My children worry that I don’t have enough friends. This is not one of my many worries. Whenever I mention an adult they ask me if we are friends or “friendly”. This is my distinction and it both amuses and worries them.
When you’re a kid making friends is a breeze. You like chocolate, I like chocolate – my mom just baked chocolate chip cookies let’s go eat some. Instant friendship. As you get older the meaning of friendship changes – I like that she always keeps a stash of chocolate in her purse and she shares nicely but even more importantly we hold the same political views and she is not attracted to very tall men. Even that is not enough if your friend ends up partnering with someone you don’t like. I have no trouble going out with her but spending an evening with him is not worth all the chocolate in the world. There is also the problem of your partner. He may not care for chocolate and is not willing to spend time with your friend. So it becomes a different kind of friendship, one of exclusion not inclusion. Or maybe your partner will go out with your friend and her partner but in return you then owe your partner an evening with his buddy who loves wine gums and whose wife the vegan ethically disapproves the mistreatment of the cocoa bean workers. Is it really worth an evening of that?
So let’s just say that there is a couple that you both like. This is a friendship to hold on to. You follow the natural course of life and you all have children. Suddenly your girlfriend wants to compare dates of when your babies hit their milestones and to boot you can’t eat chocolate with her anymore because your nursing and it’s the one thing that gives your baby colic. You manage to get past all of this and you are now entering the toddler years. Your friend announces that she does not believe in discipline as it just stunts her child’s creativity. This is said while her child is running around your new home with a chocolate bar in one hand and a dripping piece of watermelon in the other. You bite your tongue and turn in profile so she will not see the nervous tick in your one eye.
Somehow you manage to make it through these years and the friendship remains intact. All in all her kids are fairly tolerable to you but your kids just don’t like them. You have been able to deal with your spouse, her spouse, their parenting style and their children but now your kids are the insurmountable problem.
There are also the friendships that begin but then just sort of fall flat. Or the person that you thought you like but who is so rude to the waitress that you begin to suspect that maybe she’s really not that nice. When I was in university and I described someone to a friend as ‘nice’ my friend responded by saying, “Tea is nice.” At the time I thought she was so clever, but at this stage of my life I’ve come to the conclusion that ‘nice’ just may be the highest complement that you can give to someone.
Developing friendships takes a lot of time and energy. These are the two things that my family needs from me in spades. I guess I’m like a cactus and friendship is my water. Luckily I am happy with friendly encounters in the supermarket or school parking lot. The next time my kids lament the fact that I don’t have more friends I’ll just let them read this.
I have to add that I am very lucky to have two sisters who are my closest friends. Who I know will always have my back and who are both very nice women.
We are also very fortunate to have a few close friendships with couples that we both like and whose children are friends with ours.
I will always take quality over quantity.
I feel that I need to add a small disclaimer. Almost all of the issues with the above friendships are imaginary and are unrelated to our current friendships.