I've been having a really stupid thought lately. It keeps cropping up, and I'm not exactly sure why. It was sparked, in part, by my daughter, Lux, going to a new school with lots of parental meet-and-greet events. Once upon a time, those events were totally in my wheelhouse, but now they fill me with exhaustion and even dread. After one such invite, the stupid thought arose, unbidden: I don't want to make any more new friends.
When we moved to California from Wisconsin seven years ago, I was a friend-making machine. I wanted to meet the neighbors, say hello to every mother at my kids' new school, talk to people in line at the coffee shop, on the park bench, on the daily dog walk, etc. I was lucky and met several super cool women. People were so welcoming and kind that I couldn't believe it.
I also was on a friend-making mission during my first pregnancy. We were the first in our group of friends to have a kid, and I somehow knew being the only one would be lonely. So I took prenatal yoga, joined a "New Moms" book group, started talking to my neighbor who had a kid (even though I had sort of avoided her before) and did everything I could think of to find another woman to join me on this journey into motherhood. I found at least one - at yoga - who really improved the voyage, and later on I met others through pure serendipity.
My two kids are both at new schools this year meeting new people, but I feel like putting my own friendship brakes on. What does that say about me? Is there a friend capacity? Does the desire to meet new friends evaporate when the desperate need for a companion is already filled?
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I don't have a packed social schedule, so it's not that I'm too busy. Maybe there's a certain necessary energy required for the making of friends, and I've used mine up. My brain does feel overly full lately, as I'm sure many of your brains feel, too. But when I talk to a good friend and empty out some of that fullness, I am so much lighter and happier. So why not expand that circle so I can be happier in general?
My sister teases me that I make friends constantly. She lives in New York City and has had more trouble than me finding close female companions. Part of it, I think, is where she lives. People on the East Coast, in my experience, tend to be more guarded. My sister is also more reserved than I am, or less apt to chat about something personal with someone new. It takes awhile to get to know her, but when you do it's amazingly worth it.
I used to be quite shy as a child, so I'm not even sure when I became an easy friend-maker. I think there are times in our lives that are more conducive to meeting people we feel connected to. Having kids the same age really greases the friendship wheel. Also, working together.
I think part of my recent aversion to new friends is based on the fact that in Southern California, if you don't live down the street from each other, it's really a pain to get together. Most parents at my daughter's new school are spread out all over the county and beyond, so I'm not relishing driving miles and miles to see these new friends once we connect and want to spend time together.
However, Lux is invited to a birthday party in San Clemente this weekend, at the home of one of her new school friends, so I guess the driving has already begun anyway.
Maybe this birthday party is the push I need to get back on the new friend cycle, or maybe it's Lux's turn now, and I will just be the helpful chauffeur. Either way, new people are entering our lives, and I know at my core that this is a good thing. I just need to adjust my attitude and embrace it.
Heather Skyler is a columnist for Saturday's Life/Family section in the Orange County Register and editor of OC Family magazine. She enjoys exploring the whole glorious and terrifying scope of parenthood, sharing its most interesting, funny, rewarding and challenging aspects from her experience as a mother of two. She is also a published novelist ("The Perfect Age"). When Skyler is not writing, she enjoys poolside reading, gin and tonics, and ping pong. Contact Skyler at email@example.com or through Twitter: @HeatherSkyler
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