Yesterday I said goodbye to a family who is moving away. They're military, so we knew it was coming but it still stinks. My daughter cried all night, mourning the "loss" of her friend. I've been sad as well, but for other reasons. My sweet girl is already missing the sleep overs and their recess time at school. I'm thinking about what this new assignment will bring for the family: Whether they'll be happy, surrounded by good people, and if a deployment will be in their future. I worry. Because nothing bad is allowed to happen to them. Ever.
Plus, there's the fact that they're gone. And I'm basically a huge coward about making new friends. I'm awesome at making acquaintances. But actual friends? As a grown-up? It all feels like such a risk. It's not uncommon for me to know someone for years before we decide if we like each other enough to make the transition from chatting in Target to actually being real friends.
Kids, on the other hand, love to make new friends. It’s maybe the best part of being a kid. My children can do it in about 12 seconds. They see someone and with a single question: "do you want to play?", it's done. They're too young to care about things like status or coolness or potentially awkward moments. They're certainly not preoccupied (as I am) with what this new person is thinking about them. Am I too loud? Are my clothes stupid? Am I being annoying right now? What if I like them but then they turn out to be crazy?
Kids don't worry about that stuff. They just want to play. They want to have fun and be silly and share things and be themselves and talk about the stuff that they're interested in. They stay open to all of it, and, as a result, it finds them. And the friendship of children is real and meaningful. They trust each other in a way that I might no longer be capable of. I think I'm too old and jaded and aware of the cruelty that middle school unleashes on one's psyche. Or the reality of new jobs in new cities, or getting orders to report for duty far away.
Which is why increasingly, the grown-up part of my heart sees a potential friend and it thinks: No. Don't get attached.
In summation, counselor, I can't make any new friends right now. Because of all those things. Also, it's scary and hard.
And then I find myself in the midst of one of my “Auld Lang Syne” holiday moments, weeping silently in my van, missing my grandparents and my stepmother, and thinking of my cousins without their mom for another Christmas, and the friends who’ve moved or changed and how much it all hurts... I wonder if it’s worth it.
While I was thinking about it, my neighbors’ kids stopped by to play. And I waved at someone I knew from Little League as they drove through the neighborhood with reindeer antlers attached to their car. I got a text from my sister that made me snort. Some Christmas cards came in the mail. I listened to my kids yelling and romping.
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