My mom adventures in Fort Collins


On making friends as a grown-up
March 27, 2012, 1:59 am
Filed under: Family | Tags: , , , ,

There is something very strange about making friends as an adult. Maybe it’s just me. I found this to be especially true when I became a stay-at-home-mom and there was no longer a unifying force driving me into the friendship: no co-workers, no fellow students, no membership to a jelly-of-the-month club that keeps you in touch. You have to rely on your wits, don’t you? I’m out there, on my own, trying to use the sunny disposition that God gave me to win the love and affection of a stranger. It’s humbling.

My life since moving to Fort Collins has been an experiment in making new friendships. It’s a paradox. Right now is the precise time in my life when I would most benefit from something as simple as sharing a sweet bit of dialogue with another living, breathing human being over the age of thirty. It is also the time in my life when I cannot feasibly have a decent, uninterrupted conversation without neglecting two small children.

Another interesting aspect to this whole quandary is that I get to watch my two daughters experiment with this at the same time. I have observed the interactions between toddlers and preschoolers in the play arena.

My test subject, toddler

Apparent criteria for friendship when you are a toddler:

  1. You are also a toddler.
  2. You have cool stuff and you let me touch it.
  3. You have awesome snacks and you don’t bite me if I steal them.

    My test subject, preschooler

Apparent criteria for friendship when you are a preschooler:

  1. You are somewhere around my age, but not as young as my younger sibling. (However, you can be a baby. I will definitely get down in the face of a small infant and touch his impeccable face and hands with my grimey germy mitts.)
  2. We speak the same language, and even if we don’t it’s probably not a big deal.
  3. If I am a girl and you are a girl, we’re cool. If I am a boy and you are a boy, we’re cool. And sometimes this doesn’t matter at all.

Using my powers of inductive reasoning, I’d say that toddlers and preschoolers are generally open-minded, flexible people when it comes to making friends. They don’t require a litany of prerequisites to get to work in the sandbox with someone. They put little emphasis on outward appearances, and they don’t care where you went to school, who your employer is, what your political leanings are, or even whether or not you’re potty-trained.

Thing is, I’m pretty much already doing what they’re doing. I’m open, I’m flexible, and I rarely ask investigative questions of a would-be-friend. Some of my closest friends in the local area are people I have met through other friends. I’ve also met a number of really fabulous people through Scout’s preschool. But, sure, I’ve had my random hook-ups. I started out in Fort Collins with a mom’s group that I just never quite clicked with (after being invited by a sweet mom I’d met at a park), I picked up another mom at the park, and another woman and I met by way of my older daughter’s dance class.

When you meet people through chance encounter, you don’t really get a buffer zone. I’ll explain what I mean by “buffer zone.” When you’re in college, you might nod your head in agreement with a classmate a few times before actually bridging the gap to take it to the next level of small talk, and then bump it up to grabbing coffee or something. When you are a mom picking up another mom at the park, the stakes are high. It’s all, “Do you want to hang out again?” You’re not going to say, “Want to meet back here in a week or two and we can just be in the same place together and I can continue to get a feel for you from afar?” The only thing I could compare it to is a blind date. You get to the end of your time at the park, and I feel a definite sense of, “Is she into me? Because I’m kinda into her. Should I just ask her out or wait for her to make the next move?”

My children pose an added difficulty. I want a friendship that works for my kids. It becomes increasingly important that I enjoy spending time with my kids’ friends’ parents, and that my kids like my friends’ kids. As much as I would love to branch out, at this point in my life almost all of my local girlfriends have small children that are my kids’ playmates. I still have my “old friends” that I can call and chat with, even visit with on occasion. Not all of these “old friends” fall into this category of being a mom of small children, but some do.

As I grow older, I want something different out of a friendship. Companionship, laughter, the ability to simply be present. You don’t have to entertain me, and I sure don’t care what kind of housekeeper you are. In a perfect world, I want what I can’t have: I want to have the security and unconditional love of an old friendship that has seen me through it all (and vice versa), but I want the proximity of a new friendship. It feels too weird to put an ad like that on Craigslist.

What do you do? I’d love to hear how your grown-up friendships have flourished. Or maybe you can just commiserate with me.

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7 Comments so far
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In 1996 (Okay, I’m dating myself here…) we moved to The Doc’s hometown from Columbus, Ohio. He knew everyone in town; I knew nobody. I was a stay-at-home mom, too, and we were in a community where there weren’t any other stay-at-home moms to hang around with at the playground or whatever. It really took me until I went back to work to make any real friendships of my own in the area (which was almost 10 years). When my kids went to school and got involved in activities I got a chance to meet other parents. I don’t know why it is so much harder to make friends as an adult. So, I guess I can only commiserate. 🙂 Best of luck!

Comment by brainvomit40

Thanks for your thoughts, and your wisdom. It is definitely a work in progress for me. My kids don’t seem to like to go out for coffee with me, or even walk at the same pace as me. It’s nice to have a grown up!

Comment by jaymers

I completely understand what you are going through! My husband’s family is deeply rooted where we live, but I am not. It is so difficult to make adult friends – sometimes it seems that people are in established friendships and don’t want to open the door to new friends. If I lived nearby, I would meet you for coffee anytime! 🙂

Comment by jeandayfriday

That is an incredibly thoughtful and kind thing to say! Thank you! I know many people understand this situation. It has its challenges, for sure, but along the way it does make me empathize with others who have done it before me and lived to tell the tale. Thanks for commenting.

Comment by jaymers

I’m not close to being as eloquent as you my dear friend, but you’re so good at bringing women together. Loved your thought on not caring about the kind of housekeeper your friends are. I know tI have a close friend when I don’t feel inclined to clean before they arrive:) By the way stop by anytime…..

Comment by gina

Aw, Gina, thanks for reading! And thanks for commenting!

Comment by jaymers

[…] create this busyness that now has most of my friendships lying in stagnant water. In other posts, I have talked about how difficult it can be to make friends as an adult. It’s occurred to me […]

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