‘Growing pains’, new friends and the fatigue of fitting in

I’m talking about myself here. Not my little girl. Her issues with growing pains, journey with new friends and peer pressure I get .. I didn’t anticipate running into these myself at 31! Really No. I didn’t plan for this. I’ve been known to have far better social skills than what I’m demonstrating now. Let me explain.

Today was little A’s best friend’s birthday. Our neighbor’s kid is her bestestestest friend for now. She can’t get through a day without seeing the little girl next door, a year older than her. Little A started throwing up last night after pigging out at a Mexican restaurant here down the road, a quesadilla slice too much I suppose. She threw up for 2 hours straight, the car, the couch, the bed .. you get the picture! She was exhausted by the time she hit the bed at 10.30. But she went to bed repeating over and over again how much fun we were going to have the next day at the pool party.

She woke up all fresh and bright at 9.30. We had to be careful though. We kept to a couple of idlis and some juice for breakfast for her. She promptly threw up on the way to the party at 11.30. We would never have taken her had she been in an awful condition. Her eyes were clear and she looked bright. She was fine. If it had been worse we might have canceled but we were not going to make her miss this one occasion and she was doing fine, not so bad. We reached the community where the club was and the security at the gate checked in with us. Now this sight set my head off. “It’s a snooty crowd”, the neighbor had said, explaining why my nanny couldn’t join the party. My nanny, a 20 ish young girl badly wanted to go. She’d been spending a lot of time with both girls every other evening and wanted to go. I had to convey the bad news to her this morning when she showed up at my door step, all dressed up for the occasion. I hated giving her the message. I was angry. What’s with the stupid class system here. Everyone’s always telling me how I need to keep my nanny, maid and others in place. I always knew this existed but coming back to it after being away for 10 years makes you see it in a whole different way. My nanny, maid and I sit at the dining table each morning and sip our teas, coffees together. I’ve taught them to do so. It’s ridiculous how they sit in a corner of the kitchen sipping their drink as though hiding in shame. I watch movies at home with my nanny. I took her to my village when I went there for a week. Not because I needed her help all the time. In fact, my daughter is far from letting her do anything but play with her. She’s a friend for now. Not yet allowed to help with feeding, bathing, sleeping or any other activities. To have a new friend tell me that I couldn’t bring this friend along for the party was just a little hurtful, especially given the reason was ‘it’s a snooty setting’. This girl had even cared for the other kid on many occasions giving my neighbor a little respite.

If this were California, I wouldn’t have turned back and ever looked at such a person, neighbor or not, leave alone make them my friend. Now I’m yearning for anything and everything that will help my daughter fit in. And I must admit though I don’t want to, that I’m trying to be all social and stuff as well. My friends and relatives are in the US or in Chennai. I mean I do need friends, contacts and acquaintances here don’t I. It’s not like in the US. Access to anything and everything seems to depend on who you know and how they can help. Social networks are everything. So I’m being good. I’m doing the whole mommy bonding thing … something I’ve never ever done to date. So it’s a whole new learning curve. And just about everyone here talks about their help this way … what am I going to do … ignore and refuse to move with anyone? I’m not sure what to do. These people are fine otherwise. It’s not like I dislike hanging out with folks here .. I actually enjoy some good conversations, tea and occasional food swapping. I love a lot of things about them. But I dislike just as much. Yes we all have our eccentricities. I’m probably weird to them as well. Who knows! But how do I continue to give up principles and put up with conversations that I completely disagree with over and over again with just about everyone around me. I’m trying hard to fit in. Disagreeing, I’ve noticed, goes into a whole new set of issues. I’m not close enough to anyone to disagree so vehemently with them yet. I’ve already bid goodbye to a few folks thanks to my being so vocal about my issues with what they said. This whole fitting in thing … I’m tired of it already.

Anyway, so back to the guard who I was staring at, on our way to the club house. The homes here were like high end homes in the peninsula or San Francisco. 3 – 4M a villa. The club house looked like the resorts I visited in Puerto Rico and Hawaii. Why did this setting automatically mean it was snooty?! Maybe it was. Who knows. I noticed foreigners everywhere, politely chatting with the staff and help around. They didn’t seem snooty at all to me. Maybe the Indians living / visiting here were!! I arrived at the party. Little one jumped right into the pool with the birthday girl and was having fun for an hour. She started getting tired and the crankiness kicked in. She started insisting the birthday girl give her the water gun she had in her hand, grabbed it, made her cry … and the madness started. Thankfully we found a way to get her interested in something else and she calmed down in 5 mins. But we knew she was hungry and tired and we had to get her out. So we did. And after the cake and food which she barely touched, we decided to walk her away to other parts of the club house, distracting her, hoping to eventually get her in the car and call it an afternoon. While dad was on that, I walked to a bunch of folks near the pool to tell them we should leave given how cranky, hungry and tired my girl was. All the throwing up had left the girl worn out.

It seemed simple until I went to them. Instead I had to politely stand through 15 mins of everyone lecturing me on how I need to relax and let her play there with all the other kids. ‘The throwing up will stop, whatever”, “She’ll be fine”, “Oh you need to relax really” … it continued for 15 mins. I tried to explain. But nope. I was the overly protective mom who’d decided to take her child away from the party after 3 hours! I was standing there again facing the ongoing fight between no rules, flexible everything vs. whatever it is that I’ve got going (I’d rather not name it just yet). I sat through the lectures the phone rang and Daddy A actually yelled at me. “Where the hell are you”, he screamed. He was getting nervous since she was going nuts about moving farther away from the pool. She could barely keep her eyes open I could tell when I saw her. I rushed to the entrance to meet them and just then, the little girl broke. She started screaming, crying refusing to leave. We literally scooped her up, kicking and screaming, put her in the car and drove away. It took her 15 mins to calm down. And when she did, she fell asleep on us. As in, FELL on us and slept. Literally.

One good thing came out of this madness as we were headed home. She suddenly wanted daddy to stop driving and come to her. So he did. And I took the car. My first time ever driving here in India. I guess I got over the fear … just like that. I needed to drive, she needed him. So I did. And as I was driving I was thinking about how hard it was fitting in, finding new friends and just learning how to be a mom in this new world. The rules were all so different. The social game was played so differently here. I was in my own little comfort zone with the friends I had in the US and same in Chennai as well. Come to think of it, I can count with my fingers how many new friends I’ve made in the last 3 years since I’ve had my girl. I guess this was coming.

I guess I’m as confused as my toddler now. Who’re my friends? Who’s throwing things my way that I can’t understand or even worse, disagree? Do I care enough to stay and make them my friends? Is this just too much, do I walk away and just hold on to my comfort zone and the few that I already know? I’m doing a lot of this for my little girl. I know how the politics of parents’ social lives are intertwined with that of the children. Besides I want my little girl to see and learn how people form or break relationships, sort out disagreements and grow with each other. This is all going to take a while. I guess. The differences are so stark .. they’re everywhere. It’s tiring. It’s almost midnight and I’m dead tired. It’s been a long day! A really really long day!

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9 responses to “‘Growing pains’, new friends and the fatigue of fitting in

  1. ” Who’re my friends? Who’s throwing things my way that I can’t understand or even worse, disagree? Do I care enough to stay and make them my friends? Is this just too much, do I walk away and just hold on to my comfort zone and the few that I already know? I’m doing a lot of this for my little girl. I know how the politics of parents’ social lives are intertwined with that of the children. Besides I want my little girl to see and learn how people form or break relationships, sort out disagreements and grow with each other.”

    Okay, so, I’ve heard from other 30 somethings that past 30 you stop caring so much about fitting in and actively making friends (paraphrased, and very very bluntly at that). It’s a bit different for you since you are in a new-ish place and I suppose you’re merely trying to find some footing there, which would include finding a new social circle. But, surely you don’t actually have to be friends with the parents of your daughter’s friends? An acquaintance ought to be enough? Especially when you have views so diametrically opposite to those of these other parents.

    I’m not saying two people cannot be friends at all if they have completely opposing views but to base friendships on something like “Our kids are friends, so yeah why not” is, I think, creating a difficult course for yourself.

    Also, it’s unlikely that friendships simply happen overnight, you’d still have to spend some time with these people, maybe find some actual common ground, like each other, appreciate each other and then proceed to being able to say ‘we are friends’. I don’t think being social necessarily means you make friends easily, it simply means you get along wit people easily without really indicating whether or not you have a meaningful relationship with them.

    Your friends are people who enrich your life. Yours. Important as your daughter is to you and you are making all these efforts to help her transition more easily, I think it might be a tad ambitious to actually make friends (which speaks of far too much effort for something not exactly … with that effort) with the parents of her friends. Plus, if you do want her to learn about people as you’ve said in your post, then maybe the thing to do is to show her what genuine friendships and relationships look like, by example. If anything, your forcibly trying to fit in might send her the message that it really is all about who you know or that you make compromises on certain fronts simply to fit in. And, having a circle independent of who she is friends with would teach her another valuable lesson about being/having an independent identity.

    There’s a chance that she may not always want to be friends with only the children she’s friends with now. She’s going to find other friends, maybe at some point stop wanting to be around the current ones as much. At which point, you’ll be stuck with having to socialise with the parents of these kids, maybe still without any actual common ground to base a friendship on.

    It appears to be challenging enough already for you, maybe just kick back and let friendships happen as they will?

    I love how honest you are in your writing.

    Also, hello!

  2. Hello yourself! 🙂 Thanks for the note here. I did throw the word friend pretty generously up there didn’t I. That whole 30s something comment is totally true. It pretty much summed up my life back in California. But you’re right about it being different here. I think acquaintances are what I’m going for, for the most part but what’s being reciprocated is friendship. Now that puts me in an awkward position. Besides, it’s not easy to keep the distance at acquaintance when they’re at your door 10 times in a day 🙂 and the kids are over at each other’s several times a day as well. Doors are always open here in these communities, people are walking in and out all the time .. it’s so much harder to negotiate space and establish rules or boundaries. Makes it that much harder to say No. Besides, I haven’t had to think so much about relationships since I was 18 I think. That’s part of the frustration I suppose.

    • Yeah, sorry about the longass comment!

      And I probably read too much into the word ‘friend’ there. I keep forgetting the part where one leaves their doors open and people walk in eleventy times a day. When I’m back home in India, even though I was born and raised there and have only lived away for about 7 years now, it still comes as a huge surprise, that things are done so differently there. It’s a pleasant surprise, certainly. I’m happy to see people being so casual and warm and all that, until the personal questions start. And then I wonder, if you don’t establish boundaries at the outset, it gets difficult to do so later surely?

      Either way, here’s hoping you settle in and find footing soon, and friends, without too much bother 🙂

      • I know. It’s funny how being away can make you forget most of these things. And it makes you wonder if you actually were fine with most of these things growing up! I think I was. Leaving is what changed my opinions about them.

  3. Making friends in your 30s is so hard, and here I am using the word ‘friend’ more like an acquaintance. Ever since I moved to the US, I have been moving cities every 2 years and starting over and making friends is such a difficult process. I feel like i need to be more social for my daughter’s sake. i try it and go to the indian parties.Then I decide it can’t be this hard and hibernate a bit. Its a constant push and pull. I guess its not like when I was younger, I was not quite so picky maybe? Totally relate!

    • I know all too well what that party vs. hibernation back and forth looks like there in the US. It’s a little different here. The hibernation is much much harder 🙂 I guess that’s part of my problem. I have nowhere to hide. Doors don’t mean much here.

  4. I totally get this. Even though we live in the US, we visit India often and stay for extended periods due to work (both have branches here) and family. It is hard to find people you can connect with. On the blogs, you can connect with lots of people. But not necessarily in your neighborhood.
    I also find the ‘open door policy’ annoying and inconsiderate. I never liked it as a teenager when I was growing up in India- but I guess I could always sneak away while my parents had to deal with a constant stream of un-announced guests. But when you become an adult, you realize it’s your problem.

  5. Pingback: Moms, I’d like You to Meet… | themodernidiot·

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