Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

I have a hard time making friends. I’m not sure if it’s my complete disdain for small talk, or my unwillingness to reveal weakness to others… either way, I have many acquaintances and few lasting friendships from my youth.

As a side bar, I try not to envy the personality traits of others. After all, one’s soul is God given and cannot be imitated. Anyways, I have met women who exude the kindness and true selflessness in relationships that I have always longed for. One in particular, Hanna, comes to mind when I think of lasting friendships. I truly believe this woman has been asked to be in at least 50 weddings- and for good reason. Being around her is permission to release the breath you didn’t know you were holding. She takes a genuine interest in the lives of those around her, and makes even the most standard small talk feel significant. If you have this trait, I envy you. Try as I may, I am just slightly too introverted and guarded to provide effortless conversation like that. I digress, but I wanted to paint you a picture of those that make friends easily, and then make it very clear that I am not one of those people.

When Connor and I moved into our house, I was six months pregnant and didn’t know a soul living in our little suburbia. True, we were both born and raised in this town, but with its ever expanding infrastructure our once small hometown is now feeling a few sizes too big. Six months before the moment we were handed these keys, I was just another twenty-something living in a cookie cutter bachelor(ette?) pad in Nashville. Only about 30 minutes from each other, these two homes might as well have been worlds apart. And up until that very moment, the moment I became a “grown up” for real, I had gone about making friends the only way I knew how: drunk in a bar.

It’s true, friendships are easy when you’re a few shots in. All of a sudden the bathroom line is primetime to spark up a conversation, and the only requirement for “besties” is the ability to keep up in stilettos. I operated this way for years. Floating from group to group, keeping interactions about cute guys, beverage choices, and brunch spots. Nobody expects anything from their party partner- aside from holding their hair back. I liked it that way, until I was sober and lonely and came to the painful realization that I was terribly alone behind the walls that I spent so much time building.

Friendships after marriage and babies aren’t so easy. Not even close. Without the confidence boost of alcohol, you’re left to stumble your way through small talk about diaper rash and flu season with the mom next to you in daycare pick-up line. This is exactly the thing I have always avoided- giving someone the opportunity to decide if they like me or not. That kind of vulnerability gives me hives.

We met Kadie and Elliot fairly quickly after coming to Franklin; however, our friendship mainly consisted of a casual hello on our way to the park. To be honest, I was fairly certain early on that they would not like us. You see, they are right brain dominant people. Connor and I, on the other hand, are so very left brained that our lack of “culture” is hilarious. Kadie and Elliot like art, music, and creating: Connor and I like football, gluten, and Netflix. Elliot can be seen riding his unicycle around the neighborhood, and Kadie likes to knit. I can be seen riding the struggle bus around the neighborhood, and Connor likes to watch Youtube videos way too loudly while laying in bed at night. The friendship was bound to fail from the get-go… right?

The first few playdates were like awkward first dates, for sure. The kind where you give each other a play-by-play of what the kids are doing, terrified to broach any other topics of conversation. “Oh look, the boys are jumping.” “Now they’re licking the sidewalk.” “My kid just punched yours in the head. Sorry about that.” That sort of thing. But for some reason, we all kept showing up. I think I was at the point where I realized adulting and parenting is hella lonely, and was never meant to be tackled alone. I had decided that terrifying first playdates were far less daunting than one more week of monotonous hours alone with my babies and my thoughts. And it’s a good thing I did.

Kadie and Elliot are now some of our closest friends. It’s not often that you find yourself in a moment you want to remember forever, but I encountered one a few days ago. We were all in my kitchen, bellies full of takeout and the floor cluttered with every toy we own. We were dancing to music from someone’s cellphone, each flailing around the room without a care in the world. I looked up and wished I could freeze time. This is the part of parenthood that people talk about long after their little ones have grown and gone. The fun part. And how did we get here? By showing up, even when it was scary and awkward and unknown and super uncomfortable.

I wish I could tell my 12 year old self that friendships shouldn’t be forced and hard. Friendships shouldn’t be draining and consuming. You see, these are all signs that you’re trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. It just doesn’t fit, and the more you try to stretch and push, the more frustrated and defeated you become. We were made for relationships, but the authentic kind. The kind where you show up in sweats and your kid is missing a shoe and sucking on the car door handle. The kind where you can say “I want to sell my kids and move away”, and she may just help you put out an Ad on Craigslist. You deserve relationships like that. You were made for that.

My point is this: stop trying so hard. Just throw on a hat and show up- freak flag flying. That way, fellow shit-show moms can find you easier. Having relationships that fill you up and feed your soul is as easy as dropping the act. Say exactly what you’re thinking. Do exactly what you feel like doing. Enjoy natural, comfortable silence that sometimes falls… without trying to fill it with small talk. And for the love of everything, stop curling your hair for playdates. You’re making me look bad.

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