It was Friendship Day recently and although I am not the kind of person who subscribes to such things, I found myself thinking about and examining my friendships after baby, since that’s what my life stage is right now, and feeling grateful for the ones I have still managed to hold on to.
What we perhaps give very little credit to is the rites of passage in friendship: Your politics. Your feminism. Your taste in books, cinema, people. Other friends. Bad boyfriends. Good boyfriends. Marriage. Babies. Friends after babies. Social media behavior.
Although it’s not on the top of the list, marriage does get a bad name for ruining many friendships. Various friendship tests had to be passed in ours and he had to be voted either ‘really nice’ or ‘really fun’ by my friends. Somehow, the husband managed one or both. As for his, all you had to do was pretend you liked football and tequila shots, hug like you’re long-lost buddies who’ve met after years, and you passed muster.
Friendships after baby
Having a child changes the ecosystem of your life in several ways; friendship is perhaps one of the things that is often affected. Pre-baby friendships usually suffer during the transition, but the ones that hang in there are the ones to hold on to. When you are single and snazzy, kids are usually fun as long as they are someone else’s. At least I used to have an immense capacity (and resilience) to bond with children of my friends of assorted ages and sizes. I don’t know why. May be it had something to do with the fact that people then seldom talked about their children like they do now, so they were always what I made of them. And that always gave me a fresh slate to work on.
Now I am in a situation where I either have to be friends with mothers whose children are friends with Re, or just hope that he will like some of my friends’ children. The latter is much easier, as the children in question are much older, so have less turf issues. But for the most part, I am stuck with mothers who can’t stop beaming at the fact that their children know continents or can read at six and other such, but who never bat an eyelid when the said child is being unduly aggressive, rude, petty or unkind towards your child. Along with selective hearing, they seem to have developed selective vision. On one play date, I pointed out to a mother (who I also like) about the incessant bullying of her son towards Re. She stared at me vacantly. It was not the first time, and I am sure it won’t be the last. In this age of ‘likes’ and popularity contests, kindness is not a virtue that seems to have much equity.
I do hope Re goes on to have more friends and I hope they are kind and loving, but for now, it seems to be in short supply. I explained my dilemma to a single friend, hoping she would understand. She threw me completely by saying that there is something is wrong with bringing up sanitized children. And that eventually they will all even out. But even as a teacher to adolescents, I saw that they don’t. Behavior goes deeper than phonics. I wish we focused on that in kindergarten.
I hope I am wrong, but I think my ability to wing motherhood so late in my life also alienated some of my friends. It was like I caught a bus they were hoping to be on, or that I betrayed the sisterhood and I felt punished for doing that. The optimist in me, who doesn’t like to give up, most of all on friendships, kept trying. Many texts and emails later, I came to terms with it, but I still haven’t had closure. I wish there was a way to do friendship breakups formally.
As Re grew up, I was, of course, concerned that he find (and keep) a few good friends. Somehow the rolling stone that is a tenant’s life in Bombay made it difficult to keep an address (or a friend) for a long time. But the Gemini side of me acted breezy and said, so what? He can always make new ones. And he did. But when I ask him for a wish list every year on his birthday of the people he wants to have over, I find new people in it, and I miss the old ones. But then, I don’t know what is happening in his mind, do I? Somehow I felt responsible for not giving him a permanent address (read ‘permanent’ friends), but then, I consoled myself that he had a shot at making new friends so often, something that I never did.
I don’t ‘add’ friends easily in the manner of Facebook, but I do get drawn to newness, and somehow a new friend makes me indulge in a friendship courtship dance I often miss, and therefore find myself giving into. Some of my old friends understand this, and understand that it makes me, me. But some don’t and begrudge it. I know we need to clear clutter as we go on, and there are some things not worth holding on to, but I will always have a soft spot for the friends who dumped me unceremoniously. In the end, I guess the friends that are worth holding on to will stay either way.