Tuesday, February 26, 2013

On Finding Friends

I love the Bowling for Soup song "High School Never Ends." It's too true that in our everyday lives and workplaces we run into petty, gossipy types, cliques, cold shoulders, and, for me, the same self-questioning I felt at 16.

A line that especially resonates with me is: "And you still listen to the same shit you did back then."

While I've been on my Road to Self-Improvement since my son was born thanks to a visceral need to gain more self-confidence and independence so I can be the very best mother I can be, I still have a naggy inner voice that I have to actively argue against pretty much every day.

The tales we tell ourselves for decades are hard to re-tell.

One such tale involves friendships. As a child, I had a very hard time making friends. The reasons for this are multitudinous and would be better explored in a novel or several years of therapy sessions. Not the least of them are my weight, which was heavy, and my natural propensity to introversion.

As an adult, I'm still an introvert. I don't know how to small talk effectively. I feel extremely stressed in large group situations where I only know a few people, or if I only know everyone slightly well, like work holiday parties. I'm not someone who on a plane will strike up a conversation with the stranger across the aisle and exchange Twitter handles at wheels down. I tend to have only a few friends, but those that I have I defend fiercely and trust completely.

As an adult, this is fine. I am who I am, and I've come to accept that I don't have gaggles of friends. But last week, my son--my not-yet-2-year-old son, mind you--wasn't invited to a daycare buddy's birthday party.

And my inner voice went wild.

Clearly, I am the reason his mother didn't invite Munch.

When our kids are toddlers and very young, the onus is really on the parents to connect and arrange the sacred Play Date. I do not do these things. I smile at the parents I pass at daycare; we may chat for a few moments about how silly our toddlers are; then, I pack up my kid and get home. I'm not part of a phone tree or a network of moms. Munch has been to one birthday party and he spent most of it crying on the ground because he wanted balloons he couldn't have. This too may have gotten him blacklisted.

Look, here are things I know:
  • Age 2 is really too young for a birthday party with friends.
  • The kid in question is the youngest of three and many of his daycare friends are also the youngest siblings in families--thus, they all know each other through other kids.
  • Munch is none the wiser that some of his daycare pals partied without him.
But my mind fast-forwarded to elementary, middle, high school and I panicked over the thought that Munch may have the same troubles I did. I want so badly for him to have a robust social life and to make friends easily and to have a diverse set of people to hang out with. I want him to be brimming with self-confidence (not cockiness), not plagued with self-doubt. And I want to be the one that bears him up, not holds him back.

Really, I want him to be like his father, who had tons of friends and who can more easily ignore slights.

Not like me.

We all worry that we will pass along the worst of ourselves to our children. Or, that in our raising of them, we will mould them into who we are, passing along bad habits and old foibles, despite our best efforts to do something, to be something different.


Munch is not me. Munch is made up of a mish-mash of DNA that has created this tiny unique individual who already shows signs of Being His Own Man. Munch will surely have his own struggles, they are inevitable, and they may be the exact opposite of my own. I cannot control his life or his personality. He is who he is.

And, maybe, someday he won't give a shit that someone didn't invite him to a birthday party. Maybe he'll make his own plans that night and be happier for it.

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