Developing friendships has been a topic of conversation I have found myself having more often in our home with our two boys. It seems that this has been somewhat of an art form made more difficult post-pandemic and with the advent of kids receiving their phones at earlier ages each year.
Lately, our conversations around the need for different types of friends at different stages in life is a topic that has piqued my interest.
I have been fortunate to develop friends from various aspects of my life, having attended a small elementary school that fed into a large high school. The small, close-knit group of friends from my earlier years are women I am still friends with today.
Moving on to high school and college, while I played sports, I often sought out friends with varying interests in music or other creative avenues, and those friendships were cultivated in various ways.
It has always fascinated me which friendships stood the test of time, even if they waxed and waned, and which ones did not.
Sometimes, we encounter friends for a time in our lives or even just ones we see sporadically. There are friends I spoke to more often once we had our babies, usually because they, too, had newborns. One of my mom friends in town, who I rarely see, has boys the same age as mine. While they are in different schools and have somewhat different interests than my boys, some similarities overlap, and when we are together, we pick right up where we left off.
I think women develop friendships dependent on where they are in life. But we also have certain friendships that remain constant regardless.
Those are “easy-time friends,” as my friend and I call them. It’s easy. If time passes and we haven’t seen one another, it’s as if we never skipped a beat when we do see each other. It’s lovely! And I have another friend whom I have known since I was five. She and I can text in the late evening hours back and forth about pretty much anything, even if we’ve not seen each other for weeks.
My opinion on the reason why female friendships are so complex is that we are also typically the social director in our families. Once we have kids, along with other constraints of life (work, marriage, etc.), establishing friendships and community for our kids seems to be prioritized over our need to maintain and establish our relationships.
As I find my kids entering their tween and teen years, I pause and think, what friendships and support do I need for myself?
My eldest is a teen now, with his younger brother a few years behind. He has varying interests and cultivated friendships that way as well. Having spent so many of the first years navigating his friendships, it’s natural for parents to become friends too. With my younger son, his journey has been different, with interests focused less on sports and more on science and adventure. So, while his circle of friends is much smaller, he is lucky to have one good buddy.
As time goes on, I found the complexity of staying in touch with friends only works if we have a few things in common such as similar parenting styles.
This takes time to navigate. So how do we help our kids create their own community of friends while supporting our adult needs? I think it’s a balance. The focus on our kids lifts as they grow older and are more responsible for their own social activities, allowing more time for us as parents to focus on our own relationships.
As my sons have aged, I have told them to focus on having one or two good friends. Yes, larger social circles are good too, but if they have at least one good friend, that’s all they need.