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Saturday, April 16, 2005

Who do you trust?

I completely love the women I'm friends with today. I feel hugely grateful and fortunate to know them. But they probably aren't people I would have been friends with in high school. They have different tastes in music. They don't live on my block. They come from different socioeconomic backgrounds. It's not that I would have necessarily disliked them, but we probably would have had different circles of friends if we had gone to high school together.

And when you're an at-home parent without a long-time circle of friends and family, where do you make your friends? In high school, it was pretty clear-cut. We all took the bus together. We all wandered from class to class together. We glanced inside other kids' lockers to see if they have the same New Order or The Smiths stickers we had.

But now that we aren't taking the bus to school or sitting in class with other kids all day, how do we find our friends? We don't live with our parents. We don't live in the same town or state we grew up in.

Miriam over at Playground Revolution recently posted about a weekend in North Carolina talking with other women about parenting and grown-up friendships. She wrote: "(F)riendship in adult life is not really about finding kindred spirits and soulmates, as we used to think, but rather, about being there, about going to the Y three times a week and talking to the same people, or, for many parents, going to the playground, or the schoolyard, and suddenly, those people become your friends even if they're not who you thought you'd be best friends with."

It's true, we find the grown-up equivalent to going to school and meeting kids that have similar interests. Only instead of looking for people who like photography, or are vegetarians, or who also work for the high school newspaper, we bond through seeing each other at the park or the mothers' club playgroup. The common thread is our kids and the fact that we show up, not our background or what street we live on. We see each other at the park, we can look at their kids and watch how they interact with them.
We all talked about this for a while, and agreed, but the conversation held a bemused tone, as if to say that we didn't quite believe that being there is enough to build friendship on. And then Vivian made a comment that being there is an expression of trust. That when five mothers or fathers see each other five times a week at the playground, there's a level of trust that builds up. They are showing each other that they are present, that they can indeed be counted on. It doesn't have to be spoken, but that's why playground friendships build so strongly, even among people who have little else in common. She took something that seemed trivial--making friendship on something so silly as being in the same place at the same time, repeatedly--and linked it with one of the most fundamental of human desires and qualities: trust
Another reason that these friendships and bonds become so strong is because in addition to just physically being in the same place at the same time, these people meeting at the playground time and again are also emotionally, mentally, psychologically in the same place at the same time. They are all raising little kids who like to go to the playground. And having that bond off the bat helps people feel connected as well, which also leads to trust.


  1. Anonymous7:10 AM

    I completely understand your thoughts.. I was a high school athlete and NEVER would have been friend with (heaven forbid) a cheerleader or someone on the drill team.. Now most of my best friends were on their high school's drill team. It is because they are the in the same life phase as me.. Kids the same age. Some of my best friends in high school with exception of one, is nowhere near my life phase. ONe is an officer in the Navy. Not married and no kids, never plans to have either.. My kids lovingly refer to her as Aunt Liz.. Another one just got married last Oct. She inherited 2 teenage boys from her husband and wants to finish school before she has children of her own.. Another is also married to a man with teenage daughters and one son that is married, she is already a grandma, but is unable to have children of her own at this point. The one that is in the same phase is Jen, she just had her 5th baby and is totally on the same page.. She lived up the street from me when I lived in Bremerton.. When we all get together we have a blast, but I find myself talking to Jen a hundred more times that the other 3.

  2. I totally feel the same way. Some of the moms I have met probably would not be my friend if we didn't have children the same age who liked to play together. It's great to just be with people who are in the same boat, to hear about their own trials and tribulations, and I get a little reassurance that my kids aren't as bad as I think they are when they've had 'one of those days'. In our own circle of friends, I find myself gravitating towards those who have children of their own. Even though we were never close in the past, we have this one thing in common that has pretty much taken over our lives, and it makes for great conversation.

  3. Well, I'm so glad to have found this after following you here from your comment on my post! Thank you for your kind wishes. I'm hoping to spend more time here later, because you have a lot to say that I'm interested in. Especially this post.

    It's timely, because this afternoon we're off to our second playdate with the new group. They're very involved as a group, with a name, a Yahoo newsgroup, a recipe book and frequent mini-gatherings. I was talking about this with a close friend, and she summed it up perfectly by saying "It's just like getting ten new verybestfriends, isn't it?". That's not what I was looking for - I wanted just a little connection and consistency for Josephine. That is something foreign to me in my pre-parent life, and I have to work at it.

    Perhaps this is just a symptom of my reluctance to embrace every aspect of parenthood. I still want to pick and choose. Maintaining my old definition of friendship may be difficult. There needs to be a greater variety of words for friends or aquaintances - like the Inuits' forty words for snow.

    The loosely grouped "tiers" I have in "friendship" to date: (vaguely) the bosom buddies, the casuals, the socials, etc. all have to do more with me than with motherhood. The commonality was choice - we found something in each other that enables us to converse and enjoy each other however briefly or frequently or intimately as happens. A friendship based on appointment and situation doesn't seem like a friendship to me - yet? Are they any less genuine for having been fostered or nurtured? I don't have the experience to know. My intention is not to diminish the potential, or anyone else's existing just because it's foreign to me.

    In time, I may connect with one or more of these people, but as yet, there have been none of the immediate sparks that have identified the beginnings of great friendhships as I know them. I am still invisible to the people in these mothers groups because I am not me in them.

  4. Anonymous7:08 PM

    I understand some of your thoughts.
    When I was at high school i had a few good friends who all went in different directions in their lives from myselfand live overseas so i do not see them. Now that i am married with three school age children i find it hard to make any lasting freindships with other mothers with children the same age .These mothers all seem to be on a different page than me and if i do happen make a friend they turn into the friend from hell.