I’ve been thinking a lot about my life here in this small town and how it has come to be “my ridiculously amazing life”. Let me first get this straight with you. My life has a million ups and downs. My children are far from perfect, my husband is far from perfect and obviously, so am I. But somewhere in the past few months there has been a shift. A shift toward appreciation. A shift toward a settled life. In many ways, I’ve come to accept that life doesn’t have to be perfect to be amazing.
One of the amazing and imperfect aspects of my life is my friendships. I can’t say I’ve struggled to make friends during my life (though at times, I’ve struggled to keep them), but as an adult with a family, we all know it’s a lot harder to find people that not only do you connect with, but your kids and your spouse connect with, too. There’s a lot of moving parts. Attitudes, opinions, play styles, hobbies and interests. It’s hard to find people who share those same things. Not that all of your friends need to share all of that with you and yours, but it helps to have a few things in common.
In the previous season of my life, I isolated myself a bit. I was at first a new mom with two adopted kids. Then I was a mom with two newly adopted kids and a baby and I felt insecure. Insecure about my position. I had no idea how to parent and in nine months I was blessed to abundance with two children (3 & 5 at the time) and a surprise newborn. I didn’t know ….well, I didn’t know anything. And I felt insecure about the looks I got waddling around with a baby in utero and two brown skinned kids. So I kept to myself and I didn’t really try to make friends. Now, I’m over it. This is who we are. Family of five with a couple different colors. Take it or leave it.
Anyway, once I got over my own insecurities and adjusted to our new life, here is how, in the last season of my life I have made friends. If you are lonely or wanting to expand your circle or desperate for company, here’s a few tips from my own life and friendships.
1. Get out with the kids
The library, local museums, parks, these are all places where other moms hang out. It is very easy to start a conversation with a mom if you are both pushing your toddlers on the swing. You don’t have to jump down anyone’s throat or anything, but you clearly have things in common. If you find out it’s just that you both have toddlers- no big deal. You don’t need to take everyone home, but you can test the waters everywhere you go. Fishing for friends.
2. Stay local
It is WAY easier to hang out with people who live near you than it is people who live far away. I have two wonderful friends who I only get to see every six weeks or so because they live 30 minutes away. We have a million things in common and all the things that matter: our kids like to play together, our husbands are friends and we love to share deeply. But with naps and school and activities, it is hard to drive 30 minutes each way to spend time with people. We do it and we maintain those connections, but it’s easier to have friends nearby. There’s a great little place in our town that we like to hang out at. It’s actually a biergarten, but it’s kid friendly. It’s set up in a way that kids can run around and parents can chat easily. It’s a perfect place to go and meet people who live nearby. Find places like this where chatting with others is easy and natural and spend time there. Make local haunts your favorite places. You’re sure to run into a friend, someone you see at church but haven’t talked to or someone who looks like they want to be your friend (keep your eyes out for desperate, wide-eyed looks bordering on insanity. This is the look of a mom).
3. Start conversations
This should go without saying. If you are lonely, don’t isolate. Talk to people when you are out. A friendly conversation can lead to a friendship. As it was with Amanda and I: we were sitting next to each other at the nail salon and I liked her tattoo. So, I asked about it. That simple question led me to my BFF. How easy was that?? As Amanda tells it now that she knows me, she knows how hard I actually worked for our newborn friendship. She gave me her info and twice before she ever pursued me, I pursued her. It was hard, but I knew it was worth it and I was lonely.
4. Make friends with your neighbors!
Hands down this is the best way to make friends. A few weeks ago I hosted a neighborhood BBQ. I have been wanting to do this for some time and I finally decided that I wouldn’t let any more obstacles stop me and I didn’t care how many people came or didn’t come. I printed up invitations, and the kids and I walked them to all of our neighbors. It was a smashing success (and not just because I accidentally got smashed). I was able to make new connections and pursue people for friendships after the BBQ. I met people I hadn’t met that live right on my own block. This also helped me to lay down expectations of what a friend should look like. Lots of my neighbors are older and some are empty nesters, but I can befriend anyone. Who says my friends all have to be like me?
5. Don’t be afraid to approach someone who looks like they should be your friend
I recently missed an opportunity. My kids and I were walking downtown when I saw a white woman crossing the street with a brown baby in her arms. She had a friendly and open face and I wanted to grab her by the arm and forcefully request that she be my friend. I suppose my method would have scared her away resulting in the lost opportunity anyway, but still, I could have tried to chat with her. Instead, we smiled big at each other and said hello. Here is a woman who most likely has something in common with me (I’m making some assumptions here that this was her child, ect), and I could have forged a connection. The very next day I was at the splash pad with the kids when I saw a lady come in with her obviously adopted son. I watched her for a while and before I could approach her, I didn’t see her again. Then suddenly she was behind me, grabbing me desperately and asking if we could be friends. (Ok, it wasn’t like that exactly, but she approached me). We exchanged numbers and I’m sure we will see one another again. As she said, “We need to stick together”. Amen, sister. Amen.
6. Be approachable
This is a big one for me. Having adopted children, we get a lot of questioning looks. People want to know “the story” and I’m not a billboard. I don’t want to tell everyone how my children came to be mine, what happened to their parents or where “I got them”. It’s nunya. I have had to intentionally open my face and lift my head and avoid the stares in order to be approachable. If someone comes up and is inappropriate with their questions, I can cut the conversation short real quick. But I don’t have to assume everyone wants to pry. I can look up, smile and be available for conversations.
7. Go where you go and be there
Do you attend church? Go to a gym? Wherever you go, be there. Meet people. Stay and talk after class or church. All of your friends don’t have to be mom friends. They can be whoever. Friends you meet for coffee without the kids. But if when you go somewhere, you are all there and fully present it’s more likely you will meet someone. Put down your phone (this applies to all situations) and say “hi” to someone who looks like they should be your friend.
What do you think? Can you try a couple of these things? Do you have other best practices for finding friends? Friends are the best and we need them. We need a tight circle of people loving us, hugging us and kicking our asses when we need it. Whether you are a mom or not. You need friends. Step out and see if you can’t meet one new person this week!