Funny how a subject tends to come up repeatedly; for the last month it’s been friendship. It started during a conversation with my buddy who dedicates the little time she has to two things – her young family and this wonderful business she’s building. While she has a few close friends who she feels strongly connected to, she’s frustrated at not having the time to nurture acquaintances that could perhaps become friends.
As parents of an almost teenager, the subject is front and center in our family. I’d go so far as to say that navigating friendships is the most challenging and important thing pre-teens and teens take on. Trying out new ideas and ways to be in the world, they are awkwardly growing into their social shoes. With a wispy veil of blaséness, they are continuously assessing their own and friends’ changing interests, connections and alliances, trying to make sense of it all. As the parental role of talking things out isn’t effective, I’m left wondering what kind of role model I’m being.
My father was an early networker, defined less by any desire for professional gain than his innate fascination with people. He moved easily through a rich web of friendships developed in varied environments, believing there was no such thing as a stranger, just a friend he hadn’t yet met. His modeling was the grandest of his gifts to me, though my lifestyle – a career in HR, residence in a densely populated neighborhood of like-minded souls, shared passions in certain outdoor activities – perhaps has made it easier for me than others. I come into contact with many people that I feel a pull to, and in turn make an effort to grow, nuture and maintain whatever might be there. I value the connections that come from borrowing cinnamon as much as bidding adieu to someone before they leave this earth.
Last week it was a chat with an ex (who is now a friend – that took a lot of work) who sent me an article he had received from another mutual friend (also a guy).
He wanted to know what I thought. Well I had a pretty definitive reaction that mirrored every woman whom I have spoken to about this (we shrugged our shoulders quizzically). Interestingly, it resonated strongly with all the men polled. Hmmm. So we began a long email chain about friendship. For the men, there was a feeling that there had never been time, that work and family had been too all encompassing. Now that they were older, they wanted structure to help them along. For the women, it was different “Hey, what about meeting for our birthdays next month?”.
We wrote about our definition of friendship – one of them mentioned wanting that person, not a spouse, to share intimate things with, that this is what he was craving. That made me think more.
While sharing more complicated things with a few friends and my husband is the foundation of who I am, the daily interactions – help moving a bed, offers to entertain an overstaying guest, watching someone’s kid for a few minutes, getting our walk shoveled by a thoughtful neighbor, or the last minute wine and cheese invitation, create a life full of meaning and love that I hope will be seen and appreciated by all of our kids. Feeling profoundly lucky and, oh I hate to use that hackneyed phrase, grateful, for the friends in my life. Thanks.