Mum friendships are important and difficult to come by, and I’m glad I learned this lesson.
Making mum friends is hard, but I got lucky at my kid’s preschool. My daughter instantly bonded with a spunky, curly-haired girl, and her mum turned out to be cool as hell. Even our husbands enjoy hanging out with each other, like, on their own. It’s basically a mum friendship miracle. Or it was, until I almost effed up the whole thing.
See, every summer, this mum — let’s call her Krista — throws a Fourth of July barbecue that we really look forward to. We grill yummy food, drink fun cocktails, and watch the kids play till dark. But this year, Krista called to warn me that the party was off. Her out-of-town relatives were coming to stay and throwing the event would be too overwhelming, she said. We understood, and made other plans, but our 6-year-old was especially disappointed not to be spending the 4th with her buddy, Hannah.
Soon after the holiday weekend, Krista sent Hannah (with her nanny) to my house for a play date. The first words out of my kid’s mouth were: “I’m so sad you didn’t have your party!” Hannah looked at her quizzically and exclaimed, “Yes we did! Why weren’t you there?”
WTF? Had Krista pretended not to have the party just so she could exclude me and my family? But why? My face turned hot and red with shame (I hoped the nanny didn’t notice) as I was instantly transported back to high school –the last time I’d been ostracized by a girl I thought was my friend. I couldn’t understand what was happening. How had I so totally misjudged my relationship with this mom?
A well-adjusted grown-up might have picked up the phone that evening and cleared the air. Apparently, I am not a well-adjusted grown-up. I let the pain and confusion fester for many days. I complained bitterly to my husband. I mourned a friendship that I assumed was now dead. Except it wasn’t. Krista texted a few days later to make plans.
Oh, so that’s how it is, I thought, rolling my eyes at her text. I wasn’t good enough to make the cut for the party, but she still wanted to hang out? Well screw that! I texted back claiming to be busy, but the hurt middle schooler inside me couldn’t be silenced. A few minutes later, I texted something sarcastic (and oh so mature) along the lines of, “Hope you had a great time at your party!”
The whole thing tuned out to be a misunderstanding, of course. The family-only celebration had seemed, to Hannah, like the same party her parents always threw, and it didn’t make sense to her that my daughter hadn’t joined in. Out of the mouths of babes, as they say. Krista understood how I could have drawn the wrong conclusion, but was not thrilled with my passive-aggressive approach. I’m not so proud of myself either.
But here’s the thing: Sometimes, being a mum in charge of my family’s social life feels like conducting a freaking orchestra. Instead of enjoying myself I’m worrying: are the kids getting along? Is my husband bored? Have we had them over to our house enough times or are we always at their house? Does everybody really like each other, or am I trying to force this? I’m mental, I know. I clearly need to relax more, and to try not to take everything so personally.
I have to keep reminding myself that I’m not in high school anymore, even if it still feels like it sometimes.