Maintaining The Friend Connection

by kayris on September 16, 2010

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Earlier this year, when my city was faced with a budget crisis, the mayor started making noises about eliminating bulk trash pick up. I knew the time had come to tackle a major chore I had been putting off for years–cleaning out the basement.

I’m not normally a procrastinator, but the enormity of this project was keeping me from forming a plan and getting to it. Our basement is accessible only by a very heavy trapdoor in the floor, and has low ceilings. Over the years, my husband and I had gotten into the bad habit of shoving things anywhere down there and it had become messy and crowded. I truly had no idea exactly what we had stored down there.

As I said, I did it. A big part of creating order down there involved giving away or selling baby and toddler gear and clothing that we no longer needed. Out went the double stroller, the baby toys, the infant pool float and the baby pool. I gave the pack n play and the baby gate to a friend having her first child, and the changing table and boppy pillow to another friend.

The basement looks great, but I realized the other day that my house is no longer a baby and toddler friendly place. We don’t have gates anymore. Outlet plugs don’t always get replaced when they are removed. Legos and other chokables are on low shelves. When friends with little ones come over, I try to remove the obvious hazards, but the parents need to be on their toes for everything else.

Earlier this year, we went out to dinner with family, including my brother and SIL and their then-20-month-old son. My nephew was seated next to me, and when I accidentally put my large steak knife down next to my plate, within reach of him, my brother leaned over, rolled his eyes at me and relocated the knife. He figured I would know better, but it’s funny how quickly your forget. My kids don’t grab knives, put non-food items in their mouths, or need help getting off the couch or up the stairs.

I’ve forgotten what it’s like to scarf down your food while your partner walks with the baby outside. I’ve forgotten what it’s like to plan things around naptime. Stroller accessibility doesn’t play into my choices of where to go. I no longer have diapers or baby wipes on me at all times. In fact, I carry a regular purse.

I’m enjoying all the stages as my kids, now 6 and going on 4, grow up, but I’ve also found that it makes me feel a little disconnected from friends with babies. I love it when my Facebook friends post photos of their newborns, but find I have little to contribute when it comes to baby questions because so much has changed in just a few short years. When mine were small, it was okay to let your baby sleep in his infant carseat, crib bumpers were thick and padded, and pediatricians still recommended waiting to introduce peanuts until age 3. Many of my friends are just starting their families and my family is in a completely different place. How do you connect with a friend that wants/needs to talk about teething and breastfeeding when you want/need to talk about sending your child to school and peer pressure?

It reminds me a little of after high school, when the people who went to college drifted away from people who went directly to jobs, or the time after college when people who got married drifted away from their single friends.

What do you think? Have you been able to remain friends with people at a different life stage? Have your children changed your friendships with childless couples? Has the age of your kids made it difficult to stay friends with other parents?

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kayris (29 Posts)


{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Jennifer September 16, 2010 at 12:46 pm

Your post reminds of when I go to visit my sister. She has all gates removed and there are a million choke-able and dangerous items within my small child’s reach. It drives me nuts as she made me babyproof my house for when her children came to visit but (to me) doesn’t seem to care about mine.

I find in terms of stress (and understanding) it is sometimes easiest to have friends with kids around the same age, though we still have friends that don’t.

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Jen September 17, 2010 at 7:14 am

Since I’m the one with the baby (9mo.), I am not *quite* in the situation you describe. I’m always happy to get in conversations with my friends who have older kids because I know it won’t be long before I’m in the potty-learning/school/etc. phase myself! That said… it *has* been hard to keep the friendships up with my friends who haven’t gotten married and had children. A dear friend from college used to call me every week, but lately it’s been awhile. Her life is full of exciting parties and dating… while what excites me now is a playdate at the park or the (rare) chance to actually sit down and eat lunch! But I think the reason we’re drifting apart isn’t so much that we are in “different places in life” but rather that we’re both a little bored by the other person’s lifestyle. She really couldn’t care less what my daughter is doing… and I’m frankly getting tired of hearing about the newest man *this* month. So! I wonder if the parenting delema you mentioned can be somewhat smoothed over simply if/when both moms can find a way to sympathize and listen to each other — whether the delema is peer pressure at school or teething troubles.

Oh, and and regarding the comment about a sister wanting you to childproof your home… why not tell her you’ve made your place “child friendly” for the ages of *your* children!

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CHuang September 17, 2010 at 11:13 am

I can totally understand what you were saying about how quickly we forget what it’s like to have a baby. I am experiencing the 2nd time around. My baby is only 8 months old and I seemed to already forgot how to hold a newborn already when I held one couple of weeks ago. Now my baby is crawling, I find myself building the learning curve again on babyproofing the house. It’s more difficult this time since I have an older child who likes to play lego or marbels.

Among my college friends, I am the only one with children. A couple is not thinking about it yet. Another is not going to have children at all, and one friend is still single. Since I am a stay at home mom, I feel my own conversation pieces must be boring to my friends since they all involve baby and kid stuff. And when I have a parenting dilema, I find myself talk about it with my college friends with less enthusiam as I would talking to them about other stuff. I simply belief that, with some rare exceptions, one just can’t understand what having babies and kids are like until they have one of their own. I thought I knew what it was all about before I had kids, and Boy! was I wrong and surprised. Experiences from babysitting and having nieces and nephews are just not the same. Until one is granded the title of Mom or Dad and charged with the responsiblity, one can hardly truely understand the burden and joy it brings.

However, I don’t drop my friendship with my friends because, well, I love them. I talk to them less now because, well, I have my hands full. But when I talk to them, I find their interest in my family as sincerely as they can be. I do learn that if I decide to share my parenting challenges with them and they decided to give their advice, I need to take only what I want out of it. I smile and nod at their advice on how to set limits and discipline, but I listen whole heartly about their own childhood experiences. I feel I can benefit from getting to know them better and also perhaps someday I can avoid making some of the mistakes their parents made.

It’s not easy to maintain a friendship when our lives are so different. It takes effort and care, just like any relationship would. And it’s always rewarding to share each life’s milestone with the ones you love and care whether you have been (or will be) there or not.

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