Watching little kids make friends might just be the cutest and most heartbreaking thing in the world. Some are fearless, oblivious to the impending possibility of rejection. Others are tentative and shy, perhaps having been shunned before. Their intentions are rarely anything deeper than “I want to share your toy truck/ your corner of the sandbox/ your fruit roll up,” and they usually manage to navigate the landscape without any of the self-consciousness and insecurity that stops grown women from striking up conversations. It’s a beautiful thing to watch. And the bonus of watching my little kids make friends was the new friends I made in the process.
You know how sometimes you see a mom on the playground who looks like someone you’d totally click with? You can tell just by staring across the swings that she shares your sense of style, your parenting values, your love of wine (she’s not fooling anyone with that Swell bottle – it’s after 4pm and she’s smiling, there’s Sauv Blanc in there for sure). You move a little closer and try to create a tiny connection between your babes. If my kid starts playing with her kid, the ice is broken and I can compliment her on her high tops, ask how her son is liking his strider bike or make a joke about my coffee being 50% Baileys. And just like that, a new friendship is born. But then someone has to go home for dinner and you didn’t exchange numbers and the new friendship is over before it even started.
I thought I had all the friends I needed. Then I had kids. Suddenly I realized that my entire social life would be turned upside down. My single friends loved quick visits for cuddles and some cute Instagram content, but really how annoying is it trying to catch up on gossip with the constant interruption of a kid needing something? Very. And forget about trying to schedule a girls’ night out when I go to bed at 8:30. Try as we might, little kids and single girls don’t really mix.
Then there are the girlfriends we’ve had forever, our ride-or-dies from way back in the day. They have kids too, but theirs are either: a) just a bit too young or too old to connect with mine b) terribly behaved little d*bags c) on completely different nap schedules or d) living the dream in Mallorca. Trying to force these kids to play nicely, let alone become the second-generation-BFFs is a waste of time. It seems weird not to hang out together but families drift apart and I’ve realized that it’s ok.
Making new friends as adults is a weird thing. Priorities are different and none of us has time to endure friendships that aren’t fulfilling, healthy, mutually respectful and full of text threads that make us laugh so hard we cry. So when my kid found himself a crew that came with its own set of amazing women, I realized I’d hit the jackpot. The fact that his new squad was well-behaved, thoughtful, sweet and had houses full of way better toys than ours was just a major bonus.
It was all good. But then it got way better. Four days after my daughter was born, I needed emergency surgery for a c-section complication and my husband was just starting chemo. Those could have been some dark days… I’m not one to admit it when I can’t handle it all, and God forbid I ask for help (note to all you other mothers: ASK! People want to help, they’re dying to help, let them). Lucky for me, I didn’t need to ask. Dinner was delivered daily, my 20-month-old was driven to preschool and play-dates and there was always a call or text making sure I was holding it together (and a team was dispatched when I clearly wasn’t). Suddenly this crew of moms, some of whom I’d only known for a few months, swooped in and took over. Somehow they knew just what I needed and when. I truly don’t know how I would have survived without them. And who would have thought that a couple of little guys parallel playing in a trough of lentils would have brought me a whole new family?
Now we BBQ together all summer, we vacation en masse, we go on girls trips and we pick up the slack when someone needs it. As an added bonus, our husbands all get along, they play tennis together, coach their sports teams and somehow share the same taste in scotch and craft beer.
Motherhood is hard and it turns our lives upside down. Knowing that we have friends who get what we’re going through (not to mention always have diapers, wipes and fresh coffee on hand when we show up) is literally what gets me through. So next time you’re at the park and you see a kid whose mom looks like someone you’d get along with, strike up a conversation. Or better yet, have your two-year-old do it. And then get her number!