As the years go by friendships change and grow. As a child I had best friends. While I moved around, my friendship groups changed and morphed. As a teenager I had a few close friends, and boyfriends. I grew older: friends became housemates and uni mates. A couple of stragglers I met in Australia became true friends. I married my best friend, and his friends became mine.
We are now entering something really interesting which I had never considered before. Friends have married and moved out of London, and have had children. Suddenly the group is huge, as second children and third children are born. You go to visit and there are babies to amuse, who like you or dislike you or are indifferent. Who may give you a kiss or a hug when you leave, may cry, or may not care. You have known the parents for years and you are now building a relationship with a two year old.
You think back to your own childhood and hope that you are not that aunt who always wanted a kiss and smelled like mothballs and left a greasy lipstick mark on your face. You don’t want to be too cool because you don’t want to make them cringe as you rock up with your guitar, singing Hey Jude. They’re not your children but, because they are your friends’ kids, you want to like them, to love them like you love your friends.
This may seem like a sentimental post, and I guess in a sense it is, but this is an inspirational realisation of the changes in relationships that no-one ever told me about. Perhaps it didn’t happen so much in my parents’ day; maybe having children was so normal and expected that no-one paid much attention to these changing relationships. Or maybe it’s something that parents don’t really talk about because they’re too busy changing nappies and pureeing vegetables.
One day these children of mutual friends will be friends with one another. Or hate each other. Parents joke that their children might fall in love with one another - and warn their offspring with a laugh. We’ll all get older as the children have children, and the group grows again.
Of course, this is not always the case; we have friends who have divorced shortly after having married. Friends who can’t have children, friends who have lost children. It’s not all happy, clappy, cheery life. But these changes in relationships as one gets older are fascinating. Even more so as the changes were so unexpected - to me, at least.
Conversations change. If anyone had told me five years ago that talking about ‘poo’ would become a social norm I would never have believed it. Chats turn to interest rates, and extensions, and mortgage deposits, and gardening. You suddenly feel very grown up. Like your own parents. Parents you never thought you would emulate. But it feels ok, not at all as you imagined. Reassuring, even.
Nurturing friendships is something that makes growing older a good thing. It seems that turning 30 was not such a bad thing after all.
Photo courtesy of Arindam Ghosh.