Now that I am just past my mid-30s, I feel like I can say with certainty that I didn’t know a thing in my 20s (other than how to wear socks and sandals and identify the native plants of Southern BC. What a catch!). The 30s have given me a crash course in life, most of all in friendship.
There have been some people in my young adult life who were there to teach me about being a friend. It wasn’t until I became a mom that I realized I needed to be open to learning how to be a friend. Because when I became a mom I was never in more need of friendship.
Motherhood is daunting, isolating, and confusing. You can read all the books, join all the facebook groups and fill up your phone with 37 pictures of the same baby doing the exact same thing (though each one is different to your eye)…but you will be lonely without real-life friends.
You need real-life women who show up and put your baby in a stroller when you are making excuses not to leave your house. Ladies who will come paint your nails when you can’t reach your huge pregnant feet. You need women who have messy floors and crying kids and husbands who work too late. You thrive from women who drop off donuts, because donuts, and talk to you in hashtags and emojis. You need people in your season who will lean into you and you will become like trees wrapping limbs, working together to create a sanctuary and weathering the storms.
I have some women in my life who remind me why we are on this planet: to be loving to each other. These women hold my secrets with mercy and safety. These ladies care for my well-being. They text me at 10pm each night to ask how my night went even though I saw them this morning and texted them at naptime. These friends care for my children in ways I can’t and teach them things I don’t know enough of (sports for one!). They give me a place to be myself. They laugh at my quirks and encourage my strengths. They are always a text message away and will gladly come over and eat whatever is in my pantry with me. They are my community, my sanctuary, my support.
And here is the thing about friendships. They take work.
The point at which you have acquaintances all your life or friendships is up to you and the amount of work and vulnerability you are willing to put into it. Because I had been a stellar acquaintance with many women but I had to learn how to work at being a real friend. I have had many good teachers over these past years.
Being a real friend means you are honest and vulnerable.
You talk about things that have hurt you or things that you worry about in your relationship.
Friendship means saying sorry when you’ve let them down.
It means showing up when they invite you over, or ask for help, or ask you to run a 5km (WHY would I EVER run a 5KM!!?).
It means eating chocolate cake on a hotel room floor and going on a mom’s campout that nobody else showed up for!
It means you extend the invites into your imperfect life and make a space to for them to feel welcomed into.
It means you think about them and text them during a quiet moment to check in on them.
You work away at slowly getting to know them better and better, simply because you care about them.
You encourage them and empower them to be their best without trying to change them into what you think they need to be.
You also listen to that story for the 27th time and discuss it like it was the first time you heard it.
Oh, and you also send them lots of selfies, because you have a beautiful face and your friend wants to see it!
And here is something I recently learned about friendships. You have to have a love affair with your friends. It is like a marriage. You will fall in and out of love from time to time but you stay devoted to them. You will have periods where you don’t talk much, or talk enough. You will lose yourself, you will lose touch. But true friends don’t permanently drift away during those lulls. In true friendships you let resentments melt, and find ways to show kindness, you help each other find your path again. Most importantly, you make a time and space to hang out with them for the purpose of simply hanging out with them.
Recently, Conor and I had a little cabin time with our best friends. The kids were in bed and it was just us four around a campfire with some beergaritas. The last time we had enjoyed each other’s company without children underfoot had been years! (It was actually during a power outage where they stayed the night because our woodstove was still going). We played games by the porchlight, had some slow talks around a fire, and just sat there.
I fell in love with my friends all over again. These two people who have become second parents to my kids, they are staples in our every day and have done life with us over the past five years – and we needed to stop and just be together. We have been through many ups and downs. We have trudged through the seasons of these past five years. We have shared joys and heartaches and birthday cakes. We’ve all changed from the people we were five years ago and we needed to date this five-year-older version of one another and get that perspective like it is all new and exciting and we have met a friend who ‘gets’ us and is for us.
You hear a lot about ‘dating your husband’ but we really ought to date our friends too. We need to go out without children, without tasks, without responsibilities and just be in the company of the person who has been a friend to you. Because if there is one thing that we were created for, it is friendship. We can’t do this alone, plus it’s way funner to day drink with your mombestie. Just sayin.