The week we moved here, 20 months ago, we popped over to Ribchester park one afternoon. It was the end of the Summer holidays, and a fairly warm, sunny day. The wasps were out in force.
We went to Ribchester because it had a brilliant play area in the park there. There’s a wooden fort, a huge slide, a sand pit, a football pitch, little play houses, a giant see-saw… You get the idea. For small children, it’s heaven.
On the day we went, I must have been feeling a bit anxious about the move. I didn’t really know anyone up here, and I was going back to work full time. We hadn’t joined a church, and had barely met our neighbours or anyone else. I remember looking at all these groups of mums, relaxing on picnic blankets while the children ran around. I wondered if that would ever be me, and prayed that I would make some friends.
Fast-forward 1 year and 8 months, a second baby, and maternity leave, and that’s where I was on Friday morning. Back at the park. But this time, we were meeting friends. Mums who have children the same ages as Ben and Samuel. With a sun-shade tent, picnic food and more toys than your average playgroup, we had a great time.
I met these friends at a baby group in the village. I couldn’t quite believe it when we all had babies born within 3 months of each other, and all had 3 year olds (also born within 3 months of each other). Serendipity, I think they call it. Personally, I’d say God answered my prayers for friends!
It was one of those moments when I realised quite how far we’ve come in the last 20 months. Our house feels like home in a way that nowhere has since I left my parents’ home. Our children, as we had hoped, are thriving here. We’re part of a church family which we love. We’re really becoming part of the community, despite being relative newcomers.
Of course, it’s not been easy. We’ve made a huge effort over the last year and a half. We’ve invited people over to dinner and for games nights. I’ve been on mum-dates and play-dates. I’ve started chatting to random mums in the nursery car park. I’ve joined Facebook groups and posted messages asking if other mums would like to meet… And, of course, I’ve turned up. I’ve asked for phone numbers. I’ve texted those numbers. At times, I was worried about looking desperate, about looking too needy. But you know what I discovered? Most of those mums were also a bit lonely, a bit bored. They were only too happy to come over for their children to play, or to meet up at a play centre.
Yes, it takes time and it takes effort. But as I sat on our picnic blanket, watching Ben run around with his friends, while Samuel stared at his friends, while I chatted to my friends, I was so glad that I made the effort.