YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections


Now What Will Become of Our Friendship?

November 03, 1998|SANDY BANKS

We're making plans, my friends and I, that we know will split our daughters up. We're sending them off to different schools for ninth grade, reluctantly breaking apart the tightknit cluster that has dominated their social lives.

The girls have pledged to stay in touch--to keep on sharing birthday parties, movie dates, late-night phone calls, sleepovers. . . . Their friendships, they are sure, will remain in place.

I wish I could be so smug, so certain, about friendships of the grown-up type--both more substantial and more fragile--that exist between their mothers and me.


I figured going into motherhood that children would provide me with lots of things: more gray hairs, a busier schedule, the ability to recite "Good Night Moon" in my sleep and to see--with those proverbial eyes in the back of my head--a blow passed between sisters in a car's back seat.

But I never realized that my kids would expand--create, even--my social circle . . . that I'd one day count as my closest friends women I'd first encountered in the kids' Brownie troops and ballet classes.

Looking back, I can chart our course from acquaintance through camaraderie by the gradual shift in our conversations, from tentative questions about potty training and orthodontia to heart-rending confessions of money problems and infidelity.

Our friendships were launched through play dates and birthday parties, cultivated during family outings and sealed over late-night talks at the dinner table while we cleared dishes and polished off our kids' leftover pizza as they played out of earshot upstairs.

Through the years, we moved through life's transitions--job changes, divorces, births, deaths, new loves--thrown together again and again by circumstance, history and need.

In her book "Just Friends: The Role of Friendship in Our Lives" (HarperCollins), sociologist Lillian B. Rubin declares that the depth of a friendship depends upon how many parts of ourselves a friend sees, shares and validates.

These women in my small group of friends have seen, shared and validated virtually every part of me. They know my shortcomings and my strengths, they understand my passions and my regrets, and that gives me patience and perspective to slog through trials great and small.

How could I have coped, at my wits' end, with my youngest child's volatile temper tantrums if Kimberly hadn't been there to remind me that my older daughters--now past that stage--had posed similar challenges, and I had prevailed?

How could I have endured the death of a husband, learned to cope with a child's special needs, recovered from painful romantic betrayal without the wisdom of women who know both the territory and the traveler so well?

And how can I hope to navigate the perils of an uncertain future--the sturm und drang of a daughter's adolescence, the challenges of a career--without the steadying force provided by the mothers of my daughter's friends?


There's a kind of chemistry that can set a friendship in motion, a force as powerful and mysterious as that instant attraction between a man and a woman that can turn a blind date into a torrid romance.

I've met perfectly nice women whose company I enjoy, but we never get further than pleasantries or empty promises to get in touch.

And I've met others I recognize from the start as kindred spirits, and I've felt chemistry produce sisters-at-heart from a chance encounter on a preschool bench.

But that, I've found, is only the start. Good friendships--like good marriages--need more than intimacy and shared desire. They require time, attention, cultivation to survive. And that comes so much more easily when we are thrown together naturally, in the course of our children's day-to-day.

I have not been good at friendship lately. There's been too little time, too many demands, for me to muster the energy that keeping up with friends' lives requires.

Their phone calls come when I'm tied up, puzzling over algebra homework or heading out to the grocery store. I call back later and on their end it's dinner time or company's over or the dog just up and ran out the door.

Our lunch plans crumble when I'm stuck at the office, struggling to finish a column that should have been done hours ago. Our dinner dates dissolve when her baby-sitter cancels.

But we survive the disappointments because we know our time will come . . . that before too long we'll wind up sitting side by side at a school picnic or a daughter's basketball game where we can refuel with a shared exchange of confidences, an update on news that shapes our days.

It's insurance of sorts, protecting a valuable commodity--friendship--in a high-stakes game. And that is what I fear we'll lose when our kids move on, our orbits shift away. . . .

And though I may not have much extra time to cultivate their friendship these days, I also don't have the illusion that I can get through my day without it.

Sandy Banks' column is published Sundays and Tuesdays. Her e-mail address is

Los Angeles Times Articles