When I first became a parent, I didn’t think about the friends that I had or the ones that would come in my life. With a newborn, I plunged myself day and night tending to the needs of my baby. Some old friends did try to talk with me but I was too busy for them. No, not ‘too busy’. I simply was not in the ‘state of mind’ to return their calls. My husband and my son became the center of my universe. But nothing lasts forever. And so, the feverish parenting phase finally smoothed down. My son turned a little older and I found time for the things I had been missing out. First, I started reading the books that I had missed out.
I even found time to make entries into my journal. At one point, I could even make time to work on a story after a gap of three years. I loved this phase but I still lacked something. I quickly realized that I didn’t have any friends. The old friends were there on my Facebook. I could pick up the phone and dial to one of them right away. We could either spend hours in conversation or the friend might be too busy for me or we might have nothing to talk about. Sometimes, friendship fades away with time. One of the two people might not be in the ‘state-of-mind’ to make meaningful conversations.
I found that I had lost most of my first friends and had probably just a couple of them with whom I could still talk. So, I set out to make new friends. Recently, I moved to a new apartment for larger space and mostly because I am looking for a family friendly community. On day two, when the skies were clear and warm, I walked outside to the community park with my toddler. As I scanned for prospective friends, I realized that I mostly looked for people who were hanging out with children.
Of course, I should have known it! I am looking for friends who have children so that my son could play with them. I am eager to talk with other parents about their child’s eating and sleeping habits. We talk about which schools are the best and how toddlers are so exhausting. This is basically the only conversation parents of children can have. Well, I think it’s nice to talk about things in common. But what scared me was that – will I ever make friends with people who I actually like to talk?
Will I continue to make friends only so that my children can also be friends with children of other people? If that’s the case, then they surely won’t be my true friends. Of course, I will reap the benefits of such friendships. But they surely won’t be anything like those friends that I made during my school or college where we never measured if we were married or had children or had careers. We ended up being friends only because we wanted to be friends.
This truth has gripped me, jarring me into a different world. On another thought, I tell myself if I noticed a woman walking past me who probably enjoyed her life in a different way. She probably had a big group of friends and was planning on her next holiday. She would, perhaps, spend all evening watching Netflix or partying or seeing her boyfriend. Her life is so different from mine.
Will she be interested in being my friend and listen to me talk about baby food and diapers? I guess not. But I decided not to worry about this so I flipped the coin to see what’s on the other side.
My European Friend
Now, that might not be entirely a wrong thing. Recently, I met a European woman and her two boys. My son hit it off instantly with her kids and decided to meet each evening. Now, the problem here was that the woman and I had nothing in common. We came from different countries. We ate different food. We had different likes and dislikes. We didn’t have one language in common so there was no way of knowing our thoughts. She didn’t speak English. I didn’t speak Serbian. The only thing we had in common was children. We were both parents.
To my surprise, we became friends over the course of time. Not like the ones who met for coffee every evening to bitch about other woman. Not like the ones who spoke endlessly about how their children were driving them mad. There was not much talking between the two of us. We simply met for play dates and let our children play. If one of the kids hit the other, we would pacify them. There was a quiet understanding between us, that we were strangers coming from different parts of the world meeting up in a strange country but that we could still help each other.
I now think that the idea of making friends is constantly changing at every phase, just like how situations change.
Being friends with my husband
My husband is my friend. Yes, that’s a nice thing to say. But sometimes, he is just the man with whom I have a baby. We play our roles well. On most days, I am just the wife and he is just the husband. Anyway, while we go about this routine, there are times when our roles change and pause us in our tracks.
On those nights, when our toddler falls sick and chooses to cry non-stop, my husband and I stay up all night, taking turns to rub each other’s backs and chat endlessly. If we are lucky and the baby goes to sleep, we might make some tea and talk about how the old times were full of bliss. ‘Yesterday is always the easy day’. It’s the today and tomorrow that feels the hardest.
Anyway, on such nights, we are not just husband and wife. We are simply two people forced to stay awake and make conversation. And by doing this, we learn to become friends all over again. Of course, once things settle in, we return to our old roles with a new sense of feeling for each other.
Friends, then and now
Time and again, I often think to myself that it was easy to make friends at a young age. When I visit a park with my three-year-old, I see that it hardly takes a minute for him to make friends with a new kid. But when it comes to adults, there are various filters that we apply to decide if a person can be a friend or not.
Just watching my son playing with another child reminded me of my friends that I made at kindergarten. No wonder, I hear people often complaining that first friends remain friends for a lifetime and the new ones just linger around. I think it’s because the first friends were formed only for what they were. But as we grow, we tend to judge people and the idea of friendship changes overtime.
I ask myself very often, why do I think so much about friends anyway? Is it because I simply have too much time? Is it because I am just a needy person? But then, we all are needy in some way.
Perhaps, it’s because friends are the most treasured people who are not awarded the way they deserve to be. Friends are important at every phase of life. Let’s learn to hold on to those dear, precious people.