Tuesday, 29 May 2012

The golden years of low-maintenance friendship

When I had my first baby the stars aligned:

My good friend Jane had also just had her first child and she lived a short stroller walk away from us.

A lot of people join a formal mothers group, but Janey and I were the mothers group.  It was just the two of us, an informal but emotionally binding arrangement every Thursday morning. The morning would finish up just late enough to ensure that Max would not fall asleep on the walk home and ruin the sacred hours of nap time.

Jane's baby, Maia, was 10 months older than Max.  Maia was - and I mean this in the most loving way - a bit of a menace. Max was only just learning to sit up when we started our 'mothers group' and Maia's favourite trick was to stand behind him, a sippy cup in each hand, her arms spread wide and waiting.  We would watch and wait, watch and wait. Jane would say, 'Maia..." in a warning tone but Maia would not move or blink.  Then at the exact moment we stopped watching, "whack!" she would bring her sippy cups together and violently 'cymbal' poor Max in between.  She was masterful, you had to give her that.

Maia had to be watched like a hawk in those early years.

As they got older, Max learned to hold his own and our mothers duo became a more relaxed affair.  They played together happily and we no longer had to watch with one eye for Maia's sneaky baby-tipping malevolence (until her baby sister, Josie came along.)  There were some questionable antics in the side passage of a human excrement nature once but apart from that, those Thursday mornings were the most relaxing hours of my teeny, tiny, toddler-based life.

I recall a particular fascination with the dolly stroller.  Max would always be enlisted to push Maia - bigger and heavier by 10 months - from one end of the house to the other.  It was a surprisingly serious exercise: Maia sitting blank-faced and uncomfortably crumpled into the doll-sized stroller, Max steadfastly pushing with all his might to move her along. It went on for hours.  They would appear like this in the living room, then retreat to the other end of the house, only to reappear minutes later, in exactly the same serious, blank-faced way.  I'm not sure what their destination was, but they never seemed to reach it.

This sort of surreal toddler behaviour is always so much funnier when there is someone else to witness it with you.

Because the thing about early motherhood is, it's isolating.  Spending hour upon hour in a toddler's company, (while having undeniable moments of delight) can be mind-numbingly dull.  You can find yourself watching the Teletubbies in an intrigued sort of a way ("Hmm I hope the Noo-noo  comes out of the cupboard today.") You can slowly go coco-loco if you don't keep an eye on things.

But if you are lucky enough to have someone like-minded who is in the same phase, where activities must cease at noon for nap time and motherhood is not some competitive sport, you are all set for some golden times.

Those first few years with me, Max, Jane and Maia,  I realise now, were golden times indeed.

Three and a half years after Max, I had my twins and I moved half an hour west across Sydney.  It was harder to meet up in that informal, relaxed way (no more a brisk stroller walk down Bondi's Blair Street)  Meet-ups involved three children strapped into car seats and a desperate race back to Leichhardt at noon sharp with one eye on the rear vision mirror praying for children to not fall asleep on the way home.

But most recently life has again intervened.  Jane has gone to France for a 'gap year' with her little family (Maia now 14).  Even before she left for the northern hemisphere, we didn't see as much of each other.  We both work and meet-ups have to be arranged after hours.  By the time we do meet up, there's an agenda list of things to catch up on that virtually have to be 'ticked off'.

It's not the same as the guaranteed weekly catch up where the conversation just takes up where it left off the week before.

It's a bit like when you first leave high school and you realise how lucky you were to be seeing your friends five days a week.  That comfortable taken-for-granted friendship you had now has to be 'arranged' and scheduled in.

If you are in the toddler years,  enjoy those golden times. I'm not necessarily talking about the quality time spent with your child, I'm talking about the quality time spent with your good friends.

 It will be a while before that kind of low-maintenance friendship ever comes your way again.

1 comment:

  1. What a great story. I felt that isolation when I had my first child. No one around me seemed to have kids! But then I joined a Mother's Group and although it was a bit of a dud and dissolved within a few months I did make one really close friendship. Our second children were due on the same day and we were booked in to the same hospital. The fun we planned! But alas, her daughter arrived two weeks early and my daughter eight days overdue so we didn't have any time in hospital together. She lived within walking distance but a few years later they moved to Brisbane! We still keep in touch but like you say, it's just not the same. Great post xx