Saturday, August 16, 2008

Maybe Slightly Controversial: Audience Participation Required

You all had some nuggets of great wisdom in the last post. I completely agree that if you go through life with just a couple (or even one) true friend, then you are lucky indeed. I know I am lucky to have a handful of true friends and I girlfriend who I would qualify as my best friend.

Walking away from toxic relationships, one-sided relationships or otherwise empty relationships…where is the how-to for that? Some people make it look so easy. My nature is very much never to end a relationship, no matter how bad it is. I am beyond tenacious when it comes to relationships. This stems in part from growing up with a really really small and disjointed and basically unhappy family. You cling to everyone you met when everyone you met is an understudy for family.

I have a maybe controversial view of female friendship that I would love to delve into. I think I would be able to explain this better in person, but I will try to write it out. This is all based on my own very unscientific study and my own experiences. I do not like to make sweeping generalizations, but I realize that that is exactly what a person says right before they make a sweeping generalization.

Let me preface this by saying I always wanted a sister. Of course, I envisioned the idealized version of sisterhood: Sharing clothes and makeup and doing each other’s hair and consoling each other through the hard times. We would talk every night before we went to bed, even years after we moved out of the same home. We would lend each other support, money, clothes and furniture. We would be best friends.

So my sweeping generalization, my perhaps unpopular theory, my half-baked idea, my thesis here is that I think women who don’t have sisters tend to cling more to friendships than women who DO have sisters. Again, this is just MY experience. But I think I so badly wanted a sister my entire life (again, because I idealized sisterhood) that almost every friend I had unwittingly auditioned for this role.

My friend with sisters would do anything for their sisters. My friends without sisters would do anything for their friends. I am not implying that women with sisters are not good friends and I am not implying that women with sisters wouldn’t do anything for their friends. Follow that? In other words, I am not dissing anyone here. But I do think that women without sisters (who always wanted one) tend to place a little more emphasis on their friendships. Maybe sisterless women tend to be relationship caretakers—or groundskeepers, as Malea put it. Think about your relationships with women with sisters and without: Are there any differences?

Again, let me clarify that I am not saying that sisterless women are desperate and women with sisters are aloof. . I am not saying one values friendships more than the other. I am just saying that there are nuances here.
I will add that I am very interested in this because as the mother of two daughters, I want so badly for them to grow up and to have a close, loving, impenetrable relationship. A couple of my friends with sisters do have just that, and I need to pick their brains about how it works. My mom and her sister: Not at all. So no role model there. Nicole and her sister are polar opposites but they have a great relationship now, but didn’t so much growing up: A five-year age difference, and sharing a room probably played a big role in this.

I also want them to grow up and have close friendships like I have. There are a handful of people that I have been friends with for two decades and more, and those relationships are a part of my foundation in life. We have a history and a present and a future. I have friends that I talk to on the phone every day. I have a few friends with whom contact is less frequent, but that doesn’t change a thing. I have friends who would be excited to hear from me spur-of-the-moment and vice versa, as CD an SP wrote in her comment. The rest? Those are the relationships I have a hard time abandoning. Toxic house cleaning is in order.
if this

I know I did a bad job explaining this, but I am curious if anyone else has thoughts on this? What is your experience like? Do you notice any similarities, differences, patterns, trends?

Hot off the presses: Avery is feeling the sister bond. Today, for the first time, Avery went over to Madeline and gave her a hug. Can you believe it? On her own! We went nuts, which prompted her to keep doing it. And that prompted Madeline to eventually run away from her and hide in a corner, she was that tired of hugs.

The girls are gaining speed and can run now. They can walk up and down the steps in the living room without holding on. When I tell them it is time for lunch, they run to their chairs. The babble like crazy but other than Mama (which they don’t understand means us) they don’t make much sense. When I ask them if they want to go for a walk, Madeline brings me the Bjorn. Avery hugs stuffed animals and plays peek-a-boo. Madeline collects flashcards, hiding them in stashes around our home. They love to try on our shoes and try to walk in them. They are becoming such little people and I am trying to record every little thing here, since I am doing such a crappy job keeping up their baby books.

Nicole talked about the need to get a babysitter/mother’s helper and it made me feel sick to my stomach. We have free day care at Nicole’s work, but neither of us feel comfortable with using it, even in an emergency situation. There are only a few people I would trust with the girls. But that’s also another post.

Pictured above, Avery giving Madeline her first hug. Then the second hug The third hug. The fourth hug. And Madeline hiding!


utRus said...

your girlz are the cutest. really. in those delicious pink PJs.

get the mother's helper/babysitter. do it. then... simply take your time - be home as much as you have been thus far with the person (she can entertain while you type or she can vacuum while you play with them, or you can shower while she feeds them...) until you feel comfortable being in a different room for a while - then go out for 5 min, then 30 min. you get me? it will be good for you, good for your relationship, good for the girls.

i had the same fears, same control issues, same reservations as you did. now, i can go to class for 3 hours or to the grocery store or to lunch with a friend or get stuff done around the house and it's good for everyone.

try not to envision the worst. i know it's hard when you feel fear - but having a babysitter/nanny/helper is a good thing when you've been vigilant about finding the right person. and there are plenty of good people out there. start with your local twins club and get recommendations from the moms.

Malea said...

"Walking away from toxic relationships, one-sided relationships or otherwise empty relationships…where is the how-to for that?"

Jennifer you start small. I rename their number in my cel phone with "do not answer".If they ask what's up and why all of a sudden I'm not at their beck and call I explain that imo our relationship isn't healthy and for my own sake I feel it's time for the both of us to expand our circle and move on.

If things don't change on their end I block their email addy and soon after stop taking calls on my landline when their number comes up.It's hard in the beginning when it's been a routine of yours trying to suck what little moisture out of it you can and then learning to survive on just that. Breaking bad habits are always hard regardless of what those habits are.You just have to know in your heart that it's best for YOU.Take the time you were wasting on them and put it into another more productive friendship.

I do understand your clinginess explanation.It makes sense that you would want to find that sisterhood in other womens freindships. I may be a victum of the same thing even though I have three sisters all younger than me. One is only two years younger and we slept in the same bed until fourth grade. I was the nerd who stayed a nerd ,while she developed into the boy crazy cheerleader that was on all the committees at school.The other two also were like that.

I can say for me my sisters,mom and dad were never emotionally available for me.As a result I looked for validation outside the home in academics,sports.....people whose minds worked like mine.

I still don't know why my BFF is my We've had knock down drag out fights [ I was wrong]and she is still my best buddy and I don't get it.We met freshman year in college.She got tired of me stumbling into our dorm room from the bars late at night and started leaving a little night light on for me.She never judged my behavior and actually wanted my company when she was In all the years we've not talked for months at a time in between her husbands she has always called me on my birthday:) I will admit I haven't been a good grounds keeper as for as she is concerned.

imo you can't force your girls to be best freinds. You can only provide a environment were they are free to not compete with each other for your attention/love and are allowed to be unique. individuals.

I think you should have been born or live in the south.Southerners tend to be more touchy ,feely and less aloof than northerners in my opinion and experience.You'd make a fine southern belle:)I can see me having trouble in NYC as everyone is in their own little worlds.

Do you think that being gay and having this desire not actually encouraged in society made you feel less loved.And therefore you try to fill that void with the few people who think it's okay?

Malea said...

"Nicole talked about the need to get a babysitter/mother’s helper and it made me feel sick to my stomach. We have free day care at Nicole’s work, but neither of us feel comfortable with using it, even in an emergency situation"

ParKSlope has a message board for queer families.There are post all the time for couples who are having to give up their good nannies, because they are relocating or only need them parttime instead of fulltime. Also there are those who post looking for nanny shares either temp/perm for one day or several days. This past week there were three for nanny shares.

Check them out.At least the nannies come with recommendations.And the girls would have the other couples kids to play with while being sat.

K J and the kids said...

Maybe this is why I'm gay....I never had a sister and filled that spot with J :)
Someone I'm sure would come to that conclusion.

I can probably say that without having thought about it much, I may have replaced the "sister" that I never had with girl friends. and I agree with your theory.

Anonymous said...

it's an interesting theory, but my observations don't support it. i don't have a sister, but i've never cared about that. i never wished i had a sister, i never imagined what it would be like to have one. i have lots of friends, including a really good handful of close friends, but i don't try to have a sister-like relationship with any of them. my girlfriend doesn't have a sister. she has a smaller social circle than me and she doesn't try to fill any void with women. my mum and her two sisters are very close - they live in different cities but talk on the phone all the time and share everything, but all three of them have lots of friends. i've been to parties that they've thrown and each of them can fill a hall with good friends.

like you, i'm having trouble explaining my response in typing instead of in person. but for me, being sisterless (or not) doesn't seem to have a bearing on approaches to friendship.

i love that your girls are hugging each other!

Lynnbug said...

I dont know--I have never formed close bonds with many women. My sister and I have always seemed to be in a competition. The closet bond I have with a woman is my niece. Therefore, the competition between my sister and me is greater. We dont talk about it so much anymore but it is there under the surface all the time.

I think relationships are such an individual thing. I dont have many really close relationships but I think it is more because I have borderline personality disorder and I dont trust much.

I do think your theory has a lot of truth to it. My experience has just been almost the opposite but there are other issues there as I said above that causes my experience to be different. Does that make sense? I sometimes dont make sense.

I love your little girls! Twins are wonderful. My niece has a boy and girl. Sometimes they just stop what they are doing and spontaneously kiss and hug each other. Twins share a special bond.

Shelli said...

I never thought about it much, but it makes a LOT of sense. I'm an only child, my best friend is also an only child, my other close friends are indeed sister-less. One good friend has a sister and a brother, but she's like family, but not in that same way as the others are.

It's a very good theory, and does make sense.

As far as child care - FREE? At Nicole's Work? Seriously? USE IT USE IT USE IT.

Malka started daycare at 8 months old, and the transition was tough at first, but totally worth it.

Even if you were to use one afternoon a week, the socialization is good for THEM, and their development. And then, hey! You could have an afternoon, or morning off! Woot!

amy said...

i love your theory also! i don't have a sister either but my best friend (since 6th grade, 1986) kind of is that for me. i've had toxic girl friends (both platonic and otherwise) in my life that took me a long time to inch away from but since my daughter was born i have less and less time or patience for it. now that my wife is pregnant with our 2nd, i am torn between what gender to hope for. (not that it matters of course, what will be will be) but i've always wanted a son. conversely, the idea of my daughter having a sister is so intriguing to me since i so desperately wished i had one my self. i guess we'll see but i think your theory is right on!

psapph0 said...

One day, when I was 4, my mom and I were in the parking lot of Grand Union and she asked me if I wanted a brother or a sister. I replied, unfailingly, that I wanted a BROTHER, because you could play rough with them and didn't have to be careful. I got my wish and was quite content with a brother until I hit about 10 and then began wishing desperately for a sister.

I suspect, however, that "sister" was simply my 10-year-old-way of thinking "sex partner" because, even as a kid, I was aware that I was not thinking of this sister in a sisterly (see the italics and hear the tone of voice on that one!) way. I had friends with sisters, and I was fully aware that there were a few significant, fatal flaws in my idea of sisterhood. Guess I just didn't have the right language at the time.

My closest friend today is someone I met during college. She has no siblings, and now lives down in Nashville, TN. We talk every 3 days or so, sometimes for hours at a clip, and have grown much closer over the past two years or so. My partner (still working on if that is the right word to continue using... i think it will be) and I have largely taken the place of sisters in her life, and her in ours.

We saw an interesting display of your theory in action a week ago when we were in TX for a wedding. C, my closest friend, is also very close friends with K (All of us went to college together and I was one very close friends with K too). C was the Maid of Honor in K's wedding, and she was rather excited about this. However, when we got there, we learned that K had also appointed her younger sister, who was married two years ago, Matron of Honor. Without even seeming to notice that she completely abandoned C, K lavished all of the duties and honors on her sister, leaving C pretty much unacknowledged. Again, not terribly well explained, but you might get the idea.

Free daycare? Now is not a bad time to begin playing with the concept when there is no emergency and you're just dropping them off for a wee bit of time while you run out to do something solo. Or doing one day a week so that they can start developing some of those strong female friendships that you hope they will have down the line :-) Our country and society has put an awful lot of pressure on moms to act as the be all and end all of child raising, and it is a rather unfair standard that is not matched in most countries. The day care horror stories are just that- horror stories. Sure, they'll cry and scream for you when you leave and you'll feel your heart being pulled out through your chest- but they'll come running to you, arms in the air, as soon as you show up again to get them. Kids are gonna have to cry and yell and scream at separation at some point- wouldn't you prefer it be LONG before you try to drop them off at Kindergarten?

psapph0 said...
This comment has been removed by the author. said...

hmm.. you know, I'll buy that theory for a dollar!

I was an "only child" and I have REALLY close bonds with my friends.

I think it's a GREAT theory!!

(P.S. "Only child" is in quotes because I'm actually the eldest of six but my brothers lived with my dad and my next sister didn't come along until I was 14).

Meredith said...

Interesting theories! I have a twin sister, and although I have always had lots of friendships, none were ever so important to me that I worried about losing them (your theory). I guess I always knew I had my truest friend, my sister, anytime I needed her. And I still do. We were very close until about age 11, when I think I subconsciously figured out I was gay. I went through a period of about 5 years when I wanted to be as different from my sister as possible, and wanted to be independent in general. I think I was trying to deal with my sexuality without anyone knowing about it, so I tried to seem different in other ways (dress, who I hung out with, smoking). At the time my sister was upset because she always had the idealized version of sisterhood. Instead, we fought like crazy...something I really regret now. Around age 16, I chilled out and she went through her own period of questioning her sexuality, so she was a bit aloof. We worked it all out eventually, though, and are back to being best friends. I'm gay and she's straight, and although we love our partners, we have an understanding of each other that no one else has come close to. I joke that we are half of the same person, but it's something I really believe. I don't know who I would be without her! I'm sure that no matter what life throws at your girls, they will always end up being a united front. :)

Anonymous said...

"Nicole and her sister are polar opposites but they have a great relationship now, but didn’t so much growing up: A five-year age difference, and sharing a room probably played a big role in this." This describes my relationship with my older sister very well.
I have always wanted and needed close friends. I had a best friend growing up, but now she lives far away. I have a close friend here, though her kid is older so we are at different points in n our lives, even though we're the same age, and it gets hard to schedule our plans. One friend whom I'd had throughout childhood abandoned our relation in senior year and college. She was an only-child, which does not really fit your theory.
On another note - and I am talkimg about ME here, not you - my boys really thrived in daycare starting at 1.5. They were so different, and I think each of them meeting other kids and caretakers with whom they could have unique relationships was nothing short of incredible for them. And it's been beautiful to watch as a parent. Again, that's just my experience. I had some anxiety about leaving them, but not as much as you, so I can imagine that it must feel paralyzing to think about such a possibility.

Jess said...

I have always had close girl friends. I'm not really an acquaintence type of person. You are either a good friend or not. I have had a ton of toxic friendships, Mere is the only reason I don't do that anymore. I also have a sister but we are 6 yrs apart and super different. I think as she ages I appreciate her more and feel more of a connection. I can't say if sister-less folks crave closer friendships, I'm just not sure. But I can see where you are coming from and why you might have that thought. The girls are super cute in their pink outfits. Our mother's helper has been nothing but awesome for Mere. Think about having a few hours a week all to yourself!!! You deserve/need it:)

Tammy said...

I have found that women who don't have sisters are more available to friendship than those who do. I have really struggled to keep friendships going in the past. I end up doing 99% of the "work" and then getting frustrated-after years-and end up becoming unavailable. It always annoys me how the "friends" don't seem to notice/care that I have removed myself from their lives.