Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Making Mommy Friends, Lydia-Style

I am a mommy who firmly believes in the power of other mommies. As a new mom, it wasn’t until I found some really great mommy-friends to share the experience with that I truly embraced my new identity.  I was used to being me and then all of a sudden I was me, except pregnant and puking all the time.  Oh, and also with cankles.

Then I had the baby and I was me but with a tiny red wiggler to care for and it was so all consuming and exhausting that, after less than a year, I had sort of forgotten what a total bad ass I used to be who I was. And I was constantly plagued by fear that I was doing everything wrong. I kept thinking, this can’t possibly be normal. Normal people do not sob uncontrollably because their nursing bra broke.  Normal people don't accuse their dog of snoring too loud on purpose.

Having great mommy friends didn’t fix my problems or make me less of a train wreck, it just made me feel like I wasn’t alone in the struggle of it all. For me, one of the defining things about motherhood is that every day is a challenge to be the sort of person my kiddos deserve. It’s like Sisyphus trying to keep the playroom clean. It will probably never happen. But you’re hardwired to keep trying.

And because I am pro-mommy and because I think we all do better when we have lots of friends, I thought I’d write about the process of making them. Making new friends (in my opinion) isn’t as easy you might think. For me, the step from stranger to buddy takes about ten seconds. The step from buddy to friend can take a year or even two.

Every time a sport or a team or a school year or an activity starts up, you get thrown in with a new group of families.  Sometimes it’s less a new group than it is a new configuration of old faces.  But still, it’s an opportunity.  We’re about a month into the swim season here and new friendships are starting to form.  I'm already making a (heh heh) splash with other swim team mommies.

When I’m in this situation, I try to figure out which mommies really have friend potential, which to avoid and which I will merely end up being hihowyadoin friends with.  I can’t stress how important it is to do serious thinking about who you invite into your (and your family’s) life up front. Friendships can end.  And sometimes they end ugly and it can be really painful.  For example, Madonna and Gwyneth apparently hate each other now. And if those two kids can’t make it work, well… *sad head shake*  It’s just something for us all to think about.

So in order to prevent a Madonna/Gwyneth style meltdown and to help you weed out the Mommies Who Just Don’t Get It , the uber-Competitive Mommy or the much-feared Perfect Mommy – I have developed a couple of helpful checklists.

  • Says nasty or mean things about other people (especially other people’s kids) when she barely knows you.  Obviously, talking about Heidi Montag or Kate Gosselin doesn’t count. Just as obviously, if she’ll talk trash to you then she will talk trash about you.
  • Ignores her kids. This doesn’t mean she’s a bad person or a bad mom, it just means that you will spend a lot of time watching her kids. And her kids are probably sneaky little bastards not accustomed to being watched. Or are very used to doing whatever they can to get her attention.
  • Mean to her kids. We all lose our schmidt and we are often provoked by our offspring. There’s a difference between someone who’s trying to keep her kids from acting like a pack of rabid howler monkeys and someone who is just plain mean.
  • Thinks her kids can do no wrong. If her kids can do no wrong, then it’s always everyone else’s fault. I want my kids to absorb that mentality about as much I want them to grow up and move to Whore Island.
  • No sense of humor. If they can’t find the funny, we can always be friendly but we can never be friends. I mean, if we can't make booby jokes – do we really have anything to talk about?  Last week, the smell of poopy diaper wafted over to me and a group other moms at the pool.  Someone said: "What is that smell?" and I answered: "Chanel Number Two."  And two of the moms laughed but one was like, "Oh. Your joke was slightly more disgusting than amusing" except she said it with her eyes.  Which obviously makes her someone who shouldn't hang out with me too much.  Because if there's one thing I like more than booby jokes, it's jokes about crap.
  • Your kids and hers just don’t get along. If the kids can’t along, it probably isn’t going to work out.  Most kids will fight if they’re thrown together too much.  They'll start trying to kick each other in the face over disputes involving Super Mario Brothers like they were in the same family.  That's annoying but normal.  But if they just plain don’t like each other, it's not even worth it.  Maybe that's what happened to Madonna and Gwyneth…
  • Her husband is a douchebag.  If her husband is truly a dickhead, it's going to be a big problem. First of all, your husband will not want to hang with him. This will make things super awkward, ahem, supawk, when you have to keep finding excuses to say no to weekend plans with both families.  Also, do you want to leave your kids at his house so they can observe him saying the F word, sticking his hand down his pants and yelling: "Get Daddy a beer!"?  And then there's your friend, who will eventually want to vent to you about him and you will have to pretend that its OK that her husband is a useless sack of hair.  It's just a baaad situation and one you really want to avoid.
  • She doesn’t pass the gut check.  Sometimes people say things or disclose things or do things that hit your gut and make you feel all queasy.  And you just know that you're never going to feel better about it.  Things like: “My husband and I used to be swingers, like BIG TIME SWINGERS. Then we had kids and now we hate all fornicators.  And foreigners.” Or “My grandmother used to beat me with a switch and look how great I turned out. So now I beat my kids with a tree branches when they act up – which is like all the time.”
  • She doesn’t look like you. Let’s be honest here. Kate is fancy and I am a fashion disaster. Kate is super thin and nauseatingly fit. I am not so much. People who can’t be bothered to make an effort to look good... are judged. So too are those deemed to be trying too hard to look attractive.  It's one of those suck-ass lose/lose situations.  Try not to buy into that crap, or you could be missing out on your Kate or God Forbid, your very own Lydia. [Editor's Note: YEA ME! I got the original Lydia...Giddyup!  - Kate]
  • Politics.  Let’s say you’re really political and you meet another really nice mom and she is too. But your bumper stickers don’t match. Get past it. Some of my best friends are totally on the other end of the political fence and you know what? They are awesome and I'm a smarter, more well-informed, better person for opening myself up to their points of view.  Plus, I guarantee that you'll find things you both agree on (for example; John Edwards is King Douche, clean up the f*cking Gulf oil spill or fear my wrath).
  • She’s a little weird. Unless you think the weirdness is actually a big, boiling, seething pot of latent crazy – who cares? Look in the mirror, friend, you’re weird too. Kate loves Barry Manilow and goes to see him in concert every chance she gets. It’s her and gay men and blue haired ladies singing “Weekend in New England” while swaying with their eyes closed and she loves it.  Lydia and the Cap’n have named every single one of their vehicles for the past fifteen years (except the BWT) after original 90210 characters.  Our last Nissan wasn't silver... It was David Silver.
I’ve just spent some time outlining the negative stuff.  Let's move onto the good stuff.  Truthfully, there are only things I need to have in a friend:
  • A deep and abiding commitment to keepin’ it real. That does not mean that, like me, you must enjoy inappropriate and profane hiphop. Though that helps. What it means is that you’re not full of crap. I am interested in people who know who they are and are straightforward about it.  I am totally imperfect and a disaster and I accept that.  I once knew a golden retriever who failed the seeing eye dog exam like three times because he could never pass the grocery store test.  I'm like that.  And I can also be pretty annoying sometimes but some people actually like that because they get laugh at my expense pretty much all the time. Which is why I have any friends.
  • The Funny. I have learned the hard way that life is too short to take yourself seriously. Plus, I have a disorder. People who are overly earnest or self-important give me The Twitches. The uncontrollable urge to mock and snark and bring out the ridiculous in them.  Really? You’re a vegan? Drinking Starbucks? In a BMW with leather seats? Lecturing me about my carbon footprint? Want… To… Mock… But… Must… Remember… My… Manners… But the resolve never lasts and I end up saying something like: “I used to be vegan. But now I’m a weegan. I only eat vegetables and they have to be really, really small.”
  • Not Evil. There are some bad and crazy people out there. I try to avoid the people that are crazy in the bad way. Or crazy in way that makes me crazier. In ways that are bad instead or good or funny. Here's an example: Kate and I have decided that we are the Supreme Chancellor and Allied Commander of MommyLand. And those are our actual job titles. On our state and federal tax forms. So obviously, we’re perfect for each other because anyone else would think that was insane and we just think it’s hilarious. But its not evil.  Not yet...
Hopefully this has all been helpful. Remember, Kate and I are two mommies who might never have been friends.  But we are and she has made my life a much better and happier place.  I would never have had the courage to write a single word without her constant nagging encouragement.  Thank God for Kate… Without her I would be just another sad sack in dirty yoga pants ranting about my misery to myself, alone in my van down by the river.  With her, I am the Supreme Chancellor of our very own blog, who rants incoherently on the internet

How awesome is that? 


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