This is an interesting generation to parent in…the Facebook generation. Our connections to friends from our past remain stronger than previous generations because we are able to “stay in touch” via Newsfeeds and we have easy access to messaging platforms. (Can you even imagine trying to find time when you and your mom BFF could actually talk on the phone at the same time? Texting is life.) However, sometimes that means we’re overlooking people standing directly in front of us in order to stay connected to people on the other side of the screen.
We’re used to keeping friendships alive based on highlight reels. We get to share the best parts of our lives from a safe place that doesn’t require eye contact, awkward introductions or pants. It’s not ALL bad (especially the no pants part), but it does make the idea of real-life friends seem harder than ever before.
It’s why getting to know your neighbors can be intimidating in today’s day and age, especially for introverts like me. Almost anyone who knows me would probably throw me in the “most extroverted of all extroverts” bucket, but I am not. There is a shy girl (if you knew me pre-high school, you’ll remember her) who still tries to protect me from too much peopling. She likes her comfortable bubble which involves people she already knows, her couch and Hot Tamales.
Many years of college presentations, job interviews, client presentations and professional encounters have taught me to rip the bandaid off pretty quickly and painlessly. But still I can remember the panic when my neighbor-turned-best-friend was approaching my driveway to introduce herself for the first time. My palms were sweaty, I was just praying I would be able to remember my kids names and that my husband wouldn’t pop his head out the front door yelling, “YO BAE YOU SEEN MY INHALER ANYWHERE?” (Yes, he seriously talks like that).
There is no realer gig than being neighbors. It’s not just meeting a new friend who will soon leave and “see you again soon!” No, no. They are a friend who gets a front row seat to your entire life! Taking the dog out without a bra on? Still in your pjs at 2:30 in the afternoon? Chasing a 2 year old down the street with only one boot on? Like to garden in your old, trusty red shorts? They see and hear it all. There are no filters or funny posts to hide behind. There are no simplistic emotional responses like a laughing face or thumbs up to be had. Only real-life weird looks, laughter and, most importantly, support.
Once you get through the initial hurdle of getting to know your neighbors, they are the biggest blessing in life. Need butter? Neighbors. Need a beer? Neighbors. Need someone to hold your one year old so you can chase down your toddler? Neighbors. Need to witness someone else’s real unfiltered, unplanned life to understand that the highlight reels aren’t real life? Neighbors.
This life, especially motherhood, requires community. And there is no better one to surround yourself with than those who already surround you. I realize not everyone is blessed with neighbors who share the same lifestage, or beliefs, or qualities you look for in friends. And I realize how hard it is to introduce yourself in this hyper-connected, disconnected world. But I promise if you put in the effort to get to know each other, and let them know you are there no matter what they need, you’ll find some of the most irreplaceable relationships in your life.