It’s a topic that has come up in conversation many times over the past decade of my life: It is exponentially more difficult to make friends the older you get. Maybe it’s partially that we lose interest in trying. Maybe it’s that we’ve been hurt, rejected, or betrayed before, and opening up can be scary. Whatever the reason(s), it definitely isn’t as easy as it once was.
Gone are the college days, where all you had to do was walk down the hallway of your dormitory to find any number of like-minded individuals to talk to, laugh with, or drive to Taco Bell at midnight with.
In high school the possibilities for friendship are endless, as everyone is in the same, aimless boat. We are all trying to figure out who we are and where we fit in. There are clubs, teams, activities, and classes all made for students to socialize and gather with others.
In grade school… well, we think this video sums it up perfectly.
Children have no tact when it comes to engaging people they’re interested in. If they want to know why you’re sitting alone, how much money you make, or any number of super personal questions their little minds can come up with, they’re just going to ask. No apologies. That’s what makes this video so pure. Whereas another adult may want to strike up a conversation, most of the time we let our social morays get the best of us. We chicken out. We don’t want to inconvenience others, so we don’t.
No wonder it’s hard to make friends.
Maybe that’s why we are a culture that feels increasingly disconnected from real, tangible relationships.
I say this, in part, because of the comment section on this sweet video.
“Nope. If I’m quietly enjoying a coffee by myself, it’s because I want to be quietly enjoying a coffee by myself. Please don’t come talk to me and interrupt my coffee.”
“I don’t need patronising or pity. I need peace and quiet to enjoy my drink or meal… Please respect my preferences as I respect yours.”
“I don’t find this sweet at all. It’s intrusive and a huge boundary violation. Kids and some of the adults here really need to learn about having good, healthy boundaries with people and not intruding on them.”
I’m not saying you have to be gushing all over the place by children wanting to ask you personal questions, or that you can’t be content sitting by yourself (Because, as parents, we understand that can seem like a slice of heaven in and of itself!), but when we are chronically offended that other humans would want to reach out to us, or when we see that act as a nuisance rather than an essential part of existing in a community, I think we may have a problem.
I’ve said before that children make excellent teachers. Personally, I admire the way these kids have no fear of rejection. They don’t let the other party’s shock or silence dissuade them from their mission. They want to learn about them. They want to become friends.
As the parent of two extremely extroverted children, I am no stranger to scenarios eerily similar to this video. Just the other day I had my son in the basket at the hardware store, where I was hunting down the right size plates for our home’s light switches. As I’m kneeling down and trying to remember how many I needed, I hear my three-year-old shouting, “HEY! It’s almost Halloween!” to three different sets of people walking by.
Each and every one of them stopped to talk to him. Two construction workers. An elderly couple. A young man. I’m sure none of them expected to be drawn in by a toddler that weekday morning, but they all willingly stopped to talk to him, and they all left with a smile.
I’ll be honest: my three-year-old shows me how it’s done. It can be a day-maker, for both parties involved. Sometimes all we need is a little face-to-face contact. Let’s look to the children… they know a thing or two about making friends.
Rachel is a wife and mother living in Raleigh, North Carolina. She’s a fan of good coffee, wearer of gray t-shirts, and is constantly starting books she will never finish. Her family is her joy, and she loves to engage with other moms and dads on matters of parenting. Her blog posts have also been featured on the Today Show Parenting Blog and Scary Mommy.