My kid keeps asking if one of his friends from school can come over. My first thought was that the tables had turned, and now parenthood wasn’t a question of incorporating my child into my social life, but he asking me to facilitate his. My second thought was that this was sweet, that my child liked a person who he met out there on his own, a person whose friendship he’d earned on his own merits. My third and lasting thought was fear. How would I possibly make this happen? I am not qualified to go up to another kid’s mom and ask her if her kid would be interested in some extracurricular play time with my kid. What if I have spinach in my teeth? What if she says no? What if her kid doesn’t like my kid as much as my kid likes her kid? What if we are rejected?
I should be able to just reach out to the kid’s mom, and invite her and her kid over, or even just the kid, if she doesn’t want to come, or has another thing to do, or wants an afternoon off. When I was a kid there were drop offs, and dinners over, but I don’t remember a time when me and my friend played while our moms chatted in the other room. It sounds lovely, this chatting in the other room, perhaps over coffee, comparing notes about the kids, about the school, about the husbands.
I’m no stranger to arranging play time between my kid and some other kid, but in every instance, the kids have been the kids of my friends, and I already know how to contact my friends, and talk to them. Getting the kids together is basically an excuse to see each other. My husband paraphrases Sartre and says “hell is other children’s parents.” And it is a whole new crazy component to my otherwise self-centered social life. Am I supposed to make friends with my kid’s parents? Do they want to make friends with me? Is my inability to make friends with the mom of my kid’s friend going to stand in the way of my kid being friends with that kid? Does that mean that kids with asshole anti-social parents are destined to be asshole anti-social kids, just through fault of circumstance? I’m always on the verge of saying something weird, or over sharing, or of just being so uncertain about my status as a grown-up that I end up trying to slip around the school building to sneak a joint.
It’s not that I don’t want to make new friends, I just don’t really know how. I like the friends I have, my actual original friends, who I was friends with before any of us had kids, and I barely even see them. Mostly we live in the same city, but even so, we live in different neighborhoods with odd, extended public transit options, so we don’t get together with them, or their kids, as much as I would like. It takes a long time to get to my friends, and domestic lives need to be adjusted all over the place. Domestic lives are a real pain in the ass. Sometimes Dave or I will have plans with actual friends, and one of us will be planning to stay home with C. When the time comes to leave the house, the person with the social engagement will be like, “I can’t go, I’m too tired, I’m just going to stay home.” And the other person will repeat one of our mantras “you like your friends, and if you want to continue having friends, you have to go see your friends.” Inevitably, we will be So Glad to have actually gone to see these people that we will encourage the other person to make plans with friends, and the cycle will repeat.
Original friends are easy, they’ve already forgiven you for all your basic flaws, they already know how weird you really are on the inside, they know what you’re capable of when you’re not 100% sleep deprived and they basically like you. New friends, especially new mom friends, well that seems super hard. Not that I’d really know from experience, because I’m failing at making new mom friends. I feel like I have to be someone I’m not. This could be idle paranoid anxiety, but I don’t feel socially acceptable enough to be a mom friend. Mom friends drink tea together, and complain about their housekeeper. Mom friends wear yoga pants to drop off and pick up, and look outstanding doing it. Mom friends aren’t afraid to leave the house without a shower. Mom friends apologize for their messy house which, in its disaster state, is a hundred times more put together than mine at it’s best, with the hand-me-down blankets and cast-off furniture. Mom friends run errands, and are not obsessed with making one trip out of the house during which everything that needs to be accomplished is accomplished, and then one trip back, upon which they will not leave the house again for the remainder of the day. Mom friends smile even when they don’t mean it, and don’t feel the need to be as sincere as possible in every given moment. Mom friends hide things like affairs and their natural hair color and their true feelings, not a deep seated general fear of everything conceived of on earth and in the broader universe. Mom friends own things, like homes, and cars, and china plates. Mom friends talk to their in-laws on the reg, and complain about how their husbands didn’t get them that tennis bracelet they wanted.
It doesn’t seem possible that I could be a mom friend. Mom friends can’t have this much debt and so little to show for it. Mom friends can’t have so many degrees and no foreseeable, sustainable income. Mom friends aren’t always trying to find a new angle on their existing life. Mom friends are gonna see through me. My natural impulse is to hide out, and say forget it, but the problem remains. C wants to have a friend over, and somehow I have to make it happen. My only solace is that within a few years, he’ll just be able to ask the kid himself, and all I’ll have to do is say ‘yes.’
a tale of two birthday parties: one for a school friend of C’s, one for my friend with kids