By: Jessica Aldred
“Do you wanna have a play date?”
“Mom, I made a new friend today!”
“My new friend thinks spiders are icky, too!”
These are just a few of the statements I’ve heard from my cherubs as they started off the school year in their new classrooms. As an adult, I can’t remember the last time making a friend was so simple. A time when all it took to be BFF’s was bonding over a love of matchbox cars or Barbie dolls. A time when you literally felt comfortable just walking up to another human being and saying, “Hey, let’s be friends.” They’d say yes and you’d skip off, onto the next game or activity.
Can you imagine if it were so simple as adults? We’ve all become so insecure with who we are that we can’t imagine that other adults might actually like us. We’re so afraid of being rejected that we often sit on the sidelines, quietly busying ourselves so as not to be bothered with. I can’t be the only one fighting this battle. In fact, I know I’m not, and I’ve made it a point to try to squash this fear by taking it head on.
It’s not that I’m antisocial, just insecure I guess. The cool kids in school can only psychologically batter you so long before it leaves its mark for life. In the past few weeks I have it made a point to actively walk up to groups of pseudo-strangers and start conversation. I’ve also gone solo to some town, adult-only, events in hopes of winning this war over my own psyche. While I haven’t been surprised by the response I’ve received, I still find it awkward. Why is so hard to feel confident in yourself and your ability to make friends just as you did decades ago on the playground? I don’t need them to come over and play with my stuff, but I do need these people, these other parents who will become some of my closest friends over the next 12+ years, to know who I am and appreciate what I bring to the table.
My husband has taken to calling me the definition of a soccer mom, as I show up at my children’s events, cordially say hello to half a dozen people, and almost immediately engage in conversation with someone. Like I said, I’m not anti-social. I can hold my own in most social circles, but defeating my inner demons is an ongoing battle. What if they don’t like me? What if I’m not into what they’re into? Come on! We’re all into our kids and that’s our innate bond.
Friendships of the past, while majorly still there, fall by the wayside when kids come along. We’re almost forced to unite with these kindred spirits who shiver on the sidelines with us. We’ll share stories of the trials and tribulations of child rearing. We’ll share our past or present careers and make random connections we didn’t know were there at the start. And we’ll allow these people to become some of our most trusted resources when it comes to our family, our town/city, and life in general. How can they not? I’m still in the early years, but I know many more hours will be spent at committee meetings, sporting events and conferences alongside these increasingly familiar faces.
If I have learned anything in my years as an adult, and specifically as a parent, it is that I am the example my children will follow. The choices I make will give them permission to follow suit. So, when my preschooler walks confidently up to another small child, offers his hand and says “Hi!” I feel good about that. Although I don’t always feel that confidence he exudes so effortlessly, at least I’m putting on a good show and he’s benefiting from that.