I stare at the text messages. Reading and rereading them, parsing for subtext and hidden emotion in the midst of emoji’s and autocorrect. I hand the phone to my husband, discussing whether or not I have unintentionally sabotaged a potential friendship. We have relived this conversation far too often, because, frankly, making friends as a grownup is hard, and uncomfortable, and sometimes really embarrassing.
Having never lived in one place for more than five years, creating new friendships should be second nature. However, if making normal situations exceptionally awkward were a superpower, it would be mine. It started back in grade school. I really wanted to be friends with the cool new girl. It was going well until one day on the monkey bars I sneezed. On her face. It was one of those surprise sneezes, where there is not time for coverage. I sat in panic for a minute. “I think you have something in your hair,” I said nonchalantly. With all the coolness I could muster I reached out to grab the monstrous booger resting in her pretty brown hair. I almost got away with secretly tucking it into my pocket until she asked what it was. Did I mention I don’t lie well?
I have on occasion unintentionally, and very loudly, laughed like Goofy (“HuhYUK”) in response to human interaction (once during a job interview). Procreating has only furthered my unfortunate handicap. While trying to invite a new neighbor to church, my daughter peed from the top of a sloped sidewalk. The man was standing at the bottom. Needless to say he did not find Jesus that day, and may have lost some freshly baptized leather loafers.
Remember the old days, before that first sting of rejection, when friendship was as easy as, “Wanna be my friend?” The two of you would run off hand-in-hand and find some hole to dig or boy to chase.
Not today though. Today it’s a matrix of insecurities and scheduling and apparently, bodily fluids. Top that off with the delicate balance of the “play date,” AKA “Listen up, children, Mommy needs a friend. So don’t be weird and don’t be mean and whatever you do, don’t embarrass me in front of Chick-Fil-A.” Conversation punctuated by nose wiping and emergency toilet breaks is the mother-friends’ lot in life.
Why go through all the trouble? Why do we continue to pursue friendship amidst the chaos of raising young children?
Because it’s how we stay sane. It’s how those children survive to adulthood. But mostly, it’s how we all thrive.
Poet Matthew Arnold said, “If there ever comes a time when the women of the world come together purely and simply for the benefit of mankind, it will be a force such as the world has never known.” When women set aside the need for comparison, leave insecurities and judgement at home, and come together with the humble and mutual understanding that we need each other, we all thrive.
I only say this because I have been graciously allowed to experience it first-hand. When I moved (yet again) two years ago, I was starved for community. A group of women from my church had just started to meet together once a month in my new neighborhood. Despite my quirky social inadequacies, they invited me to join them. We have met every month for two years. We put the kids to bed, and head to the hostess’ home just as we are; some in sweats, some in make-up and earrings, but all weary stay-at-home mamas ready to unwind. We eat dessert and drink coffee and laugh until our cheeks hurt. We cry with each other and take intentional time to share and listen. We offer each other grace. Grace for the messy houses, the moments of rage, and the places we feel we’ve failed. We come together purely and simply for the benefit of our souls. We are doing nothing more profound than willingly sharing life, but in doing so, life begins to sing instead of drone on. We have seen miracle babies born, children fostered and adopted, marriages revived, illness healed, and joy restored. And all because someone decided she wanted time to laugh with her friends and eat cake.
So, lonely mama, it’s time. It’s time to walk up to that other lonely mama and ask her if she wants to be your friend. Grab her hand, run, dig yourselves deep into awkward, intimate and healing conversation and chase those little boys (or girls) of yours with the joy that comes from living as you were created to be: in community. Your family will thank you- and so will your soul.