Parental friend a friend indeed

I BUMPED into a friend outside the supermarket the other day.

Nothing unusual about that, I wasn't wearing my glasses.

I hadn't seen her for ages, so, naturally, the odds of bumping into her were huge, especially when you take into consideration I was wearing my daggiest clothes, not a scrap of make-up and my hair was having its own "tribute to Rod Stewart" day.

We had the usual exchange of two mothers who meet by accident at the supermarket.

"Hi, how are you?" "Wow, it's been ages" "Way too long" "Time certainly flies" "Doesn't it just" "You look great" "Yeah, you too" "What have you been up to?" "Oh, a bit of this, a bit of that, nothing special" "How are the kids, they must be growing up?" "Yeah they are, oh gee that reminds me, they're waiting in the car, better go" "I'd love to catch up" "Me too, sounds great, maybe a barbecue" "Sounds great." "Okay, I'll be in touch" "Okay, call me" "Great to see you, bye" "Yeah, you too, bye".

After that exchange, we both walked away certain of three things.

We couldn't remember each other's names; there was no way we were going to contact each other, and; after waiting so long in the car, my two little darlings were probably tearing strips off each other and the upholstery.

Once upon a time my nameless supermarket friend and I were quite close.

We used to attend the same gymnasium on Saturday mornings, and before you get too carried away with visuals of me in a leotard doing a Nadia Comaneci, the reason I was at gym was that my youngest was enrolled in classes with the nameless friend's youngest.

Every Saturday, all us mums would chat on the sidelines.

Friendships grew as we shared cocktail recipes and family secrets; we solved the problems of the world and winced in unison when our kids' attempts at tricky dismounts from the balance beam didn't quite go to plan.

But deep down we knew these flimsy friendships were based on nothing more than geography and guilt.

Our kids needed us to drive them to class, which also came with an expectation that we would be interested enough to stay for the duration.

These were not true friendships.

True friendships are forged during school days, or made dancing until dawn at discos, or those solid bonds formed from sharing life's real biggies like, "Trust me, I'm your friend, of course this hair dye will rinse out after three washes", or "Will you be my bridesmaid and hold my wedding train while I pee?".

Some friendships aren't made to last forever, some fizzle out as quickly as they were formed and some had no business being made in the first place.

Problem is, just like leftover cheesecake, I can't seem to throw out what was once a perfectly good friendship just because it's reached its expiration date or my child no longer attends gym class.

Life would be so much easier if friendships could be classified and labelled as you made them.

Imagine meeting someone for the first time and saying, "Hi you seem normal, your shoes are gorgeous and we seem to have a lot in common. But here's the thing, I don't have a current opening for a new BFF, but I do have several short-term positions for friends who can dog-sit at short notice, won't get offended if I occasionally forget their names and who don't shop at the same supermarket as I do".

Family Taming is a weekly humour column by Wendy Andrews.



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