“But Mama, I am just so nervous!” were his tearful words to me, when I gently encouraged him to go say “hi” to the boy that just moved in down the street. At that moment, when he stood at the kitchen table and cried, my heart broke for him and his childhood growing pains. I silently cursed the reality of growing up, and I was sad that the shyness he clearly inherited from me was affecting his self-esteem.
Then it dawned on me – making new friends does not get easier with age. Maybe I AM the only 40 year old who feels this way, but I have a feeling that I am not alone in my awkwardness. Making new mommy friends is just as scary and daunting as it was meeting a new neighborhood kid when I was 7 years old.
Mommies have cliques just like kids do. Some mommies seem to have all aspects of their lives figured out – just like some kids have all the cool toys. Walking up to a group of mommy friends engaged in a conversation is as scary as joining a group of kids already playing a game of soccer. Once the initial formalities have been exchanged, then the real meaty conversations can take place – does the mom agree with your parenting style, do the two of you have anything at all in common, other than sharing the journey of motherhood. Sometimes a common bond is crucial in order for a friendship to form, other times your differences will be the glue in your relationship. A childhood friendship is no different – a shared affinity for Lego blocks can solidify a friendship, or opposite talents and interests can be intriguing to both parties.
Whether you are a 7 year old boy or a 40 year old mom – meeting new people, breaking into existing circles of friends and carving out a spot for yourself in a clique of friends can be downright scary.
So what did I tell my little tearful boy that evening at the dinner table? How did I boost his self esteem? I wish I knew all the right words to say at these teaching moments. It would be awesome if I had a little flow-chart showing me how to handle these situations. Honestly, I didn’t say a whole lot – I hugged him, protected him from the outside world for a few minutes. Then I told him that I also feared rejection when meeting new mommy friends. To demonstrate how to step out of your comfort zone, I put on my shoes and marched across the lawn to meet our new neighbor’s mommy – and I think I did a decent job leading by example. Our little man joined me in the neighbor’s driveway a few minutes later and met the boy – and they became fast friends.
I am so proud of my boy for following my lead, stepping out of his comfort zone and making a new friend. I just wish I could reassure him that it will get easier as he gets older, but I don’t think it does. Maybe with age you care less about the potential rejection. Perhaps you more easily shrug your shoulders and say “their loss” if things don’t go as planned, but the initial ice breaking moment is weird and awkward.
When I approach a group of moms talking to each other I either get quiet and try to blend in with their beautiful Lily Pulitzer dresses – but my yoga pants scream “I don’t own any Lily”! Or I end up cracking a joke with a pun that no one catches, or even accidentally dropping an f-bomb – which then leaves the group so silent that you can hear crickets. I try hard – some times too hard – I always have, and more than likely always will.
So next time you see me or any other woman approaching you and a group of moms – and you suspect that we might be on the verge of trying to make new friends – please welcome us into your circle, perhaps even smile! For the love of God – please laugh at our jokes, and complimenting our yoga pants will make our day! I will be sure to extend the same courtesy to the next woman I see trying to break into one of my circles of friends.
Together we can hopefully make motherhood a little easier on ourselves and each other! – And then I can with confidence tell my boys that they are just going through growing pains…