Friday, July 24, 2015

Living Next Door to Close Friends: A How To

Tonight I'm sitting in my living room writing while Joe, Matt and G play an assortment of guitars/mandolin in the background. Well, it might be generous to use the word "play" in regard to Grayson and his guitar, but it's very sweet nonetheless.

The Stephenson gang: Matt, Mary, Carolyn, William and Thomas have been living 4 doors down from us for almost a year.  In townhouse speak, that's right on top of one another.  And it has been such a gift. How else do you spontaneously end up playing tunes together on a work night after the kids are in bed? Or only cook 4 nights a week, because your compatriot cooks the others? And best of all, have a 10 pm backyard sledding party?

Recently a few of our friends have wondered how this can work.  How can you live so closely and be so intimately involved in each other's lives and remain good friends?

What follows is a primer on how we do it.  Because like any relationship worth having, it does take some work.  However, during our 24 hour road trip a few weeks ago, Mary and I discussed the ins and outs of it all and were amazed to see how God has orchestrated things for our good.

1. Grace: When you see someone every day you're going to see the good, the bad, and the ugly.  Along with laughing, you're going to be annoyed, and disappointed, whether with an adult or with a child.  We all need an extra dose of grace for one another and just like God's mercies are new every morning, we all get to start over with each other in the morning too.  It's important to always think the best of people: chances are that if you chose these friends in the first place, they would NEVER do anything to hurt you on purpose.  So be quick to forgive and be thankful that they are so forgiving towards you as well.

2. Communication: We have a running joke about communication around here and the route it takes and doesn't take.  (Don't worry, I'm not going to name any names Matt and Mary)  But truly, communication is so important.  Whether it's what we're eating for dinner, who is babysitting at what time or how you FEEL about something.  And listen, if you're spending this much time with people, you're going to have to say some hard things.  It's not fun, nobody wants to, it's really awkward and there might be tears.  But if you're going to get to the good stuff and really be family it's going to be required at some point.  Here are a couple of tips for these conversations:  have them in the car- it's a lot easier when you're not staring each other in the face OR do it over drinks. Seriously.  (No drinks in the car) And watch your tone!

4. Parenting: This is tricky. No matter how similar your beliefs, personalities, and humor, there are bound to be differences in your parenting. Instead of judging how you would do things differently (as if your parenting is the end all), cheer one another on.  Share your struggles on the dark days and show your support.  When you live next door, your children will be raised like siblings.  i.e. there will be lots of bickering.  Mary and I especially, being home all day, have found it very helpful to communicate with each other about correcting "the group";  what we're comfortable with the other person doing with our child, and what we think is/isn't working.  It can be such a joy and comfort to have your friends right there in the trenches of childrearing with you.

Carolyn and Baby A at the grocery store.

William and G on a hike.
5. Don't Double the Work: I love to plan meals and cook.  Mary doesn't.  Mary loves to do art and science experiments with the kids.  I DO NOT.  We are so thankful to have each other to lighten the load throughout the week.  Who says you can't have dinner together 4 times a week?  That's one less kitchen to clean and someone is getting a break!  Plus, you eat things that aren't necessarily in your own rotation.  Mary makes a mean pizza.  And I cook red meat for Matt (Mary only deals in poultry).  We are convinced that cooking in bulk saves money. We also give each other breaks.  If I'm running errands with only Baby A, I'll grab Carolyn or William to come with me.  Mary routinely takes Joshua to her house so that I can have some down time.  For you and your friend, it might be driving the carpool or going to Costco for both families.  Whatever it is, figure it out.  This has to be one of our favorite things about living close.

6. Other friends: You still need 'em.  Yes, it's so much easier to hang out with someone next door, but it's important to continue to cultivate other friendships.  First of all, you're going to need a break from each other.  Second, every friendship is unique and sharpens us in different ways. And I don't know about you, but I need lots of sharpening.  So even though you feel like you're going out of the way to plan ahead and drive across town, it's totally worth it.

In conclusion, do this! Life has been so much richer having friends close by to do daily life with.  And an absolute necessity if you don't have family nearby.  Do I think it's crazy to go out of your way move to be near your friends? NO!  Would I do it again? YES!

We love you crazy Stephensons!  Thanks for putting up with us. (And don't ever leave)

We are clearly NOT of the selfie generation.  Cannot get our act together.
Oops, where's Mary?

Where's Ashleigh?

There.  Except Matt and Joe look a little too cozy.  But I guess that's what happen when one climbs into the lap of the other.

1 comment:

  1. And this is why my two-year-old can accurately predict which of the Stephensons will be present when we go to Ashleigh's house. :D