Connecting with Other Families Can Be Tricky

In my early twenties, making friends was easy– I was very social and I collected friends willy nilly. If I ended up with a friend who was annoying or had a weird quirk, I laughed about it and it wasn’t a big deal.

In my thirties I chose new friends more carefully. While I maintained friendships with a wide range of characters,  I wanted people around me who shared my interests.

After marriage I was not only concerned with my own wants/needs, but I had to consider how new friends might interact with Manly Guy.  But it didn’t really get complicated until we had kids.

When your kids hit a certain age (5?), they seem to bond better with some kids than others, and they start having opinions about who they spend time with.  So now you have to take into account their preferences.  When you (and your family) meet a new family, a whole host of requirements must be met if you are going to really connect with them and spend time together on a regular basis.  Both you and your husband should like both parents.  You need to like their kids.  You want to like their parenting style.  Your family schedules need to mesh up easily. Kids’ ages, parents’ politics, school and work schedules, after-school activities, entertainment choices– all these (and more) effect how one family connects with another family.

And this week I add a new one to the mix: Do you have “trade”?  If one family asks the other family a favor (“Hey, can you pick up my kid and drop them off at X with your kid later?”), is there opportunity for a reciprocal favor later?  If several favors are asked of one family, and there is no “trade”, then it is a lopsided relationship that ultimately doesn’t work.

Since we changed schools in September, we have had many attempts to more-closely-connect with other families, and I’m amazed/amused at how difficult the process can be.  So many factors go into whether or not the relationship will work on a more-than-occasional contact level.  Turns out that it is a rare thing when two families can spend lots of time together easily!  That doesn’t mean that we aren’t friends with many of the families that we’ve met (I’d like to think that we are), it just means that it seems to be more difficult than ever to find close friends. As life gets more complicated, fitting new people in gets trickier than before.

Of course, this makes me appreciate old friends all the more . . .  friends that I share years of history with and who can laugh at how much we’ve changed.  It’s funny that you don’t need as much in common currently with an old friend, since you can draw on shared past experiences. But friends whom Manly Guy and I have known since before we were married, who have also gotten married and have had kids . . . that is a special category.  People who made the same leap of faith that marriage entails, who risked their sanity by breeding, these old friends have a special place in my heart.

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