No one tells you when you have a baby that your circle of friends might change. It might grow or shrink, but regardless of how it morphs, it comes as a surprise. There are several people with whom I spent my childless evenings and weekends who I haven’t seen in a couple of years. There are also people who swoop in and become your saviors, bearing coffee and an extra set of arms. But after the infant stage is over, you can bet that at some point the loneliness is going to set in-that is, until you find your “people”.
My baby just turned two yesterday. First of all, I can’t believe it has been two years since she came into this world. Second, I am blessed for so many reasons to have her in my life. It was definitely a day to celebrate. We had a small party for her-some of her preschool friends were there, and since they can’t drive yet, their parents came too. Just kidding. The fact of the matter is that not only does Ella have some awesome little pals, but her friends’ parents are also amazing people.
These fellow parents are people I see all the time. We chat at preschool drop off and pick up, we all go to the gym at the same time, we run into each other at the coffee shop and the bank, and there is always a play date at the playground in case we haven’t had enough of each other.
These are the people who will ask if you’ve got an extra diaper in your bag because they forgot a spare. They’re the ones who will wipe your kid’s nose if you have your hands full. Somebody needs a snack? One of us always has enough goldfish crackers to go around. Nobody ever had to sit down and say, “OK, which one of us will always have baby wipes?”, or “Someone needs to be really good at teaching the kids to share.” It just happened. When they say it takes a village, that’s no joke. But what they don’t say is where you find that village, or how those people come together.
You find that out one day as you and a fellow parent are sitting at the gym lacing up your sneakers that she, too, is perplexed by the severity of temper tantrums that her three year old has. Or maybe, you take a poll from these moms and dads to see who else lets their two year old use a pacifier. Of course, you find out it’s not just you. At some point, it comes up among a few of you how lonely staying at home can be, even if pint-sized people are yelling your name all day long and you can’t even pee by yourself. Then you laugh so hard you cry and maybe pee your pants a little because one of your fellow comrades reenacts her child’s outrage at losing one raisin on the floor of the car. After that, you head back to your minivan with a little spring in your step and a smile on your face. The point is, once you can come to terms with the reality that parenting is messy and imperfect, you open yourself up to other parents who have come to the same realization. You will fill in each other’s gaps. Together, you will make this big world safe for your little kids.
So, when you get that lonely twinge-and you will; take a minute to look around at the other parents of children that your kids interact with. I promise that no matter what any Facebook meme says, they’re not judging you. They’re looking for you. Look back. Smile. Share some goldfish crackers. Laugh when your kid eats hers off the playground asphalt. And with that, simply by being real and imperfect, and embracing the imperfection that is parenting, the path to friendship will be formed.