Camp for Grown-Ups

According to the New York TImesmaking new friends as an adult poses some interesting challenges. 

Times, I’ll see your “challenge as an adult” and raise you a “nearly freaking impossible as an adult who is a parent to small children”. Seriously. It’s like nothing else I’ve experienced in its difficulty, its complexity, its need of constant careful navigation. I think people would probably go one further and assume that it’s easy for parents who stay home with their children to make friends, like we have these active social lives between swing pushes, like we meet our new soul-mates hovering behind the jungle gym. 

It’s not really like that.

Take today. I had answered a local mom’s shout-out to other local mom writers who might like to get together and talk about writing. We decided to meet at a playground this morning, and two other women showed up with their progeny in tow. I felt comfortable, confident, and happy–that’s the irony of how difficult it is to make friends as an “adult”–I feel less fidgety and awkward than I probably ever have in my life! Finally, I’m comfortable enough in my own skin to maybe be interesting to other people, except that my own world (in the form of two little people) gets in the way. Or something. Anyway. 

Unfortunately, either the extreme (high 90s today!) heat or just the realization that I was trying to connect to some other grown-ups seemed to deeply affect Juniper, as my little queen of independence chose today to need me desperately every 5 minutes or so. “Mama! Help! I stuck!” she yelled from the top of one hill. “Oh, no, Mama. I need help!”, she implored from the downward-facing dog she had attempted in the middle of another. I could ignore her for a bit, but eventually her cries would become insistent enough to warrant attention, so I’d retrieve her from whatever her most recent precarious position was and plop her down with a smile and an, “Ok! Now go play!”

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She did not. Not really. Forcing me to fetch her again and again.

It was a lovely time, really it was, with more adult social interaction than I generally get while out with my kids. But still, there was an encumbrance to overcome that wasn’t there Before.

In the Times piece, relationship experts said that most friendships of the more “lifelong/confidante” variety are born out of a combination of proximity and similarity, which is why so many of us hold onto our college friends for so long. But it’s not just the being similar and geographically close that does it in college, they said, it’s also the large swaths of unstructured time that we end up filling with our conversations, with our oh-so-casual dropping of tidbits of information about our True Selves. We take it for granted then that we’ll have a lifetime of opportunity to learn who we are and share it with people. 

Of course, it’s not really like that at all. By the time your mid-30s rolls around and you have a couple of kids, you’re far too busy trying to hold your head above water to take part in any enormous self-explorations. There’s no time or energy for those 2am cups of coffee and omelets and conversations. 

I think I have the obvious solution–Camp for grown-ups. You go away for a week or 2 (leaving your significant other in charge of your charges) and room in a bunkhouse with 7 strangers. You compete against other bunkhouses in casual games of skill. You make woven keychains. You eat your meals together. You each teach your bunkmates how to do something that’s important to you, and you explain why it’s important to you in the first place. You share a bathroom (well, maybe THAT’S a little extreme…). You talk over campfires and mosquito repellant and waiting in line for the shower. You talk and talk and talk.

It sounds great, doesn’t it? I would sign up for that. I mean, if I could find the time to register.

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