July 9, 2013

Taking Time to Find a Friend: Lessons from a Three-Year-Old

By Lalove
Introduced by Amy

When my older sister, Sherie, was in high school, she had a really cool group of friends, whom I idolized.  I longed to be cool like them, wearing makeup, staying out after 9:30, and having parties...they even hung out WITH BOYS! *gasp!*  Whenever these friends came over for a movie night with my sister, they let me hang out too; I happily pretended to be one of them.  (Gosh, I can't believe how patient they were...I was probably so obnoxious--I NEVER stopped talking.)  Lalove was one of these super cool older girls.  

Now we are both mommas.  The weird thing is, if I moved into her neighborhood today, we'd meet and be friends!  The difference between a 10 year-old and a 15 year-old is HUGE...but 5 years isn't such a stretch when your grown-ups!  I'm so glad she agreed to contribute a post--she is so warm and funny...and a fabulous writer.

My son William is three years old, an age where in his mind, the world is his own. 

He fully expects that every person we meet is ready and willing to be his friend and is interested in what he has to say.  The other day as I was wheeling him around Home Depot, in one of those shopping carts made to look like a kid’s car and that have the maneuverability of a small cruise ship barreling down the aisles, you would have thought my son was in a parade.  He was shouting to the people we passed, calling hello and waving wildly to strangers, as if he believed they should be thrilled to see him.  He was especially excited when we saw kids close to his age.  Whenever a small child came into sight, he’d cry out, “My friend!” and beg me to steer the cart over so he could chat with his “friends.”  Most people who saw my son waving and calling to them were kind enough to smile and wave back, and as I watched total strangers strike up a fleeting moment of friendship with my son, it got me thinking.  I think most young children, born into homes where they feel safe and secure, develop a natural sense of love and concern for others around them.  For many children my son’s age, anyone can be their friend, regardless of age, gender, social status, etc.   While children can definitely be mischievous and troublemaking, there is a reason the Savoir said we should become like little children, and I believe part of that reason is their amazing capacity to love others.

Yet somewhere along the journey to adulthood, the attitude of loving everyone shifts.  Somewhere along the way, most children learn that it’s not OK to talk to strangers in Home Depot and not everyone is their friend.  Obviously for safety reasons, we have to teach our children that not every stranger is going to be a friend to them, and they need to be careful about who they try to associate with.  Yet watching my son making friends with each person he came in contact with made me wonder if we sometimes swing too far to the other extreme – to where we become self absorbed, judgmental, afraid of rejection, and unwilling to go out of our way to be friends to others. 

Case in point, I spoke to a friend of mine the other day who recently moved to a new state and was commenting on how hard it was for her to make friends, even though she was going out of her way to meet people.  As we spoke, I understood a little of what my friend was experiencing.  I moved to a new city over a year ago and had a similar experience.  What surprised both me and my friend is that we are both actively engaged in the churches we attend, and both of us had few people show any interest in meeting us when we attended church the first few weeks.  While I wouldn’t expect strangers in Home Depot to go out of their way to be my friend, I would expect that anyone attending a new church would find many welcoming friends. 

Lalove with baby #2: Elinore
Since I’ve been married I’ve lived in two different cities, and in both instances, when I attended church for the first time, I had a few people make an effort to speak to me.   But most people sat with and spoke with the same people at church each week, without seeming to notice I was there.  I found that if I wanted to meet people, I had to go out of my way to introduce myself.  When my husband and I were first married, he was deployed to Iraq, so I spent about a year and a half living on my own.  It was really hard some weeks for me to go to church all by myself and spend the three hour’s worth of meetings sitting alone.  I’m not trying to sound whiney and complain-y because it wasn’t everyone’s job to be my best friend at church each week; if I wanted to make friends, it was partially my responsibility to talk to people, which I did, and eventually I made a lot of friends and met a lot of great people.  However, when you’re the new person – whether it be at church or work or school or in the neighborhood – it can be a little intimidating; having people take time to offer their friendship can make the transition to a new environment much more pleasant and much less stressful. 

Ever since my experience trying to make friends at church that year and half my husband was gone, I’ve tried harder to be aware of people around me.   I try harder to sit by people sitting alone at church so we can strike up a conversation.  I try harder when I’m in public to look for people who seem like they need help or a kind word.  I’m still not as good as my son.  There are still times in life when I let fear get the best of me, and instead of taking time to say hello or give a compliment to a stranger, I keep my mouth shut and miss opportunities to be a friend to others around me.  I hope I can improve.  Lucky for me I have a great example to look up to.  He’s about three feet tall with big blue eyes and a big old smile.  Some of you probably know him – you may have seen him waving to you as we lumbered down the aisles of Home Depot.  His name is William, and he already knows what to call you – “friend.”

See what I mean?  She's so cool.  Don't you just wish she was your next door neighbor so you could talk over the fence and have family barbeques?  I love her ideas about friendship.  It's funny that kids think that grown-ups can do anything and that we're never scared....but when it comes to making friends, they are often SO much braver than us. 

How about you?  Have you an experience where someone reached out to you (or visa versa) that you'd share?  What helps you to make friends?  We'd love to hear from you. :)


  1. Love Lalove :) I swear kids' abilities to make friends so easy at that age has to do with their self-confidence. They know they're awesome and have alot to offer - we're the same, but don't always know or show it :). Just yesterday when I was at Walmart picking up some produce, a woman with a little boy was looking at grapes when I was. She glanced in my cart and saw my little baby (and I had three of my other kids with me) and said, "Be sure to price match these grapes and avocados. I know with little ones you don't have time to always look up prices," and she told me the prices. It was AWESOME because I had fully intended on price-matching the produce, but didn't have time. Especially when it comes to fellow "mommas" - we know what comes with motherhood and we mind as well help each other out and be a friend - and it can be as simple as sharing the price of grapes and avocados at Walmart.

  2. I loved your article, Lalove! You are right--when we grow up, we tend to keep more and more to ourselves and the group of people we feel comfortable with. I have found that having a baby has helped me reach out more to others that I don't necessarily know as well. I love taking my daughter with me places because we always talk to at least one or two new people on our trip. I think children are great ice breakers because most people have children or have a soft spot for children. Miranda is the same way as your little boy, she just waves and smiles at strangers. We can learn a lot from these little babes.

  3. Thanks for reading Sheri and Sarah! It amazes me how many more people make an effort to speak to me when I have my kids with me -- and I appreciate it! I wish I had the confidence of a 3-year-old so I could be more friendly because who doesn't appreciate a friendly hello or advice on produce from a stranger? For some reason I think people such as myself are always afraid we'll offend someone, so we don't say anything at all, when in truth, giving someone a kind word would not offend anyone. It's nice we have kids to remind us of that.

  4. Such a great insight taken from the mouth of babes and spoken so well by you! They sure teach us a lot! It is definitely hard for me to reach out most of the time-definitely something to work on! And what a little stud in his Spiderman suit ;-)

  5. Love it, Lalove! So very true.


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