In the past couple of years, Amanda has made new friends wherever we went. Last year we were camping and the girl beside us was about her age. They rode bikes, explored, played cards and had a great time for those three days. Over those days I asked her some questions: What grade is she in? How would I know? (Well, you could have asked her). What did y'all talk about? I don't know. See, it wasn't that kind of relationship. And that's okay.
Have you noticed how easy friendship is for kids? Well, of course there is the usual "she likes you more than me" stress, but do you realize how easy it is for a child to make a friend? As a child, you don't think about what she thinks about you, or if you're talking too much or not enough. You're just having a good time.
Amanda was swimming in the pool at our hotel this week, and came over to the side and asked Terry or me to come in because she had no one to play with. Terry answered, "There are a million kids here." I added on, with the "anything for a laugh" parenting style that I inherited from my mother, "There's one right there!" There was indeed a girl about her age on the edge of the pool not two feet from her, watching this whole exchange. She grinned wide when I pointed her out, and Amanda looked slightly embarrassed, but then they swam off together and played for the next hour.
But when I went over to check on them, I noticed that things had changed a bit. Instead of a completely simple friendship that she used to enjoy on these occasions, this one came with a name. "Mom, this is Alexa." Wow. She doesn't usually remember names, nor would she introduce me. I had overheard them talking earlier. Amanda was asking Alexa if she played any sports and telling her that she liked soccer. Hmmm. Searching for common ground. Wanting to go deeper.
It's really all we need to do, regardless of age. Take the plunge into friendship. Go out on a limb and invite someone over or meet them for coffee. Talk to her and find some common interest, be it sports, children, or a specific hobby, such as knitting or tennis. That casual relationship may stay right where it is--a coworker who you go to lunch with, or another mom friend who you meet for coffee once a week for casual chit chat while your kids are in preschool. Or, if the time and circumstances seem right, you might go deeper by asking her and husband on a double date, or the whole family over for dinner. You might let her help you out when you need it, which will make her feel needed and closer to you. You might help her out, which will, well--help her (and maybe make her like you even more).
The back to school season has always been a landmark to me, even when I didn't have children. That's when the new year starts fresh for me, not in January. So, is it time for a fresh start for you? Clubs will be resuming their regular meeting schedule, after likely taking a summer hiatus. New Bible study groups will be starting up, day and night, weekday and weekend, across America (and the world). Small groups may be reorganizing in churches, making it easier for someone new to get involved. Neighborhood playgroups will be forming, or reuniting. Someone may ask you, or do some encouraging like I did with Amanda and her swim friend, or they may not.
Would you rather hang on to the side, alone and discontent with your present circumstances, or do you want to make a friend and do flips, have underwater tea parties, and have breath-holding contests? It's your call.