Everything I Need to Know About Making Friends I Learned From My 3-Year-Old

Posted by on Sep 24, 2012 in Bug & Bear | 2 comments

Everything I Need to Know About Making Friends I Learned From My 3-Year-Old








“Mommy! Look!! I made a friend!!!” I looked up from digging through the racks of shirts at the store we were in to see this…

Then she wanted me to take pictures. That’s my Bug, she could make friends with a brick wall. Or a mannequin.

Yesterday I took her to the park and her face fell when she realized there were no other kids there to play. About 10 minutes later a car pulled up and a girl slightly older than Bug jumped out and started towards the playground. Bug screamed, “Look, Mommy, a friend!” Then she ran towards her new friend and threw her arms around her in a long, meaningful embrace. The girl looked uncomfortable. “Sweetie, try saying hi and tell her your name,” I tried to gently redirect. The child is extremely social. Let me be clear – she does not get this from me. I wish I could say she did, but no, it’s just the way she came into the world, so full of life and enthusiasm for people.

Before Bug was born I tended towards shyness. I was very private and only really opened up to my closest, most trusted friends. I would never have inserted myself into a group of people and joined their conversation, not because I don’t love people, but mostly because I thought it would be rude.

Two things changed for me after Bug was born. First, from the time she could move she started moving herself towards people and finding ways to meet them. At the park, she would walk into a group of moms and start passing out mulch as a gift. I was uncomfortable joining the group, but you can’t really unleash a toddler on a group of moms you don’t know without offering some supervision. More than that, I knew that no matter how uncomfortable I may feel I didn’t want to squash Bug’s social nature. I had to get comfortable talking to new people and joining new groups.

Second, I was lonely. The transition from working outside the home to staying with a baby inside my home was a difficult one for me. I felt lonely, isolated, and pretty bored. Reaching out to people, meeting a friend at the park, finding any source of adult conversation throughout the day became a lifeline.

Thanks to Bug leading me out of my comfort zone, I discovered how easy it is to make friends with other mothers. We have so much in common, no matter how different we may be on the surface. More importantly, I learned how desperately we mothers need each other for support, companionship, encouragement, and adult conversation. If you are feeling isolated and trapped inside your home speaking fluent baby talk, you must get out and find some mama friends right away! Here are all the inside secrets I learned from my social butterfly Bug…

1. Lead with, “Hi! My name is ______________.” Everywhere we go, Bug immediately finds someone there and uses this simple introduction. Children and adults usually respond with an introduction of their own, and then connection follows.

2. Invite someone new to participate in an activity with you. Bug’s intro is always followed by, “Would you like to play with me?” Most often the invitation is accepted. If we meet new friends when we’re out, we try to exchange phone numbers and get together to do something fun.

3. Laugh in the face of rejection. Unfortunately, sometimes kids (and adults) can be cruel, and at times Bug’s, “Would you like to play with me?” is met with something along the lines of, “NO! YOU’RE NOT MY FRIEND!” Bug is utterly unfazed by this. The subtitle to this post could be “Everything I Need to Know About Facing Rejection I Learned From My 3-Year-Old.” She just shrugs it off and extends a new invitation to a different friend, usually with great success.

4. When someone new invites you to join them, always accept if you can. Bug always joins the kids who include her in their play. Sometimes they turn out to be wonderful friends, sometimes they’re a little bit of mischief. You just don’t know until you give someone new a chance.

5. Love the ones you’re with. Bug engages with whoever is available when we go out, even if they seem to have nothing in common. They almost always end up having fun, even if they don’t have enough in common to become regular playmates. Even if the mothers around you aren’t who you would choose for your very best friend, talking to another adult briefly while your children play can really save your sanity.

6. Get out of your house. Bug is social, active, and loves change. It seems that the more new people and experiences we have outside of our home each day, the happier she is and the better she sleeps, so we get out quite a bit. Turns out, the more you get out, the more people you meet, and the more opportunity you have to make new friends. Bug and I have both made great friends by going to the library story time, mother’s groups at church, public parks, walks, even the grocery store.

7. Assume people like you. Bug completely lacks shyness or self-consciousness. I adore this about her, as it is just so totally different from my own personality. She just assumes people will like her and be thrilled to know her and play with her – as a result, they usually are.

8. Notice those on the sidelines. Sometimes there is a shy kid who wants to play but just needs someone to notice them and reach out. Bug always pulls the kids on the sidelines into the hub of activity. The shy kids usually want to be included but just need a helping hand. Same goes for the shy adults.

9. Be the leader. It’s hard to hang back by yourself when you’re the one in charge of organizing a group or activity. Bug often organizes games of chase or tag and soon has every child around talking to her and playing with her.  I was shocked at my shy self’s ability to step out of my comfort zone, reach out to people, and open up when I led a mom’s group at one point. When you’re the one responsible for drawing people in it’s a lot easier to be outgoing.

10. Smile and laugh. Bug is always smiling, and sometimes she just breaks into spontaneous peals of laughter. It attracts people and is positively contagious.

Lest you think I’ve completely lost my mind, no, I do not think we should entirely emulate the behavior of a 3-year-old in our adult interactions and relationships. I’ve learned, for instance, that most people do not respond favorably to roar-like-a-lion competitions or tantruming when hungry or exhausted. Those things I do not recommend. I do, however, recommend doing whatever it takes to connect with other mothers and keep a healthy dose of adult conversation and fun friendship in your life if you spend the bulk of your time with young children. It is sanity saving, emotionally encouraging, and fantastically fun!

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  1. So true!!! That was so beautifully written!!! I have had the privilege of witnessing Bug interact and I think you must have read ” How to Win Friends and Influence People” to her!!! Bug is awesome and always makes me feel so special!!! What a gift she is!!! I love you Bug!!!

    • That’s funny you say that, that was one of my Dad’s favorite books…it’s in her genes! She reminds me of my social butterfly friend Shari, who has also taught me a lot about loving people :). Love you!

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