You better listen to it or I’ll be upset.
Watching the boy interact with his friends at his first birthday thrust me into a bout of self reflection. The first was “how to not be the hovering parent.” I think resisting the urge to orchestrate a baby’s every move in order to keep from another child–especially a friend’s child that you also love–being bumped, scratched, pinched, tipped over, upset is a feat of self control. Thankfully my friends are great parents and all of us are pretty chilled out about baby drama. And by drama I mean the general being upset about virtually nothing. The second major reflection was realizing that the first year of parenting drew a clear line in the sand about my expectations for optional relationships in my life and what I needed to chose to invest my time into and what I needed to release.
Making friends and keeping them has never been something that is effortless or natural for me. This may come as a surprise for some. I typically have a handful of pals. And one of my most fierce coping mechanisms is that in most aspects in life I exude confidence even when I am trying to mask my insecurities. I try to make up for whatever I feel like I am lacking in a social situation with sass, wit, and sarcasm. I’m the queen of acquaintance and being cordial and entertaining for a particular situation and retreating back into myself as soon as the event is over. But, friendship is and has always been a vulnerable thing or me. When it comes to including people in my life, my home, sharing stories, secrets, and my flaws I take it seriously and I take it to a deeply personal level. This probably comes from binge watching Now and Then every weekend in my formative years. I thought friendship was for life and now I realize that the majority of friendships are usually for a season or a specific moment in time. I’ve also come to truly believe that best friend is more a tier than a single person. Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule. This bit of knowledge has come from spending plenty of time in my teens and twenties broken hearted from investing too much into friendships where I got too little return on my investment. Where emotional energies clashed. I would take and not give or give and not take. This only ever lead to me getting burned out and not able to deal with the dynamic–letting relationships fizzle and fade or having a complete and utter meltdown and forcibly removing a person from my life by lighting that metaphorical bridge on fire. The first option has its place in life. The latter…well…
I’ve been every type of friend you can imagine. I’ve been the bitch, the bestie, best friend for life, second tier friend, the friend you just called when you were bored, the friend with the pool, the church friend, mortal enemy turned friend, cool friend, funny friend, little sister, big sister, coffee date, superficial gossip friend, Insta tag friend, mean girl, weird girl, neighbor friend, the girl across the street, study buddy, mom friend, AIM messenger friend, friend that is a co-worker, friend that is a business partner, the best friend “secret” girlfriend friend, the friend with really shitty benefits, the friend that sells stuff, the crafty friend, frenemy, best friend that just happens to be a girl friend, the “I didn’t necessarily want to be your friend but we happen to like all the same things” friend, the really crappy friend, travel buddy and everything in between. This has given me a unique perspective on my friendships (and at times lack thereof) and set a maybe impossibly high standard.
I was lucky enough to be paired with one of my best and, in terms of time, oldest friends straight out of the gate. For a long time we were inseparable and as children the highest compliment you could give me was to ask if she was my twin. I never had siblings growing up. This allowed me to handpick the people I looked up to and make my own surrogate siblings. She is and was the person I looked to for hand-me-down clothes, wisdom, and telling me life truths early on in life. This includes but is not limited to: the fact that Santa isn’t real and what a blow job is from the perspective of a prepubescent girl who had open parents, an older brother, and asked a lot of questions. Now she answers my questions about what your vagina feels like after you’ve had a baby, what do I do when my teething child turns my nips into hamburger meat and is an uncontrollable mood little monster, is it dumb to be afraid of dying during labor and gives me colorful commentary about what awaits me in my parenthood journey. Don’t get me wrong, our relationship hasn’t had a perfect track record. Circumstances beyond our control put distance between us right before middle school. It didn’t help that our middle school and high school experiences were littered with a smattering of awful. She was (and still is) the trifecta of pretty/popular/cool, I felt like I couldn’t compete with her new friends and didn’t want to because sometimes I am a stubborn cry baby. If my feelings are hurt I become a little petty and never forget it. Whether it is directly someone’s fault or not. This case was “or not”.
SIDE NOTE: In the process of working super hard on getting over that right this second.
But, even in the times of distance I was team her and vice versa. We watched each other go through the messy awkward, painful parts of life and come out on the other side. Motherhood has brought us together stronger in the most beautiful way, and for that I will forever be grateful. I’ve needed that in this journey. Someone that knows all the layers and shadow places. She speaks to me sans judgement. She never makes me feel ashamed of my shortcomings as a person or mother. She does nothing but lift me up. To top it off, I feel closer now with her being across the country than I feel to some of my friends that live in my backyard. She sets the bar high and sets the standard. In this season of life I have realized that I can no longer just be a friend by proximity. I simply don’t have the time or the emotional energy to do that anymore. If I can feel love from across the country via texts, then no one else has an excuse. Sorry not sorry.
I need the energy exchange to be equal. You’re in or out. As harsh as it sounds, I’ve had to set terms for myself: what I’m willing to give, what I’m willing to accept. Not everyone is going to be a super close, amazing, remarkable, memorable friend. But, that doesn’t make them a bad friend. It also doesn’t create an excuse for bad, flaky friends. Those who are close to me I want to dig deep and know them. To talk about the hard things. I feel like the connections I’ve made over the last year have been magnetic. They have been necessary, enlightening, and fulfilling. I’ve found them in unexpected places.
Coffee shops. Chiropractic offices. Warehouses. Hippie dippie birthing classes. Facebook messenger. Full moon circles. And I’m beyond thrilled that I’ve been open to it.
I feel like motherhood has been the only thing that has ever made me realize what a relationship is worth. It’s been the one thing that has allowed me the courage to say out loud, “I need this (whatever this may be) from you.” It has gifted me perspective and fierce connectivity.
I’ve been given the privilege of watching the boy begin to create meaningful connections. Until recently he hadn’t spent much time among his peers. He is funny, curious, brave, bashful, and spirited. He is an observer. Something that has already proven to draw others into him. His curiosity and want spurred on the decision for him to start a Mother’s Day Out program twice a week.
I want so many things for him in terms of relationships. Friends that lift him up and believe in his talents. Friends that want to walk through life with him and know him. Friends that buy him tacos on their birthday week. Friends that are excited to see him. Friends that love his weird. I want him to create genuine, positive connections. I want him to have a handful of forever friends. I don’t want it to take 30 years for him to figure it out and feel well supported.
I would be lying if I said I didn’t get a little morose realizing that everyone isn’t always going to engage with him they way the do now. Most people are just drawn to babies for the sake of the endorphins. I’m positive he will blaze a trail and draw people in all on his own. It’s already a talent he has that I recognize and want to foster. I am constantly working to not project my experiences on to him. We are crucial to each other’s journey. But, my experiences are not his and his are not mine. I want him to create his own adventure. Right now, that means just trying to navigate the balance between playfully curious and being so enamoured with faces that he slams his friends into the ground. I want to be present in his journey and keep myself from being overly protective or cautious when it comes to him figuring out his friends. Especially at this drunk monkey stage where they are constantly grasping to each other for stability (whoa–so much literal and figurative meaning there). I never thought I would have to learn to let him go so soon. I want everyone to love him and embrace him with open arms. I don’t want his spirit to be broken. That wild, free, open heart is so exciting to me.
You know what else is exciting to me? Quad lattes, tacos, and conversation. You can be a friend too if you provide me with these necessities. No pressure.