Putting an Emphasis on Friendship
Remember when you were young and single and you could have long, meaningful and uninterrupted conversation with your friends in a coffee shop?
Do you recall that special time when you had all the time in the world to share your hopes and dreams, as well as your disappointments? Now, fast forward to parenthood.
I have two young boys, ages two and five. Having a meaningful adult conversation, in their presence, seems impossible sometimes. Typically, my conversations go something like…
Me: Hey, how as your Mother’s Day?
Friend: It was great…
Me: Hold on one minute… I gotta go get him (I chase my toddler who is climbing on the gymnastics equipment during his brother’s class)
Me: Sorry, so what were you saying?
Friend: It was good. We went to…. (My toddler runs back and tries to walk on the balance beam)
Eventually, we just give up.
With young children present, there are constant interruptions to address misbehavior, safety concerns, etc.… Maybe one day, my kid takes a toy from your kid, the next my kid is licking his shoes, or better yet our kids are fighting. Therefore, out of necessity, the adult conversation becomes the secondary priority. It can be SO frustrating!
In my heart I wish I could say, “Friend, I want to let you know that I value you. I wish that I could attentively listen to you and your heart without interruption. Unfortunately, my kid is driving me up the wall, and I have to address his behavior.”
Maintaining a friendship with someone you knew before kids does not seem as difficult. I feel like, with long term friends, I already had a chance to have those heart to heart conversations. For me, the bigger challenge is getting to know new people and establishing friendships.
This past year, I shifted from working full time to part time. Doing so allowed me more time with my kids and the opportunity to build some new friendships. I moved to my area when I was married about seven years ago, and I left behind most of my friends and family. When I was working full time, I didn’t have much free time to plan play dates or meet new people. My weekends were spent catching up on household chores and meal prepping.
My new part time schedule has given me more flexibility to take my kids on frequent trips to the playground and library. On most occasions, we have met some kids they connected with and in some cases friendships have been formed.
Along the way, I have learned the following lessons which have helped me establish some lasting relationships.
Have you ever met someone at a playground and your kids seems to get along, but you totally forget to ask their name? Then maybe you see them a second time and you feel silly asking it. This used to happen to me all the time. Now I try to make it a point to ask the person their name early in the conversation and even repeat it a few times, to solidify it in my brain. Also, I make a point to ask them for their contact information before I leave.
Follow Up Quickly
Let’s face it, our lives are so busy. If I don’t follow up within two weeks of exchanging information, I probably won’t connect with them.
I have a dear friend…we ran into each other at the library for years. We even exchanged information once (like four years ago). But we didn’t connect and form a friendship until last summer. We have so much in common, I wish I would have reached out sooner.
Talk About Things Other Than Your Kids
Whether it is bragging about their talents or sharing your frustrations and disappointments, most of us are guilty of making conversations about the kids. But to take your friendships to a deeper level, you should talk about other things.
Plan Play Dates in Contained Spaces
Plan a play date in your home or at another contained familiar place—it’s more conducive to maintaining a conversation.
It reduces the need to run and rescue your child from harm’s way.
What seems to work is picking a central spot for the grown-ups. Like the kitchen table. Where you can sit and chat and let the kids play around you. With my kids, sometimes going to a playground with a sandbox helps. They tend to be more stationary, allowing for more continuous adult conversation.
Let Children Solve Their Own Problems
When is it the right time to let them solve their own problems?
If there’s a conflict sometimes it a good idea to ask the kids if they can work it out on their own, rather than jumping in immediately. It’s so important that kids learn to play independently and to figure out how to problem solve, without adult intervention.
A rule of thumb might be to let them iron out differences unless you clearly see they’re struggling to do so. Age is a factor to be held in consideration. Toddlers need more assistance.
So, don’t give up on trying to make new friends while raising young kids. It is possible. In a sense, I think having kids helps us to be more genuine with each other. We skip all the pleasantries, and just dive right in. It’s worth the effort!