Friday, March 13, 2015

The Dating Game

Friends. How does one find them...especially as an adult? There is something to be said for children; they seem to befriend and be befriended where ever they go. Whether it is on the playground, in the neighborhood or at school, kids seem to naturally gravitate towards the other little people around them. Language, skin color and gender are all but irrelevant when it comes to making friends. These friendships come fast and furious; on more than one occasion Sidney has gone to a playground and left with an invitation to go home with another child or he himself has issued such an invitation to a virtual stranger. Many of these friendships peter out as quickly as they came on but others last much longer and become what I would consider true and lasting relationships.

So how do adults make friends? Instead of playgrounds we have offices and work spaces where we spend the day toiling alongside co-workers. We have the gym, volunteer activities and perhaps neighbors that provide us with opportunities to meet and interact with other adults. We may or may not have anything beyond work or a shared location in common with our adult peers and are apt to enter into relationships with other adults with a world weary skepticism. Sometimes we click and other times we don't; peers may become friends, remain acquaintances or be moved onto the do not call list. Add in the transient nature of military families, where everyone is always coming and going, and the whole process becomes speed dating since time is so limited.

But because life tends to come full circle, the playground still does come into play when it comes to adult friendships. Enter the parents of your children's friends. Anyone who is a parent knows what I'm talking about; the other adults who sit on the benches along the soccer field, hold the coats and bags while counting down the remaining minutes of play at the playground and stand in the hallways at school waiting for dismissal. Small talk usually ensues and sometimes full fledge conversations develop since these are the people you (at least I do) see day in and day out on a routine that is predictable as the week itself. Sometimes I find myself looking forward to and hoping a particular parent will be there while other times my thoughts drift in the opposite direction. And it all moves forward from there.

Life is like a dating game. There are the fellow parents you want to see and those you want to avoid. There are the ones who you only see in the hallway and those that you invite out for coffee after drop off is complete. You tentatively ask your child about a potential friend's child to see if a spark of friendship between the children exists. It is disappointing when it doesn't and I wonder how much prodding of that relationship I should do with the selfish hopes of making my own friend. If there is the potential, play dates between the kids come next while the parents chaperone and forge their own relationships. If all is successful, with fingers crossed, spouses are introduced into the mix, with the overarching hope that we all get along.  Sometimes the child is the one to introduce the play date and us parents (usually the mothers) do our own tentative feeling of each other out with our common bond being our children. I've found that this approach is just as apt to be met with success as it is with failure. The kids get along but the parents might as well be speaking different languages. 

But sometimes it all does work out and when it does it is a wonderful thing. I've met some of my closest friends because of my son's own friends. We've gotten together individually and as families and all enjoyed our time together. These parents become legitimate emergency contacts and even though we may not have known each other for years it feels as though we have. But because we are all military families we know our time is fleeting. If we are lucky we've clicked at the beginning of our tours rather than at the tail end. If not we take advantage of the remaining time we have. 

With each new friendship, however I am repeatedly reminded of how important friends really are. And because of that I vow to take a few cues from my son's approach to making friends--if I see someone I think I might like I need to go for it. Even if I am on the fence I should take the plunge anyway since you never know what lies beneath an appearance and the commonalities we might share. See, it really is like a dating game. If you don't take a chance you have everything to lose while if you do jump in you can emerge a winner.

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