The friends we make in our early years are mostly through our parents. They hang out with their mates and while the grown-ups chat and enjoy a glass of something, we are expected to get on and play nicely with their kids. It’s a tried and tested method of starting a friendship, and I’m not knocking it. I still have very good friends I met this way.
Then we go to school and we are able to branch out a little, choose our own companions. But our parents still chose the school, and where we live, and what toys and TV shows and food we had in the house if people come round to play. And so their choices still held some influence over our playmates, whether we knew it or not.
But when we choose a university and move away from home for the very first time, the relationships we form are perhaps the very first we can truly call our own. We may even be discovering who we really are, and these new friends, who are finding themselves too, live through it all with us. The highs and the lows. The parties and the disgusting hangovers. The successes and the failures. Our parents aren’t there to prop us up anymore, but supportive friends are. So it’s no wonder the bonds we form may become concrete.
Then you become a parent for the first time and you start making friends with people because you have children in common. It’s a new kind of friendship, just as valuable and supportive. But these friends may never hold your hair back for you while you projectile vomit fluorescent liquid. You may never have a no-holes-barred, blazing row with your parent friends, because you are too mature to let it all hang out (and the kids might hear).
But what happens when these two worlds collide?
Your old uni mates now all have children of their own and you want to get together and play, “Do you remember the time…?”, while the kids all fend for themselves.
What if the children all start snatching and fighting and throwing tantrums and separation is the only solution?
What if parenthood has changed the fun-loving people you knew into stressed-out zombies? Or even worse – boring and sensible grown-ups?!
Fortunately, for us there was nothing to worry about.
We were like a jigsaw puzzle that has been tucked away at the back of a shelf. Time could not stop us fitting back together like we had never been apart. And any missing pieces were a talking point.
Meanwhile, our children were like a box of old Lego. They accepted being thrown together, and together they formed new foundations of their own.
One day they will all set out to make new friends entirely of their own choosing.
But for now they have each other. And for that we can all be proud.
This post is dedicated to Becca, for being the best host – and friend – anyone could wish for. And to her, Sam, John, Vicki, Sarah and Dickie for being awesome parents with awesome children.