In the past four years I’ve written extensively about the challenges of being an introvert and a stay-at-home mom, about the longing for friendship, and about the ways that the internet has been a blessing and a curse to me as I struggle to find my way in this world:
Stay at Home Moms and the Internet
When Bloggers Meet
Thoughts on Going to the Library
Introverted Parents of Extroverted Children
More Parenting Perspectives
Friendship, the Internet, Mothering
Further Thoughts on Facebook, Twitter, etc.
Mom’s Day Out Marian Bible Study Group
Meeting Ladybird at the Supermarket
You’d think by now, I’d have talked myself out about the topic. But no, I find I still have something new to say.
The Dangers of Walking in Someone Else’s Shoes
Anyone who has followed this blog for any length of time knows that I am fascinated with educational theory and praxis. I started reading homeschooling blogs a little more than four years ago both because they satisfy my intellectual curiosity and because I don’t really know any homeschoolers and thus I have a hard time imagining what my future life as a homeschooler will be like.
There is a peril in that, however, for it leads to me imagining myself in the lives of all these virtual strangers on the internet. I only see the parts of their homeschooling lives that they choose to portray and that can lead to my envying that idealized version of other women that doesn’t really exist. And it can be all too easy to focus on what they have that I lack while I blind myself to the goods that I already possess.
A Daily Cup of Tea… but is it my cup?
I’ve been following this series of posts about what bearing calls co-schooling, an interesting arrangement that bearing has with two friends and their families in which they do homeschooling together in a regular, reciprocal arrangement. The most recent post in this series details a daily ritual that cements the friendship bearing has with her friend Hannah.
Ever since our firsts were babies, Hannah’s home has been a place where I can count on a comfortable chair and a cup of strong, hot tea, moments after walking in the door.
I hope she would write that my house is a place where she can count on a bar stool, a counter, and a cup of hot, strong, and not-too-stewed black coffee!
When those first littles were little, we hashed out all manner of plans and philosophies over those steaming cups. For a long time, she would bake bread with the children while I worked on my doctoral thesis at the kitchen table. For a while, we made dinner together and packed it home to our respective families. Sometimes we did housework together. Sometimes we both goofed off, kicking off our shoes and ambling into the grassy back yard to watch our kids play in the sun. Often we found ourselves taking simultaneous breaks to sit and nurse a baby, a good excuse to put feet up and have a chat about whatever was going on. Always there was the cup of tea in the morning and the cup of tea in the late afternoon.
As I read it I began to long for that kind of a friendship. I began to wish desperately for someone with whom I could share that simple ritual of a daily chat over a hot cup of tea or coffee. And I suddenly felt the lack of a friend with whom I could share not only the vision and ideals of homeschooling but also the daily, nitty-gritty responsibilities of directing and implementing the education of our children.
Of course I’m an introvert so the simple fact is that it would have to be a very special friend indeed who would charge me up instead of draining me dry. The chances of finding a friend like that who also lives nearby and also wants to homeschool and also…. Well, you get the idea. I’m not even sure if this is really something I want or need. I just know it makes a pleasant picture in my head.
I Am the Mom in the White Minivan
As a follow up to the cup of tea post, bearing linked to this pair of blog entries by another Catholic mom, Rebecca at Shoved to Them, writing about her neighbor, the mom in the white minivan. Now. Follow that link. Go read those two posts. I’ll wait…. To make it easier I’ll link them here: Part I: That Darn White Minivan Part II: What Happened Next
It’s a bit eerie. I so saw myself in the new neighbor, the mom with the white minivan. For one thing, I drive a white minivan. Also, I am the new kid on my block. We’ve only lived in our house for a year and a half and here in New England at least that means that when I run into my neighbors at the library they introduce themselves and exclaim, “Aren’t you the new people, living in the X’s house? I recognized your white van.”
Yep. We’re the new people. We have nodding acquaintance with our closest neighbors and that’s about it. Half the blame lies with me, of course. I’m a shy introvert. I’m the woman living the life of quiet desperation, wishing that someone would break the ice and be my friend and yet at the same time terrified that I might have to enter into a conversation with a stranger.
How nice it would be to have a neighbor knock at my door and remove all hesitation by informing me that I’m going to be having lunch at her house tomorrow.
Found: My Best Friend
Like I said, the danger in wanting what someone else has is that it can blind you to what you already have. As I pondered my desire to have a neighbor magically show up at my door, swoop into my life, and become my best friend, I grew more and more morose. Why can’t that happen to me?
I started to frame a prayer. Dear God, please send me a best friend. And then like a slap upside the head, I realize. Wait, he already did. I glance at my sister’s bedroom door and feel like a fool. My best friend in the whole wide world lives not next door or down the street, but under my very roof.
Sure, the grass could be greener. I don’t see her enough. We don’t sit down for long chats nearly as often as I’d like. Her irregular schedule at Starbucks means we haven’t been able to develop anything like a regular routine. No daily cups of coffee (ironically). No morning and evening rituals. Twice in the past year we’ve tried to no avail to begin a read aloud together, a custom we both remember with great fondness from our youth. I really wanted to share one of my favorite series with her. I really wanted to study the Theology of the Body with her. However, at this time in our lives we just don’t have the ability to follow through on plans like those.
Still, she’s had my back in some pretty difficult times. I can’t count the number of times she’s picked up some crucial ingredients on her way home from work. And when I was coping with pregnancy and with recovery from my c-section, she regularly did my weekly grocery run for me. She plays with the kids when they are cranky and I need them out from underfoot while I’m cooking dinner. She babysits. She sits with me while I eat lunch. She lets me stand at her bedroom door at midnight just to tell her about the book I’m reading or the cute thing Sophie did that day. She loves my kids almost as much as I do. She’s friends with Dom. Who am I to complain?
Nevertheless, it can’t last forever. Recently she’s begun dating this wonderful guy. It looks like it might be going somewhere. My dad’s starting to joke about needing to save up some money for a wedding. Who know what the future holds? Maybe someday soon I will be the mom in the white minivan waiting for a knock on the door. I trust that God will provide me with the friendships I need to sustain me. They just might not come in the way I expect them. Mine will probably not look like anyone else’s story.