, but the group was so well established that the moms there were either only looking for weekday outings while their extended families were otherwise occupied, or they had been closely connected with each other for long enough that they were not interested in adding to their social circle. After a year or more of MOMS Club, I also joined a MOPS group. Lo and behold, near the end of my year of MOPS, I began to make some connections–and our kids even seemed to get along!
Then I moved across the country.
So here I am, starting all over again–first the hard job of trying to find a friend, and then the delicate dance of hoping our children get along. I’ve never been a quick friend-finder (my husband says it’s because my definition of “friend” is too hard for most people to ever achieve), and I think my kids follow suit. Both they and I can easily participate in small talk, but we hesitate to insinuate ourselves anywhere. And of course, so far everyone I have met either has teenagers or toddlers, which, while all well and good, is rather sad for my older kids, in particular, who so dearly want playmates and have none in the neighborhood.
You’d think it would be easier, living mere miles from my sister and her family. When we see them (which was next-to-never during the school year) it works perfectly for Goobie, who is thrilled to have three other girls to play with; poor Peatie, on the other hand, is nearly always near tears by the end of our time together because he doesn’t want to play school or dance and no one wants to join him in climbing trees or collecting rocks. It’s hard when something that is so affirming for one child is equally demoralizing to another. Who knew that juggling parent-child get-togethers would be such a major issue of parenting? I certainly didn’t anticipate it.
Am I the only one with this struggle? I’d like to think not, but then again, perhaps I’m just quirky.