Some of the very best female friendships blossom in the sunshine, downpours and snowstorms of chaotic, after-school playgrounds.
They're formed by women who notice when someone looks tired...or dressed up...or sick...or worried. The ones who keep an eye on your kids when you're running late or let you know someone's mother just passed away or suggest dinner when a partner's out of town or on your last nerve. These are the women who offer gentle reminders about deadlines for soccer registration, camp sign-ups, auditions, parent-teacher conferences, school forms and fundraisers, city vehicle stickers, or a girls' night out. You know at least one woman like this -- the one who's willing to pull you aside and confess she's struggling...or that her teenage daughter's thong underwear was stuck to the bottom of an unknowing plumber's boot but she didn't have a clue how to break the news.
These friendships are so much more than fifteen- or twenty-minute gossip sessions or "catch-ups". Despite limited time, they manage to reach deep into our souls and offer the comfort, honesty, and wisdom we crave. Forged during some of the busiest, stressful days of parenting, these friendships are a balm like no other. They feel like they'll last forever...but kids eventually outgrow the playground.
Somehow I'd taken this daily dose of friendship for granted, but my playground days are nearly gone -- my youngest son heads to middle school next year. At first I panicked. How will I keep up with friends I'll no longer see on a regular basis? Will I remember to pick up the phone? Will I make a genuine effort? Am I even worth their time and effort? Or, will these friendships, like thirsty plants, simply wither and die?
Thankfully, all I had to do was look to the relationships I have with parents of my two older kids: we've stayed connected despite the lack of daily, face-to-face contact. Sometimes all it takes is a text...or a card...or an email to get things rolling. We still get together. We still stay close. Yes, it takes more effort to schedule things like dinners and brunches and walks and coffee, but it's worth it. When things feel overwhelming, we reach out and call each other for advice. And, when we're feeling totally caged up, we gather as many as possible and plan a quick and cheap girls' weekend in a rental house -- close enough to drive but far enough to escape into our "playground selves". For 24-48 hours, we cook for each other, play music and dance, laugh and cry. It's a celebration of surviving those elementary school years and doing all those things we said we'd make time for, like staying in pajamas all day long, sleeping in on a Sunday morning or strolling leisurely through shops without watching a clock. We hug and reminisce, comparing notes on how life has changed since our playground days. It's not the same as it was...it's actually better.
The bittersweet reality of our kids growing up is that they actually go and do it. As mothers, we support their academics and activities, but we also help them navigate those tricky, ever-changing paths of friendship and self-esteem. As female friends, we also help one another down those very same trails.
This is my gentle reminder to you that -- no matter where we are as women (playgrounds, blogs, and everywhere else) -- you are not alone. You'll hold on to those amazing friendships and make incredible new ones, too.
Here's a video I made with my new friend, Marjie Killeen, a North Shore writer who totally gets it. Please check out Marjie's awesome website, Ripe Peach.
I'd love to hear your tips on sustaining female friendships. What's worked for you? What hasn't? How do you make new friends? What's harder -- forming new friendships or taking care of existing ones?
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