February: the month of love. Love takes many different forms, and lately I’m feeling particularly grateful for the friendships in my life. Parenting young children can be an isolating experience, even for a natural introvert like me. I meet many other parents “in the trenches” of this wonderful-yet-crazy time and, while we amicably commiserate and show solidarity over the daily challenges, once our kiddos come out of preschool or the swimming lesson is over, we go our separate ways.
Sometimes our conversations stray from our offspring and we talk about what we love/do/aspire to apart from family life. I’ve experienced flashes of connection when I see a kindred spirit and think: this person would be a lovely friend! Then I sigh as I remember everything on my plate and wonder where a new friendship could possibly fit in.
It’s moments like these when I am grateful (and often wistful) for my existing friendships. I am fortunate to have a handful of close friends who I think of as family. I’ve known my oldest friend for over 40 years, almost my entire life. These beautiful souls see me and love me for who I am, flaws and all. And they knew me before I became a parent.
When I’m feeling, literally, self-less—as in, I’ve become so consumed in the day-to-day slog of keeping a preschooler and a teenager fed, healthy, happy, and safe that “I” start to fade out of the picture—these friends are my lifeline. I don’t see many of them in person these days, since we are scattered across the globe, but thanks to technology (and the postal service!) there are still ways to connect.
On my last birthday I was feeling pretty low. It had been a rough week on the parenting front and celebrating being another year older was not a priority. That morning, my phone rang. It was a good friend, calling to wish me happy birthday and have a chat.
My friend doesn’t know this, but in that moment that call meant everything to me. It reminded me that there was a life outside the immediate challenges, one where I was appreciated and seen as more than a food-dispenser/mess- cleaner/entertainment co-ordinator/taxi service.
Last December another dear friend visited B.C. from overseas. She wasn’t able to come over to the Island, so I took the ferry as a foot passenger and spent the afternoon with her at Tsawwassen Mills. Mall shopping is something we hadn’t done together since we were teenagers, and that in itself brought back sweet nostalgic memories.
At one point in our visit she suggested that we rent a couple of those ride-on scooters that look like giant stuffed animals. I thought she was joking, but she was fully serious. I initially demurred, not wanting to look silly, but she talked me into it…and I’m so glad she did.
For 10 glorious minutes, I felt carefree. Deep, healing belly laughter erupted from both of us as we took turns doing figure eights and filming each other (you know, for posterity). I’m sure the man running the rental stand thought we were funny in a different way, but gosh, riding that stuffed panda like a giddy teenager was one of the highlights of my year.
I love being a mom, and I’m immensely grateful for my family, but reconnecting with friends helps me reconnect with important parts of myself that tend to go into hibernation during this busy season of my life. They ask me about things I forget I used to love, goals I used to work towards. I don’t ever want to take that for granted, or take them for granted.
That’s why this February I want to mindfully connect with all of these special people and let them know how much they mean to me. Friendships, like gardens, need to be tended, even when there is so much else going on. The fruits they bear sustain us through hard, dark times and make joyful moments that much more poignant.
And, hopefully, the next time I find myself connecting with a “new” person on the sidelines of one of my son’s activities I will actually suggest we meet up for a coffee. My son is busy making new friends—I might as well join in on the fun!