Play Dates: Friends Come From the Strangest Places

Marisa Svalstedt imageOne of the things I love about watching my daughter with other children is the lack of judgment present when it comes to making friends. Toddlers don’t care about cool clothes, height, weight, what their parents do for a living, or how big their playmate’s house is. Such judgments are learned later in life.

It becomes easy to justify not becoming friends with someone based on rumors one has heard, outfits they wear, the side of town they live in and even their past relationships. As one gets older it’s difficult to push these feelings aside and honestly let oneself learn about the people in front of them. We should take this cue from our children, and try making connections with people without clouded eyes, judgement or suspicion. Sometimes just giving people a chance will lead to finding friends in places never anticipated; someone easily considered a possible foe, or even a threat, may actually have much in common, a similar personality, and who may have experienced parallel heartaches.

My husband and I started dating when I was going through a divorce, and he and his girlfriend of ten years had split eight months prior. I was actually friends with my husband in high school, and knew his girlfriend as well. Though she and I weren’t close friends we were on good terms. We just didn’t know each other very well. After many years of not seeing each other we were suddenly in each other’s worlds all over again. It began when my husband (then boyfriend) told me that his ex-girlfriends mother had passed away, and he planned on attending the wake. I knew he’d been close with her family, so despite my “new girlfriend” discomfort about it, I understood. Sure, I lacked confidence in my relationship when comparing it to ten years of memories, and wondered if somehow they’d get back together.

Admittedly I saw her as a possible threat. He had a life before me, formed bonds with other people, and I needed to respect this. By sad coincidence my cousin passed away only a day or so before her mother died. Feeling the sorrow over the loss of my cousin and knowing how much more magnified it must be to lose a mother I reached out and offered my condolences. We exchanged a few very polite and sympathetic messages, and this was the small start to what was seen by most as a most unlikely of friendships.

A little over a year later she announced she and her husband were pregnant with a little girl. Strangely enough, I became pregnant as well shortly after and so we were both pregnant at the same time. We spoke here and there about our pregnancies but never too much in depth. When I was in my second trimester my father passed away very suddenly. I was devastated. I’ll never forget looking at my Facebook messages, and seeing her message beginning with, “I don’t even know what to say.” Again we were thrust together in a similar sort of grief. Both of us pregnant and missing an important piece of the puzzle, a beloved parent taken too soon. Admittedly it was a strange yet unique connection. My husband thought the friendship a bit odd but understood. I remember him telling me, “We didn’t end exactly on friendly terms but she’s a good person with a good heart.” Hearing him say this let me know that he supported the friendship, as strange as it may be. She gave birth to her daughter in November and I followed her lead, giving birth to my own daughter in February.

As our children grew we kept in touch and made plans to meet different places for play dates with our little ones and other friends we had in common. The Halloween parade at Toys R US where we proudly carried our little ones around in their first costumes, the playground, and indoor play spaces for toddlers. As my daughter was three months younger than hers, meeting them was always a great preview of the many changes I would be seeing over the next few months in my own child, and I never ceased asking questions about what was to come.

We were both aware many found our friendliness somewhat unbelievable. No doubt there are many raised eyebrows when we post images of our children together, but it was always just another thing we had to giggle about. Both of us are outgoing, bubbly personalities with the ability to speak in earnest about our parenting, and life successes as well as disasters, whatever they may be.

Why should we be enemies when we had so much in common?

Many months later we were watching our kids as they ran hand in hand around one of the local parks, climbing up the slides instead of slipping down them, crawling through tunnels as we sat with our other mommy friend commenting on how they are growing so very fast, asking each other questions about new developments, and laughing about what new embarrassing habit our kids recently learned. These are all memories that easily could have been missed had we not made the effort to learn about the person, and instead thrown up walls because of the past.

After our last play date I went home looking at some of the adorable photos I’d taken of her daughter, my daughter, and our other friend’s son. As I scrolled through the images of them running, pointing and climbing I came upon a photo of my daughter sitting next to hers. It struck me because it looked like they were whispering to each other, having their own little secret conversation. It made me smile. I sent the photo over to her with the message, “What do you suppose they are talking about?” Moments later she responded telling me how sweet the photo was before adding, “You should call this one ‘Friends come from the strangest places.’”

Indeed they do.

Marisa Svalstedt headshot


Marisa Svalstedt is a stay-at-home mom living in her hometown of Bethel, Connecticut, with her husband and 2-year-old daughter. She has an MA in English literature from Western Connecticut State University where she worked as an adjunct professor. She’s worked in the corporate world and has also worked as a freelance model for ten years before leaving it behind to raise her daughter. In addition to the adventure of being a mother and homemaker she enjoys writing photography and crocheting



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