For the past several months, I’ve been noticing that my normally high need to socialize with our friends has started to fade, if only ever so slightly. It wasn’t that long ago that the prospect of several days in a row without adult companionship, the playdate or the multi-family dinner, seemed like a dismal forecast. When we first moved up to the Boston area, I knew no one and felt so blessed when I met a lot of great new moms at a community new moms’ group. These ladies initially were my link to sanity during my daughter’s first year. Finding my way, blindly, as a new mom, I cherished these new lifelines.
Over the past 4+ years, these lifelines have grown into true friendships and I count myself very lucky. This detachment is in no way a lack of fondness for these people or the initial blush of the relationships wearing off. In fact, the opposite is true: the last two years in particular has seen me weave myself into the fabric of this group of friends ever tighter. We raise each other’s kids, we eat several meals together a week. One friend jokes that it’s our commune. In my rare moments of doubt, my great network of friends is one of the main reasons that this move at times seems like a big mistake.
However, I’ve noticed that over the past few months, I’ve become more reliant on myself and my family. My daughter has long days at school (8am-4pm) and activities (with friends) on Mondays and Wednesdays after school. There is often a weekly pizza party on Thursday nights, and initially, I saw keeping her home on Thursday afternoons in order for her to get caught up on home work as a punishment for all of us. She wants to be with her friends (none of them are in her kindergarten) and yet I’m forcing her to do homework. For me, after a long day and a long week, unwinding with my friends over some beers while the kids eat pizza and play dress-up seems perfect. And in fact for years, it was. But now, I kind of like forgoing the weekly Thursday pizza party for the two extra hours when it’s just my daughter, my son, and me.
I’ll be the first to acknowledge that this shift is surely an unconscious attempt at self-preservation. How could I possibly move across the planet with just our crazy family and expect to be happy if I didn’t force myself to see us as self-reliant? Of course we say “I love you” to each other. But I’m realizing that it’s really true. I do love my family. I like it when it’s just us. Rather than struggling to bear the weight of parenthood, my relationship with Sean has only grown stronger and more loving in the past few years. My daughter is maturing so that at almost 5, she is my lifeline. She makes me laugh, she loves to entertain me, she wants to know about the world from me. I’ll always be her mother first, but as she matures, she’s becoming my friend. And my son, (terrible-twoness aside) is such a welcome breath of sweetness and dimples, that I love being around him. Of course, parenthood is hard, and there are many moments when I give to the point of fatigue, or times when I don’t want to be around my kids. But the prospect of this move has changed my perspective. In a way I’m living the great hypothetical question, “If you were stranded on a deserted island…” Clearly it’s not exactly the same; New Zealand is far from deserted. But the heart of the question remains. We are paring down. We’re cutting away our possessions. We’re cutting away the extra (but still very much beloved) people in our life. We’re cutting ourselves out of the American fabric. And what is left? Just us. Can we live with that? I’m thinking that I can and that is a beautiful thing to know.