Tag Archive | Friendship

Help! My Daughter’s In A Friendship Triangle

Before my daughter started school, I prayed (literally, said prayers) that she would find her way socially with ease and joy.  “Please let her be like her father– easy-going, adaptable, friendly, confident.”  When I got really desperate, I begged God to spare her the dark sides of my personality and keep her from being too insecure, desperate, dramatic, histrionic, low self-esteemy.

I was pleased when my prayers were answered and she seemed to be “in the flow” socially and found a great group of friends.  Actually, she found two best friends, darling little girls who share her abiding love of coloring and exercising executive leadership skills. 

Two.  There’s two of them.  And you know what that means, right?

My daughter’s in a friendship triangle.  Kindergarteners, ya’ll.   Already I’m having to navigate my daughter (and myself) through the gauntlet of a threesome.  Someone’s always left out.  When it’s my kid, we spend the ride home talking about how unfair it is that she’s stuck with me while her two other friends are together, having great adventures WITHOUT MY DAUGHTER.  When my kid is on the upside of the friendship seesaw, I breath a tenuous sigh of relief.  Because it’s only a matter of time before she’s crying again.  Left out again.

Friendship’s hard, ya’ll.

It’s been massively triggering.  It brings up every relic of my own friendship triangles, a configuration I carried into my 30’s.  It’s been an opportunity to look back at my own past, relive some hurts and ultimately heal.  I like to think that revisiting my own friendship struggles will help my daughter work through her own feelings.  I found that engraved into my cells is the exhausting experience of trying to keep up with two other friends.  Trying to be sure I’m still “in.”  Scrambling, chasing, clawing at every opportunity to keep a toehold in the relationship.

I don’t want this for either of my kids.  I realize there is no way to spare them their own experiences, but God, I sure want to.  How much is it going to suck when one day she comes home with a heartbreak over a friendship’s end?  It’s going to happen.  Even when it’s for the best, it hurts in a way that’s as deep as death and as immediate as a broken bone.

But then again, it’s the failed friendships that taught me what I most value in friends: humor, emotional availability, loyalty, honesty.

When the day comes that either of my kids arrives at the Heartbreak Hotel– Friendship Edition, I’m going to hand them this book.  It’s written by women who survived and thrived through the vicissitudes of relationships with friends.  These authors survived and so will my kids.

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Order the book: My Other Ex: Women’s True Stories of Losing and Leaving Friends by clicking here.

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BFFs on the Brain

There’s a lot of talk on the interwebs these days about friendship.  If you read blogs, you probably know a blogger who is featured in the anthology about women friendships, HerStories.  Many wonderful women whom I adore are featured in there (see ’em here) and because I am a very good person, I am 99% thrilled for them and only 1% pea-green with envy that I am not a part of that collection. (Hashtag devastated, hashtag ExtraTherapy).

Ahem.

Anyway, I think about friendship all the damn time these days, in part, because I have so little free time that the friendship slice of my life pie has been whittled away.  I’m not enjoying this friendship diet, but I’m not sure of a way around it.  I have two small children, a job, a blog, a manuscript, an exercise compulsion, and a marriage. (Not in that order, Honey. Love you!)  The snippets of time to call a friend or grab a quick lunch have disappeared into the haze of the mundane mechanics of my life.  I have no idea how to change that.

And I’ve always been a little anxious about female friendship.  I had some unfortunate experiences in fifth grade that atrophied my trust muscles.  As an adult, I’ve spent too long in friendships that weren’t working.  I’ve chased friendship with the wrong people (men and women) for misguided reasons, while ignoring friendship gems right under my nose.  I’ve also come to terms with the truth about myself: that true intimacy with another person is messy and makes me feel vulnerable, and honestly, sometime it’s easier to just be alone.

The latest wrinkle in my friendship musings is projecting all my fears and anxieties on my kids.  Will they have friends? Will they be life-long? Will they inherit my relationship idiosyncrasies?  WILL THEY HAVE BFFs? And if they don’t, is it my fault?

My worries for them are wasted because Simon has a BFF that he met on his very first day of school, and Sadie has also declared she has a best friend: herself, which is a better answer than I could have ever hoped for.

If you are having a slow Friday, pop over to Mom.me to read my post about my daughter’s take on BFFs.  As usual, I have a lot to learn from that little lady.

In Praise of Annoying Parents

Somewhere I heard that you are not supposed to build relationships based on a shared contempt for some third party.  I think that’s a solid spiritual axiom– relationships should be built on mutual love and respect, not because you found someone who’s a hater like you.  However, the person who said that definitely never went to parents’ night at their kids’ school.

Find the people who roll their eyes when you do. They are your tribe.

Find the people who roll their eyes when you do. They are your tribe.

But I’m not here to complain about the parents that make my skin crawl because they are grilling a preschool teacher about how she intends to teach four-year-old kids how to create a narrative arc or deconstruct string theory.  Nope, I’m flat our praising those douche bags because without them, how could I find my people?  The crazy parents are the Maypoles around which I am able to dance and find other people grooving to my rhythm.   How could I have ever found my school BFFs without bonding over the serious case of crazy that some other (not us, never us) parents display during student nights and open houses?

We need them.  Each and every one of those hyped up, over-zealous, run-to-the-administration-to-complain parents is vital to the rest of us getting to sit back and remind ourselves that we are crazy, but not that kind of crazy.  In their shadows, we can congratulate ourselves for our balanced and sane approach to parenting and education.

So don’t be a hater.  Be an embracer– harness that negative reaction and find your fellow eye-rollers.  Those are your tribe.  It may not be the soundest basis for forming a friendship, but sharing contempt for the same people isn’t the worst way to start.

For more on this, see how I this played out on my latest Mom.me post.  (Click here).

Old Friend, I’m Changing The Narrative

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I’ve caught myself talking about you several times this summer.  I’ve told stories about your strength, like when life smacked you around and death took your loved ones, but you got back up again, different. Stronger.  I’ve alluded to the valuable lesson you taught me when you showed me a picture of yourself from when you were in high school.  “Crazy hair, huh?” That’s what you said but what you didn’t say was that you loved yourself anyway, even though your hair looked like Kristy McNichol got in a fight with a weed whacker and you carried those extra pounds that “didn’t help” when you wanted a date to prom.  You didn’t say it, but I’d heard you loving the young you in that picture and you taught that to me.

It feels good to change the narrative.  To have rounded the bend of resentment and hurt and to have arrived at some place new where the good stuff gets to be just as big as the stuff that tore us apart.

I found pictures of us as I was packing up the house.  And letters and notes and emails I inexplicably printed out and saved. (Guess I didn’t understand the “mailbox” function of email.)  “Who’s that?” my kids asked.  I told them the truth.  “And old friend Mommy hasn’t seen in a long time.”  They’ve never experienced the complexity of friendships that stop and start, come and go. I didn’t give them details.  Who knows? By the time they are old enough to ask where you, the woman in the picture, went, I may have more answers.  Maybe they will know you by then.  Perhaps not.

But I’m telling the good stories, those pieces of our relationship where the sun was shining on both of our faces.  It’s so healing to remember us in this light and take stock of all the gifts I received being a part of our relationship.

This. This sweet and peaceful feeling of gratitude and wholeness.  This is the gift of forgiveness.

Fertility and Friendship

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I imagine that there are as many ways for a friendship to end as there are people who have ended them.  The end of a friendship can be just as messy, painful and confusing as the end of a romantic relationship.  Honestly, sometimes it’s more intense.  Instead of dividing up common property and deciding who keeps which material possessions, the end of a friendship sometimes results in the divvying up of mutual friends and shared social scenes.  God help those overlapping friends who remain close to both of you– they must walk that fine line that leaves them feeling stuck in the middle afraid to mention you to her or her to you.  How awful is it to be that friend– the one in the middle? Someone should set up a 5K run for those people, because that’s a bad situation and they deserve some money or some extra social cache for enduring it.

OMG, it’s so painful.

It’s comforting– if rare–to see the end of a friendship  in black and white terms– she stole my husband so I withdrew the gift of my friendship from her.  There’s no need to phone-a-friend there– just dump the relationship.  But real life is murkier.  I had a friendship that went seriously and hopelessly off the rails over fertility.  Our chemistry turned into a toxic mix of hurt feelings, regrets, jealousy and deep resentments.  We have yet to come back from the brink.  Maybe someday we will be able to pick up our friendship and offer each other support, love and free babysitting.  But until then, I’m still sorting out what happened and hoping to learn from my own mistakes and grow as a friend.

Check out my piece on Mom.me about fertility and friendship; it’s available here.

Introducing My Preschool BFF

I think I have found the perfect candidate for my preschool BFF.  It’s quite genius. I am thrilled it only took me 5 weeks to hone in on the person who (1) makes me feel totally comfortable, (2) won’t ask too much of me, (3) shows zero aptitude for judging me or anyone else, and (4) isn’t pretentious in any way.  Ok, there’s a #5 too: My new BFF dresses casually and carelessly, just like I do.

*Swoon*

We’ve bonded.  Both of us love that moment when the preschoolers bound through the glass doors and find the beloved face of the person who will scoop them up and say, “How was your day?”  Both of us love our preschoolers fiercely, but not in a show-offy, “I love better than you do” way.

We have great conversations: about food and our weekend plans and how we struggle to balance it all.

More than what we have said to each other, there are the things we have NOT said.  There’s been no spouse bashing (we both admire and speak highly of our spouses), no bragging about anything, no excessive self-deprecation that is really the flip side of bragging.  There’s no talk of materialistic “we have this” and no over-sharing (except by me).

We stand there waiting for our charges, we shoot the shit, and we enjoy the 10 minutes a day we interact.

I am pretty sure it’s because my BFF is a HE, and he’s not a stay-at-home dad.  It’s better! He’s a stay-at-home-Grandpa! It’s brilliant, right?  He’s got lots of life experience and a fun, “I don’t give a hooey” attitude.  Best of all: He’s got a heart full of unsullied love for his granddaughter.

Added bonus: I can sort of be flirty with him (simply to sharpen my skills for my own dear husband), and it’s not weird like it would be if he was under 70.

Double added bonus: I can also get out of my egocentric space when I hear about his very real health challenges and the exquisite gratitude he has for each day.

So, if the moms freak you out, and you’re not brave enough to strike out with the daddies, try the grandparents! It’s working for me.

Who Wants To Be My Preschool Mom Pacer?

When I trained for a marathon, the most important thing I was told was to PACE myself, so that I didn’t pull a “fly and die,” which is where you start out strong and then crash somewhere before mile 26.  There are official race pacers who run the entire marathon with little flags or bright t-shirts so you can follow them and keep a steady pace.

On my own, I wanted to run too fast (mostly because I wanted the race to end so I could eat and lay down).  So, I found the pacers and followed them like my race depended on them.  Because it did.

Now, I need to find a Preschool Mom Pacer.  Same idea as above, but I need it for my brave new role as preschool mom.  With all these new people and social occasions and volunteer opportunities, I need someone to keep me from saying too much too soon, or letting my crazy hang out too far, because we are only on day 7 of what is likely to be a long-ass year.

For example, today I attended a luncheon for moms. The women were bright, funny, compassionate, and kind.  We may not have that much in common, but we have our kids and that’s enough for a Wednesday afternoon.

WHAT I DIDN’T SAY

Because we are virtually strangers, the conversation centered on biographical details. I know that’s how polite society works, and I certainly didn’t want to violate any social codes.  However, about 5 times during the lunch I wanted to lay my head on the table and sob into my bread plate about the attack in Libya.  “The ambassador’s name was Chris Stevens.  We could all know a Chris Stevens. I went to a prom with a guy who was practically named Chris Stevens.”  (His name was Chris McCullom, but still.)

I wanted to say, “I am scared of everything, ya’ll.  Pier 1 scares me.  You all scare me.  The fact that my kid no longer needs a nap scares me. My heavy flow days scare me.  Is anyone else terrified?”

Of course I didn’t say any of that.  I pictured a pacing flag ahead of me warning me to dole out my neurosis in small doses.

I gulped my sparking water.  I reminded myself that I am here to be a mother among mothers.  “Stop thinking about international tragedies for at least 2 hours. Eat.”

So, I did.

I held back, because that’s what I know I should do.  I trusted that at some point  I will have intimates at the table — those who know I go to therapy on Fridays and love Andrew Garfield more than Ryan Gosling.  But we have to build up to that kind of friendship.

WHAT I DID SAY

I did make one disclosure that I hope was not too much of a pacing violation.  I mentioned that during the parent interview we had before getting accepted into the school, Jeff and I were asked about our greatest fear about Sadie starting school.  My answer: I was scared of Sadie ending up in a school with a “bunch of rich bitches.”  (Or something to that effect.)  (It was an honest answer, but I recognize it may have sounded hostile in this context.)

There was some nervous laughter.  I looked for my imaginary pacer ahead of me, but she wasn’t there.  Now, I am wondering if it was too soon to reveal my fears about affluence.  Was my pacer actually behind me, wishing I would shut up and not tell stories that reveal too much about me too soon?

I think I need a pacer.

Any volunteers?  It is not a paid position, but I will say “thank you” a lot.