Sitting across from their kitchen table laughing and drinking wine as our collective of eight young children ran around and played, the thought reemerged in my mind, “Why weren’t we friends sooner?”
I had officially met Mal and Jay in the fall of 2020. Over a year’s worth of time I’d gotten to know Mal more and more. This fall, when their kiddos transferred to my kiddos’ school and their daughter was placed in the same class as my son, our friendship really began to bloom.
A Perfect Friendship Fit
Even more interestingly was that my husband and her husband really hit it off! For those of you with introverted husbands, or who are introverts yourself, you may be able to relate to my situation. My husband, Chris, is uncomfortable at times with what he feels is forced social interaction. That has been my experience with a few good friends, where as “friend couples” (or maybe quartets?) things don’t mesh.
So, to my delight, not only is my friendship with Mal great, but our families getting together is also such a joy! The thing is, this whole situation might have been possible THREE years ago. If only I would have come out of my “new-mom-on-the-block” shell.
As a married couple, Chris and I have moved out-of-state or out-of-county three times. First from Colorado to the Seattle area, then from Washington to Texas, and three and a half years ago from the Dallas/Fort Worth area to Milan, Italy.
‘The thing is, this whole situation might have been possible THREE years ago if only I would have come out of my “new mom on the block” shell.’
And now we are looking down the pike at another move (destination TBD) in about six months time. The thought of starting a new life and making new friends again is once again in the back of my mind.
When you’re a Family that Relocates Often
Truthfully, I am a pretty outgoing and friendly person and would definitely consider myself to be an extravert. I truly enjoy meeting people, hearing their stories, and getting to know them. I find, however, that making friends is a whole different animal than merely making an acquaintance, meeting a new neighbor, or getting a little chummy with your coworkers.
When you move somewhere new OR transition into a new season of life, you enter into a whole new pool of friends. The theoretical conundrum is that those potential friends may very well have multiple friendships already established.
For me, my experience with moving has been different each time. In one place I found that it took several months to make just one friend. I can say that after three years there I had only four good friends (not necessarily at the same time.) Even more frustrating was that one of those friends I made three months before moving.
That location proved to be a tough one in the friendship department. There were decade-long friendships already established there and if I’m honest things felt quite “cliquey”.
Life in Milan
However tough, that location did afford me the experience to go into our move to Milan with the mindset that I may be “alone” for a while. Once we got into our house though (we were in a hotel for two and a half months and moved out three days before I gave birth to my youngest son) the process of making friends happened quite naturally.
I currently live in a bit of an expat community where approximately 50% of the residents here are Italian and the rest are from all over the world. Even though there are already established friendships, everyone is very welcoming and accepting, as we are all pretty much in the same situation in life. In short, you make friends fast or you become a hermit.
Back to my friendship with Mal though… I very distinctly remember seeing her for the first time within a month or so of moving as I took my kids to a nearby playground. She stood out to me immediately because she had four young children and they all appeared to be the same age.
Come to find out Mal and Jay have “Irish quadruplets”, which is when you have triplets less than a year after having another child. You may now close your mouth and applaud at that astounding parenting feet.
Anyway, the other thing that made Mal stand out to me is that when I heard her speak I could tell that not only was she speaking English, but she sounded like she might have also been American. She and Jay are actually Canadian, but so am I by birth, which has given us even more camaraderie.
Working up the Courage to say Hi
So, seeing this busy mom of four try to chat with a friend all the while herding her four kittens (keeping kids together is like herding cats) and quelling any arguments, I immediately felt like she could be a kindred spirit. I coyly stayed to the side, attending my three oldest children whilst wearing my infant in his carrier. But when Mal’s play date ended she loaded her kids up in their van and left.
“I saw her again, who knows how long after that, and again waited for her to ‘notice’ me.”
Ugh, a missed opportunity. I saw her again, who knows how long after that, and again waited for her to “notice” me. Once again, we each left the park not knowing one another’s names. At some point, I guess I decided that we just weren’t meant to be friends. I went on with my life, the rearing of my children, and the constant battle that was- for me at that time- simply living in Italy.
A Lesson Learned
Looking back on it, I think it is so silly that I expected her to make the first move. In my head I thought, “I’m the new girl. I shouldn’t be the one to step into their conversation and introduce myself.” What nonsense!
Honestly, I think I was afraid. Afraid that she and her friend would be annoyed or irritated. Afraid that they wouldn’t be interested in getting to know me or that their friendship quota would be “filled.” That fear stopped me and quite possibly robbed me of three years of friendship.
I can see now that those fears were completely unfounded. Even if Mal and her friend didn’t want to be my friend, they probably would have politely introduced themselves and then continued on with their conversation and play date. It truly wouldn’t have hurt me to try.
Even if you’re Scared, Try
Lately, I have been listening to several podcasts that have tackled the topic of fear and putting yourself out there. The resounding message is to not to wait until you aren’t afraid anymore, but to just jump out there and do it. Take a leap of faith and do it anyway, even if you’re scared.
Transparently, I don’t just want to apply this idea to my life solely when making new friends. I want to apply it to pursuing my career as an author and other parts of my life as well.
All of that to say, if you are new to your season of life, your geographical location, or are preparing to move like me, I want to encourage you to step out there. Make the first move. Be the one to introduce yourself first. Yes, it might be scary. But the even scarier thought to me is to wait for friends to show up on my doorstep. Because then, I’d end up spending those first hard months going at it alone… all because I was afraid.
Oh, and one more important thing. If you don’t step out, shyly waiting for some one to ask you onto the friendship dance floor, think of all of the time you are robbing that potential friend (or friends) of getting to know the wonderful, one-of-a-kind, you!
About the Author
Chandra is a wife and stay-at-home Mom of four littles, living in Milan, Italy. She is a recent stroke survivor and a lover of coffee, wine, yoga and Jesus. She is currently writing a memoir of the rollercoaster ride that has been her life in Italy and hopes to share it with the world upon completion.