I was one of the first of my friends to get married. Straight out of school, we hit the altar and never looked back. While we didn’t find it odd at all to be married at a young-ish age — it felt totally normal — our friends did. They weren’t quite sure what to do with us. Could they invite just one of us out, or did we come as a package deal? Would we want to hang out without the other one, or would even temporary separation drive us to misery?
Though we were happily married and had each other, we were lonely.
Things eased up as we gained more and more couple friends and when our friends from college started getting married. Suddenly instead of the oddballs, we got to be the examples. We were able to show our still rather young friends that being married didn’t skyrocket you into the boring lane of life; it was still fun and adventurous and carefree.
We knew from this experience of being the first of our friends to marry that we didn’t want to be the first to have kids. We didn’t want to go through that isolating time period again, because even before we were in the thick of it, we knew we’d need our village of friends to help us navigate the crazy journey of parenthood. Luckily, it wasn’t an issue. While we didn’t have a ton of friends starting to have kids, we had enough. We finally had peer counterparts in the same stage of life, and though it sounds seemingly trivial now, it has been one of our greatest blessings.
See, I was (and still mostly am) completely clueless about kids. I’m an only child and the youngest in a group of cousins. I didn’t have friends with younger siblings or live in a neighborhood with younger kids. I essentially had no exposure to babies until I had one of my own. To say I was out of my element was an understatement. Normally something so new wouldn’t phase me. I could read about it in a book or look it up on the Internet. I could teach myself whatever I needed to know to tackle any given situation. Except: you can’t really learn how to be a parent from a book. (You’d think you could, given there are no less than a million different books on parenting, but no, not really.) I could learn about babies, and kids, and parenthood, but not the ins and outs of daily life and how to actually be a mom. There is no book or blog great enough to convey what life as a parent is like and all that it entails.
No, for that I needed my real-life friends. Friends that were there practically holding my hand along the way, ready with an answer for any questions I had about childbirth and baby care and illness. Friends, too, that had no idea they were teaching and guiding me along the way; the ones that simply let me into their lives to witness their parenting and learn through example. Parenting lessons by some weird sort of osmosis — letting me catch glimpses of how to be a mom. Seeing how they responded to a kid who was out of line or intentionally failed to make a big deal out of a toddler falling and bumping his knee. Hearing their trials and triumphs in both parenting and marriage. How their relationships changed or didn’t change as a child entered the picture, or the emotions they experienced as they adapted to a life of parenthood. All of these things prepared me for my own walk in parenthood, whether I knew it at the time or not.
Three years later, my mom friends are still my greatest teachers in parenthood. They’re the ones going through it right now at this exact moment, experiencing the joy and difficulty. While they’re learning as they go too, they’re also teaching me along the way, and for that I am forever grateful.
Image source: Heather NealMore On