“But Mom! I can’t dooooooooooo it!!” My four year old’s cheeks were already flushed with frustration and tears were rolling down onto her nose. She had tried to paint a house on the construction paper in front of her, and it looked…like poop. She’s old enough now to know the difference between random paint strokes and an actual image, and she couldn’t make it work. She threw the brush across the table and the paint spattered everywhere.
I took a long slow breath, and this time at least, channeled a patient and loving parent instead of the white hot volcano of rage that had been building since that morning. “Bubble,” I told her, “You’re not going to get it perfect right away. You have to practice.” She wailed and threw herself off her chair, then shrieked at the pain in her elbow that slammed into the floor.
This was not what she wanted to hear. She wanted to make something pretty. Her paper was not pretty. She wanted to hang up a lovely picture of a house on the refrigerator, and being told that this wouldn’t likely happen in the next 3.5 minutes was just absolutely unacceptable.
Kids have to be told to practice, to work at something, to get better little by little. It’s not really a fun message. To be honest, as adults we don’t really like to hear it either, but we’ve grown to accept that school and work, parenting and marriage, can be a lot of grind, but worthwhile in the end.
So why do we so often expect friendship to be breezy and effortless? Deep, real, vibrant relationships are built on a foundation of everyday slog. So many forgotten texts to forgive. So many dud playdates where the kids just fight and fall down and cry the whole time. So many times you don’t have much to talk about and end up rehashing the excruciating details of what house updates everyone’s doing this summer for the hundredth time. So many times where one bails on the other in the middle of a crappy week because all they can handle is turning on Netflix and going to bed at 7:30.
But if you stick it out, if you push past the awkward, the dull, the mundane and keep showing up for each other, if you keep picking up the text thread and keeping meeting up for coffee and keep asking how her week is, how her marriage is, how her job is, keep sharing and keep talking – eventually you will create something gorgeous. You’ll make a friend who understands when you run your mouth about your mother-in-law, who doesn’t judge when you vent about your kids, the first person you call when you get the positive pregnancy test or the positive diagnosis.
When we take a risk and make plans with a new friend, only for it to be kind of awkward and a little boring, it’s very tempting to throw ourselves to the ground and wail, “But I can’t DOOOOOOO it.” It’s easy to write it off, “I’m just different – I can’t find my people,” or “If I just lived somewhere else, I’d find people I click with.”
But you can. It takes time. Beautiful things take patience and practice. And it’s worth it. I promise.
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