I am envious of my daughter, E, for many reasons. At 4 years old, she is still in that sweet and innocent stage. She hasn’t gone to public school yet and had some cynical brat tell her Santa isn’t real or been approached by some smart ass, asking her to spell “I cup”. Her greatest ambition is too consume as many ice pops as humanly possible and become the Incredible Hulk. As many times as I tell her that it’s really not good if her stomach gets big and turns green, she always just laughs and says, “Mommy, you’re so silly!” The one thing that stands out most about her though, and the thing I envy, is that she considers every kid a friend.
Whenever we are getting ready to go to the park, she always wants to bring something new to show to her friends. We’re still relatively new to the area and don’t really know anyone, outside of my husband’s work. So when we go to the park there is inevitably a new group of never-before-seen kids running around. But to her, they’re all her friends. And for those brief hours of our outing, they truly are. She has this amazing ability to just insert herself into a group of people and flourish. She never gets bossy or controlling. She goes along with whatever activity is already in progress, and 99% of the time she remembers her manners.
I’m in awe of this. I was never like that. I’m still not like that. I was an awkward child who preferred to quietly read, or play on my own. Going into middle and high school, I had a handful of friends that I ate lunch with and prayed would be in the same class as me, so that during partner projects I wasn’t the outcast saddling some duo with a third wheel. I came out of my shell a bit in college. I purposely chose a college 4 hours away so that I could immerse myself in a new environment and group of people. I wanted the ability to have a fresh canvas and not be with people who knew me as the klutzy, social outcast from elementary school.
And it worked. I came out of my shell a little bit and met some wonderful people who not only accepted me, in spite of my quirks, but loved me because of them. It’s really hard reflecting back on those 4 years, when we were all within the same town, never really more than 5 minutes from each other. Now we’re literally spread all over the country. We still keep in touch, and when we’re together it’s almost like a year or so hasn’t passed between gatherings. But it will never be the same as being a dorm door or 2 away from each other. After college, I moved back to my hometown where I still had a network of friends and family. While I missed my college gang, I at least had others to spend time with and keep some sense of a social life. It may have been a small social life that consisted more of basket bingos and home parties, and not so many bars and clubs, but still, it was something.
Now it’s my turn to play the part of new kid in town and I can’t decide which is worse- making friends as an awkward kid or making friends as a socially acceptable awkward adult. As a kid, who your parents were friends with kind of dictated who you were friends with. I find myself doing the exact opposite these days. When we go to the park, I find myself hoping that one of my adorable kids can help me spark a connection with another mom. It works, but only for short term small talk- “How old is your little one?” “So cute, don’t you just love that age?” “Oh, but don’t you miss this?” I’m certainly not under the delusion that I’ll have some deep, personal connection with another mom, as I scoop out what feels like the 50th fistful of sand from Little J’s mouth and make sure my eyes are following the correct yellow shirt around the park. But it’d be nice if, at the end of playtime, someone would say “Hey let’s ditch the diaper bags for actual purses and meet up for coffee sometime.” Unfortunately, I don’t see myself having that sort of confidence at the moment. I don’t know if it’s the “small fish in a big pond” mentality that I still have going, but I always feel slightly intimidated and inferior on some level. It feels like if I would propose more than small talk, such as a lunch or play date, it would make me seem desperate for any adult interaction (though really, I am). Where if someone else would suggest it, it means I’m accepted and considered equal.
I’m putting all this out there to be honest with myself. I’m not trying to throw myself a pity party (as much as I would love an excuse for cupcakes right now) or play on people’s sympathies. The words of Eleanor Roosevelt keep ringing in my head- “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” I know this is true and I’m not trying to change who I am to fit in with the Hollywood scene. And I’m trying to keep a sense of perspective. We’ve only been here for 3 months and I have to give myself more time and more opportunities to meet people. It’s a big city. I know I won’t be friendless forever. Good things come to those that wait right? ( I have no clue who said that.)
On the other hand, 3 months is a long time to go with minimal adult contact and the Doc McStuffins soundtrack stuck on repeat mode in my brain….