The Kind of Friend I Am
Posted by Susan Sey Jul 21 2012, 12:43 am
I’m a terrible friend. At least by traditional standards. I’m not good at calling people up, making plans, creating social opportunity or networking. I’m absolutely abysmal at making friends. I was born the third of four girls, after all. You couldn’t throw a rock without hitting somebody to play with in our house. Besides, what were the chances that my mom was going to drive across town to fetch me a playmate when there were already three kids hanging around looking bored?
Slim to I-don’t-think-so.
And to compound the situation, I grew up in a small town. New people didn’t come along all that often. Figuring out how to pull together a social circle was not a skill I was forced to develop.
So to bottom line this for you, I’m not great at making friends. And I’m not awesome at being a friend, either. All those things friends do–call you when you’re down, take you out when you’re lonely, invite you to a play, the bar, a party? They make me nervous. I have the impulse to reach out, but talk myself out of it. We’re not that close, it would be weird. Awkward. This person probably doesn’t really like me that much but how are they going to say no when I ask them point blank if they want to hang out?
This is part of why I adore my husband. His social impulse is strong and true. He actually believes people like him, & that he’s usually right about stuff. And because he believes it, it comes true. I find this magical & compelling. He calls people up on a whim, invites them to a thing…and they say yes. They actually seem happy to be asked.
I’ve tried this on occasion. It doesn’t go as well for me. I can’t explain it but I’m happily coupled with a guy that makes it work, & that’s enough providence for me.
But you know what I am good at? Child care.
See, I’m a stay at home mom. I literally have no value to the world apart from the fact that I can watch the kids while everybody else is out being useful and smart. (And getting paid. But that’s a different topic.)
But that’s okay by me. I happen to enjoy kids. First of all, they’re sort of hilarious, & second of all, they’re mine. There’s nobody I want raising them but me.
I’m thinking about this today because a family we know–a family we love–just had a baby. Their third. Their older two kids are the same ages as ours, & love to play together. So my husband did his usual magic trick and pulled this family out of the herd of acquaintances we were running around with & made them our friends. He called them up, he invited them to stuff and they said yes.
I know. It’s a miracle to me, every time. Mr. Sey shines in this regard & I adore him for it.
But then this family had a baby, & it was my turn to shine.
Because suddenly, they needed more than an invitation to the movies or the park or the ice cream parlor.
Suddenly, they needed child care.
And not for the baby. No, a new mom has an infant all covered. What they needed was somebody who could fold an extra 5 & 8 year old into her life while their parents did the hard work of bringing a new baby into the world. They needed somebody with a big ol’ van & extra car seats & a flexible schedule. They needed somebody who would text them every morning to say, “Hey, when can I come for the kids?” (Because calling is awkward. I like texting.)
Suddenly, they needed the kind of friend I can be.
And every time I picked up or dropped off, they said, “Thank you so much. We owe you, big time.”
And every time I said, “You absolutely do not.”
Because honestly? I was the grateful one.
My mom is still close with the neighbor who watched my sisters while I was being born. Despite moves and miles and years, they still talk and connect and consider each other dear friends. I gave my eldest daughter this woman’s name. I hadn’t thought of doing it, but when my husband suggested the name out of the blue–and it’s an unusual name–I said, “Oh my gosh, we know one of those! She’s wonderful!” And suddenly we had a name.
And now these friends of ours, who just had the baby? They allowed me to be that person to them. I offered to open my arms to their kids, but I was really opening my heart to their family.
And they said yes.
And it felt like a miracle to me.
So how about you? Are you a good social instigator, or do you rely on others to make your connections? Are you a good networker? Can you call people on the phone without thinking twice? Or are you more like me, weirdly phone-phobic, forever grateful for people who make it look easy? And if so, who in your life plays that role?
Posted in Susan Sey