You’re supposed to love summer. It should be all peach cobblers, beach days that stretch until sunset, fireflies in mason jars, and sweet tea on the front porch. School’s out. That means no packing lunches in a morning scramble in time for the 8 am bell. So, as I helped to clean up after my daughter’s end of kindergarten class party, why was I overcome with dread?
Because summer can be really lonely. I’m one of those people who thrives on structure, and during the school year, I get that on overload. But come summer, it seems like my world shuts down.
There are no extracurriculars, no school meetings, no play dates at the playground after school gets out at 2 pm. My church doesn’t even bother with Sunday school during the summer months. From September to June, all of those events and activities are where I effortlessly find social interaction with other parents and kids. So in the summer, I feel isolated, and dare I say, bored.
The last two summers held some dark moments for me. Stir crazy and out of ideas for entertaining children, I longed for something more – adventure, adult conversation, I don’t know, a social life? The dog days brought me back to the first hard year of being a new mom, when I felt truly lost and alone.
I looked at my phone compulsively hoping someone would text or send an Evite to a pool party. Something. Anything. On top of that, social media depressed me. Everyone was having fun except me … or so it seemed. I practically started making tick marks on my bedroom wall, counting down the days until school began so I could go grocery shopping alone again, and more importantly, see my mom friends again.
This summer I vowed to stop feeling sorry for myself. A lot of my loneliness was of my own doing. Sure, life slows down a whole lot for the next couple of months, and we don’t happen to run into other parents as much when we’re not shuttling kids to piano lessons and gymnastics. That doesn’t mean that we can’t make an effort to see our friends though. So this summer, I will reach out.
Instead of waiting for the text, I will send the message. I will plan the backyard barbecue (I may even get my own Slip ‘N Slide) and I will type up those Evites. When I bake that peach cobbler, I will call a friend. And what about that mom I see on Facebook that looks like so much fun? We always leave comments like, “We totally need to get together soon,” and then never follow through. I’ll call her this time. I bet she feels as lonely as I do. Maybe she even feels shy about initiating. Someone has to take the first step.
I won’t complain online about how long the days are, or how much coffee I’ll need to make it to bedtime without losing my mind. I’ll make a jar of cold brew to go, and my status will be: “We’ll be at the park at 9. Meet us there! I’ll bring the snacks and iced coffee.”
Emotional pain is a sign that something needs to change, but it’s taken me a long time to figure that out and accept responsibility for my own loneliness. The sadness and aching isolation I felt was my signal that I needed to change. I have been too passive — waiting for friendships to happen, hoping to run into someone, praying for an invitation, but I am the one who needs to extend herself to others. I need to work on becoming more comfortable making concrete plans with people instead of the standard, “Hey, lunch might be fun sometime, maybe,” without the necessary follow-through.
Reaching out doesn’t come easily for everyone. So often we let our insecurities get in the way of opening ourselves up to others because we’re scared of rejection, but what if everyone felt that way? What if there’s another parent out there who needs a friend as much as you do. And what if you can be that person who throws out a lifeline that saves you both?
I’ve already taken the first steps. I’ve texted friends I haven’t spoken to in far too long. A group of single moms from my daughter’s school and I started a group email, detailing our summer vacation plans so that we know when everyone is available. We created a Facebook event (things just seems more official that way) for a late-July barbecue. I asked another mom friend if she’d be interested in a road trip to the mountains and she was enthusiastic about the idea.
Who knows what magic might happen when we show up for companionship. This summer, I am reaching out and cannot wait to see my friendships blossom and boredom dissipate. I think I’ll go buy that Slip ‘N Slide today.