It used to be that I could go several days without talking to a single person other than my husband. I was even a full-time university student at the time. Lest you think that I did nothing but wallow in friendless self-pity, I assure you that I tried various tactics. I joined the glee club. That was an awful dreary experience (and nothing like the much-loved show). The rest of the glee club members, all a decade younger than this “non-traditional” student, mostly ignored me. The tipping point just before I quit came when a new girl joined the club. She strolled in on her first day, exuding cuteness with her blond perky ponytail, carrying a pizza box. “Hey Everybody! I was just walking past a frat house and these frat guys were outside on the porch, and they said they had too much pizza and gave me one! So who wants pizza?” Glee members swarmed around her. I was neither cute nor perky. Frat boys would never offer me anything other than a seat on the bus if perhaps I was looking especially old and haggard. In a few moments this girl had everyone talking to her. Nobody ever informed me of the Bring Pizza To Class Rule in order to make friends. And can you tell me, who ever heard of frat boys claiming to have Too Much Pizza? Glee club and various other tactics notwithstanding, I was still able to go through whole days without so much as a “Hey! How ya doin?”
I wished I had some friends. They didn’t have to be soul mates. After all, I had Jack, and I had my sister. What I missed was having someone to catch a movie with or share a laugh fueled by delicious dinner and wine or even just to walk to class together. I really miss having a shopping buddy who is as happy to spend an afternoon at the mall as I am. Shopping is fun when there are two of you laughing at clothing and arguing over styles. And the dismal failures in the dressing rooms aren’t depressing when there’s a friend to make light of them. A friend and I, both well past our prom prime, tried on a pile of awful poofy prom dresses, just for a lark. But I digress because she was a close best friend and confidant. I’d be happy now with just someone to gab with over coffee.
But, see, I did have friends once. I have photos of tulle prom dresses to prove it! What happened? People move far away. People marry or grow insular in the first years of romantic relationships. People grow apart. People lose touch, and in drifting away the bonds of friendship are loosed until all that is left is a cheery Christmas card exchanging photos of your families. Some friends are meant to reside permanently in your life, while others are meant to enrich your life for a short time and then to exist mostly in your memories. Then there are those friends who you silently wish would drift away, but remain ever annoyingly present through the relationship equivalent of a pacemaker. Of course I’m referring to Facebook. And now I’ve grown gloomy in the company of the ghost of friendships past.
But wasn’t there optimism and a hint of happiness in this post title? Yes, there was! And I can thank Sam for that for tonight I went out to dinner with several fellow mamas from his playgroup. We left the toddlers home with the menfolk so that we could indulge in a rare (rare for me!) mothers’ night out. I had a sweet pink martini with a silly name like Razzmatazz Tartlettini, the pan-seared duck breast with raspberry demi-glaze, and a glass of wine, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. The food was delish, but that wasn’t even the best part. The best part was that we did NOT spend the entire night talking about our babies! Woohoo for conversation not centered on milestones and poo!
Amazingly, a group of women with nothing more in common at the start besides the birthdates of our babies and yet we all enjoy each other’s company. We get together in parks or meet in our homes for the babies -now toddlers- to play. It’s been wonderful to have a group of women to connect with who were going through the same stages as we were. It’s been great that Sam has had friends to play with. It literally kept me sane during those early months when all I did was rock and nurse; but once a week I could leave the house to go rock and nurse with other exhausted nursing women. Once in a blue moon, we even leave the toddlers at home and go out for drinks and adult conversation. Did we talk some about the kids? Of course. Did we talk about subjects indirectly related to the kids? Yup, like what kind of money markets, 529s, savings accounts we’ve got set up for them. But we also talked about non-kid related subjects! You have to understand, I was so worried that the whole conversation would be around the usual topics, and at times I really crave discussion that is not about toddlers, even my own (gasp!).
But here’s where I start to doubt. Are these women my friends? Or is this just a temporary alliance? Once our tots grow up and begin to expand their horizons, will we still want to spend time together? Or will I have lost another circle of potential friends? How well do I even know these women? How closely can you know someone when 90% of conversation is about your kids? Certainly you can tell by now that I’m lousy at making new friends. So I’d rather not lose these budding friendships. I already sense that some of the women are forming closer bonds. My guess is that maybe they’ve gotten together one-on-one outside of the group play dates to hang out. Maybe I should try and set something up. It might be a little too soon though to try on poofy prom dresses together.
Or am I just deluding myself? Once a playgroup has served its function, do the relationships fade away?
We leave for play group in about 80 minutes. I love going to Sam’s play group. Miracle of miracles, a bunch of women who were all strangers with nothing in common but delivery dates, and yet we all get along. This group helped keep me sane during those first few months of motherhood feeling isolated, at home alone tied to the glider and nursing nearly non-stop all day. At the time, Sam wouldn’t nap unless he was in my arms, so I was glued to the chair even during his naps. During play group, we were still stuck in chairs holding our nursing and napping babies, but we had company and conversation, which like I said, was vital in keeping me sane.
Now during play group the moms place babies on the floor to play. Most of the babies are now crawling around, not the two youngest yet – my Sam and a baby girl. They sit on the floor or crawl around, playing with toys and squealing and babbling happily. Sometimes at a play date I have put him down on a blanket. But at last week’s play group, I kept him on the couch with me nearly the entire time.
I think floors are icky. They are covered with whatever you have tracked in on the bottom of your shoes. That means, if you stop at an interstate rest stop and use the bathroom, you could be standing in the same spot where a trucker had a $12 hooker the night before. An unlikely example I suppose, but my point is that the floor is grimy, and then you track that around. Last weekend we took Sam to see the baby goats at a dairy. Baby goats are cute, but their poop could have e coli in it, which then gets tracked around on your shoes. Or even just filth like oil residue from parking lots. So I don’t understand how people let their babies crawl around on floors. Even worse is when I see babies pick up random items off the floor and put them in their mouths. There is a baby at church who does this; I inwardly cringe every time. I’m also bothered by the sharing of drool when the babies pass toys around. Such great potential for getting sick.
I don’t think of myself as a germaphobe. I know enough science to understand how viruses and bacteria are spread. Thanks to my biologist husband, I understand that there are microorganisms surrounding us. Some can cause illness; many do not. It does not help when parents bring their children near my son, and they say “Don’t worry, she’s not sick.” Do they not understand that their daughter may not be sick but can easily transfer germs from another kid to Sam? Do they further not understand that their daughter may very well be sick but the symptoms won’t become obvious for another three hours? But that harmless sneeze was already filled with the virus. But I’m not a germaphobe because my awareness does not interfere with anything I do. I just wash my hands afterwards.
I am a hand washer. Soap is our friend – and not that antibacterial soap either – that stuff just breeds stronger and more resistant bacteria. In my home, there is no such thing as a 5-second rule. Once it falls on the floor, it ceases to be food; it is now trash. We try to always kick off our shoes when we come home, but we can’t assume that others do the same in their own homes. When Sam plays on the floor at home, it is on blankets that I have spread out. I can do this because, remember, he doesn’t crawl yet. We have plans to get our carpets cleaned soon so that I feel comfortable letting Sam crawl around and play freely at home.
But last week, I started feeling really bad that Sam was only sitting and watching the other babies playing (on the floor of a dog-owning mom who does not worry about things like germs). Therefore, today, I will put aside my disgust for Sam’s sake, and let Sam play on the floor with the other babies, sharing lint covered and drooly toys. I hope he has a great time, and I will smile at his happy smiles while he plays.