When we decided to move to a new town for my husband’s job (therefore forfeiting mine) I was wondering if I would be that awkward pregnant lady pushing all socially-acceptable boundaries in a pursuit of ‘making friends’.
This small town lacked the forums and events to meet people in ‘proper’ ways. I assumed I would be one bad lunch date away from hovering in the produce section at the one grocery store in town. A desperate effort to try and to establish conversations with other moms by making jokes about salsa “You know what they say about red peppers?!” I’d cooly state. This other mom would respond with a smile and an inappropriate punch line, she’d rub my belly and ask me over for coffee. FRIENDS FOR LIFE!
It didn’t happen like that, but it did happen. I met Sophie at our husbands’ work Christmas party.
She satisfied my honed list of ‘potential-friend criteria’:
- Have kids (check, two adorable little girls).
- Live in this town (check).
- Be nice (giant check).
- Drink gin and love nachos (double check and four stars!).
I was so excited when Sophie asked me for lunch after we met. Maybe I even stressed about what to wear like the rep team hockey captain asked me on a date. Maybe I even practiced saying some jokes in the mirror and wrote conversation starters on pocket flashcards. Maybe…..
During lunch she casually mentioned her older sister was ‘way older’, later hinting to about 27 years old. I was a little confused about how old Sophie could be. I mean not only was she classy, charming and warm but girl had her shit together.
So, before my purse hit the floor back at home I had to facebook stalk her. ‘She’s 21!’ I shrieked to my husband. My hands instinctively went up to my cheeks and pulled up my 28-year-old sagging skin. ‘Do you think she knows how old I am?! Oh, I’m too old to be her friend!’ I cried out. My husband said all the right things to his pregnant wife, made me a grilled cheese and changed the subject.
A few weeks after this lunch date I gave birth to my son. As I started to recover from my c-section, every few days Sophie would ask if I wanted to go for a walk. Thinking that being a new mom meant living on your pajamas while crying in a mountain of laundry on the couch, I would generously decline the invites. I was ridiculous.
Step one of being a good friend: say yes.
Good thing Sophie was empathetic and willing to coax me out of my house in a way you lure a feral dog with bacon. The day quickly came when I would be text-confessing to Sophie I was at a loss with a baby who wanted to cry rather than nap. She came to my door, grabbed my chubby tearful babe and put him in the stroller. Done and done.
Soon we would be walking together almost every day. Our kids would become like siblings, our husbands like brothers (mostly also because they share the same name, job site and non-stop sarcasm) and in some weird small-town way that I find comforting, that makes us like sisters.
What’s the best thing about sisters? They have to put up with you and your bag of crazy, and this crazy just had a baby!
I would be lost without this new sister in my life. Especially when it would come to advice on parenting. We all need someone who has been there that we can ask for support. Sophie, in true sister fashion, would become someone who shares and celebrates my parenting triumphs and offers comfort and encouragement when I fail. She is my cheat sheet for parenting 101, just a text message away. My mom mentor.
Once you are thrust into the world of motherhood you gradually see that friendships are complicated by opinions. Opinions on things like babywearing, nursing, time outs, screen time and other issues that parents think they know best for their kid.
Step two of being a good friend: don’t be a judgey friend.
And Sophie isn’t. I’m sure she thinks I am crazy for my irrational fear of my kids being too cold and my compulsion with dressing them in double digit layers. No doubt she holds in a sigh when I take yet another picture of my kids or panic over everything being a potential choking hazard. She never takes the shot to judge or tell me the ‘right way’. Instead, she always helps and supports and casually mentions I might want to put the baby gate up when I exclaim proudly my firstborn has started crawling.
In a town where I have no family at the ready to act as a free drop-off site for my unruly children, I still have someone I can trust and count on. Whether it’s a Christmas Eve visit to the ER, a couple of days away to deliver another baby, or just a quick appointment she is always there. Sophie is a selfless invitation for assistance, warm welcoming arms to my kids and a glass of iced tea and a good chat for me. And I know this is true for anyone else she calls friend.
Step three of being a good friend: be there.
She has taught me this by simply doing it.
We’ve tread through a couple of pairs of shoes (and stroller wheel bearings) over the couple years since we met. When you are walking with someone conversation can just flow. We’ve shared our hopes, thoughts and fears on everything from mucous plugs to marriage values to toss cushions.
She knows that I’m a spaz who can’t follow recipes, I have to google every question that every inches into my brain and I’m a nerd who never finishes books. And I’ve come to know that she is a relentless planner who will never commit to a paint colour for her bathroom, she will always wonder if she is eating healthy enough and she hates surprises that make her the center of attention.
Step four of being a good friend: help your friend succeed.
I know through all our quirks and different views that we have the best intentions for each other. In a culture of ‘Mommy Wars’ and ‘Mom Guilt’ where moms are actually frenemies ruthlessly competing for Alpha Mom, this friendship feels like a rare haven.
We really want the same things: to grow in our marriages and mothering and ourselves. We want to see one another be brave and open and adventurous. There is no competition, and that is the best home for a friendship to grow in.
This blog post is five years old. Our friendship has now spanned seven years and six kids birthed. As I re-read this post I need to add the following two steps . . . .
Step five of being a good friend: extend friendship
Extending friendship to others.
I don’t think I had learned the value of friendship in my years before motherhood. I don’t think I had the skills or knowledge to really be a good friend to others. I didn’t know how to put myself out there, to invest, to work through difficulties.
Sophie’s friendship has taught me so much and she has empowered me to BE a better friend. Through her friendship, I’ve been able to extend this to others and open up my circle to form a real lady posse of girls that make my life better.
Step six of being a good friend: be honest
I felt underprepared for the emotional baggage I would bring to a friendship. It can be really hard to tell someone they have hurt you or to admit you are being over-sensitive. It can be easy to brush these things off but as Sophie has taught me, the best thing you can do is bring it to the table with humility and the desire to work through it rather than rant about it.
Through this approach, we have been able to encourage each other in getting help on things we were blind to and we’ve been able to get closer through being honest about how we really feel about issues.
She sees my really real and that is scary, but she loves me still and that is what loving friendship is about. Kind of like a marriage really.
There is so much more I could say about this wonderful woman that I’m blessed to have met. I’m just happy I was able to fool her long enough into thinking I was normal enough that she had to be my friend.
Finding a good friend is hard, finding a good mom friend can feel as rare as a good batch of gluten free donuts – but it doesn’t have to be. It takes SHOWING UP, EXTENDING AN INVITE, and LETTING SOMEONE IN.
Thank the Lord I didn’t have to leer over root vegetables to find someone who I can talk with, laugh with and drink Tom Collins with while our kids learn about friendship alongside us.
If you are thinking I should tell Sophie all of this, don’t worry, I texted her in emojis – she knows.