Virginia Venit: “I thought we were going to be just friends.”
Happy Gilmore: “What? Friends listen to ‘Endless Love’ in the dark.” From Happy Gilmore
My husband says I should call this base “home base,” and to that I say, what was I thinking writing a book based on a sports metaphor?!?! Fourth base, home run, home plate, that big diamond thingy in front of the squatting guy wearing the beetle costume, whatever. Let’s talk about our homers.
That breathless feeling of driving in the dark to meet a friend. We moms of small children don’t get out of the house past seven very often. You spend all day in Toddler Town, wrangle the little dears into bed in the vicinity of sevenish (or sometimes elevenish if you’ve had one of those days) then collapse in an exhausted heap, feeling like you can’t move and you want a glass of wine but it’s so far and the couch is so comfy and maybe if you send telepathic thoughts to your husband in the other room he might go pour it for you and bring it to you and maybe massage your feet and there could be chocolate and maybe a gentle fan and a cozy blanket and there you go fantasizing again. (I’ve heard rumors that Teen Town is equally exhausting, but I’m choosing to ignore them and stay delightfully naïve. If you’re the mother of a teenager, never, ever tell me the truth. I receive your lies with blissful ignorance and blind hope for the future. Keep ’em coming, friends.)
So when you put a date on the calendar to meet a mom at a restaurant and work it out with your husband or babysitter to handle the bedtime routine, sometimes the biggest obstacle to the evening is just finding the energy to put on clean clothes, grab your purse, and walk out the front door.
Usually when I’m getting ready to go out on a mom date, I waffle between the glorious anticipation of laughing with my friend without interruptions from our kids and kicking myself for scheduling it because I’m too tired to move.
As soon as I start to pull out of the driveway in our little car, the one without the car seats, and drive down our street in total silence, a wave of giddiness washes over me and I can’t believe I’m actually doing this. I feel a little too cool for school, and I love my life so hard I start to choke. I adore my friends.
We find each other in the lobby of the Thai place we love, the one with dim lighting and cozy booths, where they never rush us and always know our orders, even if it’s been a while. Of course we start by telling each other how great we look, because that’s what girls do, and after all, we dressed up for each other. Yes, these are my jeans with the sparkly pockets on the butt that I pulled out of the back of my closet. This is a dry-clean only blouse, because no one here is going to blow her nose on it. My fancy clothes.
So enjoy the obligatory we look hot moment. Cuz you do. You so do. You are hot mamas on the loose. Full-frontal hug it out. And then the talking. Oh, the talking. It’s been weeks, or maybe months, and you only have the one night, and everyone has to have her turn, so you just launch at each other. You might need to warm up with some tongue twisters on the drive over. Maybe borrow your child’s copy of Fox in Socks to really loosen up your tongue. We mamas can talk fast.
One of the funniest things about moms is that we’re used to talking over the dull roar of our kids all day long. Put us in a quiet restaurant with cloth napkins and we can’t help but speak at the volume level to which we’re accustomed. I catch us shouting at each other across the booth. And if you’re like me, when you get with your girlfriends, you aren’t exactly using words that the whole restaurant needs to hear.
Maybe white tablecloths and a bowl of fancy soup isn’t your jam. Maybe it’s jammies. I can get equally excited about driving to a friend’s house after the kiddos are in bed and watching a movie, working a puzzle, or just talking while we drink coffee and eat brownies in our jammies. You heard me. Work a puzzle. What, am I the only nerd here?
Mom dates at home are great, especially if you need a babysitter to get out, because you can take turns on hosting and hiring sitters, and cash flow doesn’t keep you from getting together. And jammies. Jammies are always good, because actual clothes can be overwhelming after seven o’clock at night when you were up with a colicky baby or stressed-out teenager the night before.
Whether we’re getting fancy at a cloth napkin restaurant, getting sweaty on a walk around the lake, or eating brownies together at home, fourth-base dates can restore our energy, give us laughter, and provide a break in the routine.
Know and Be Known
When you’ve made it to fourth base, you’ve arrived. You know each other and you still like each other. One of the basic needs that we have is to be known, and not just known, but understood.
In The Gifts of Imperfection, Brene Brown writes,
We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known, and when we honor the spiritual connection that grows from that offering with trust, respect, kindness and affection.
We want people to know us and we want to know other people. I want fourth-base friends who extend me grace when I don’t quite say something the right way, who know what I mean, who understand my idiosyncrasies and weirdness and still want to be my friend because they see something in me worth knowing. And I want to do the same for them.
Grace for Losers
I have an overzealous gag reflex that’s actually getting worse with age. When my kids throw up, it’s all I can do not to join them, like I’m a contestant in the pie-eating contest from Stand By Me. I wasn’t always this wimpy. My teeny preemie son couldn’t keep anything down for about the first eighteen months of his life. Geysers of milk would erupt out of him, and somehow I survived.
But now that I’m removed from the daily dairysplosions, I’ve become a sympathy barfer.
When I met a friend for lunch and her two-year-old launched nuggets across the tile floor, I crawled underneath the table to get away, throwing over my shoulder, “I’ll go get a mop, some help, away.” This same friend has an adorable little wide-eyed baby, the most precious bundle of giggling bliss. And he spits up. A lot. I want to tell him, “Hon, your mama worked hard to make that liquid gold. Now keep it down!” Every time it comes back up, I have to turn my head and think about tea tree oil and eucalyptus and ocean breezes.
I’m a total loser. And I’m grateful for my friend who loves me even though I dry heave every time her baby spits up. If we were on first, I would not be making it to second, so praise God for fourth-basers with all their grace and understanding.
On fourth, you know each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and you encourage and shore up accordingly. Fourth is for opinions shared in safety, disagreements worked through lovingly, and times when you just don’t have to explain.
There’s a code. No gossiping. Total trustworthiness. Grace for her quirks and failings. If she needs you, you’re there, whether it’s a texted prayer or a midnight vigil. Fourth-basers snort laugh together, cultivate inside jokes in the fertile soil of shared humor, and aren’t afraid to let each other know when there’s a wayward booger whistling in and out of a nostril or a stray piece of kale stuck between teeth.
When your life falls off the edge and into a trench, fourth-basers don’t just throw you a rope. They crawl down in the trench with you. If your marriage is on metaphorical life support, if your parent is on actual life support, if your kids are cracking at the center, if you’re fighting depression, demons, or disaster, fourth-base friends wade into the muck and hold you up.
They are not our Jesus. But He can use them to speak truth into our lives and hold us together when we’re falling apart. My friends aren’t my Savior, but sometimes He uses them to point me to Him when I can’t find my way.
Play ’n’ Pray
I get together with two friends almost every week, Amy and Rory. Between the three of us, our kids come from five continents. While I’m still in the wee years, they have kids ranging from newborn to college. Sometimes I can’t believe they want to hang out with me.
Our kids play together while we solve the world’s problems and pray. A playdate with prayer, a play ’n’ pray, if you will. Sometimes our prayers last for an hour. Sometimes ten minutes. Sometimes our daughters crawl into our laps while we pray. Evie cups my face in her hands and I hear her saying quiet words to God while Rory offers up words across our little circle.
When I felt a stirring to write more, write louder, I confided in them with shaky uncertainty. I felt compelled, like I had to do this brave thing, but I was terrified and silenced by my own insignificance. They prayed over my words, over my heart. They “liked” every post and status, from the beginning, when they were the only ones. Amy encouraged me to ask the Lord for a verse, something to which I could cling when I felt fearful and not enough and small. I did ask, and the next day, He answered.
My salvation and my honor depend on God; He is my mighty rock, my refuge. – Psalm 62:7
We need momlationships because they help us to be brave.
They give us strength to stick up for our kids when they’re drowning in school, to chase the dreams that glitter like diamonds nestled in our souls, to fight for truth and justice for the kid down the street or the kid across the world. They remind us that we’re not alone, and we’re doing a good life’s work. My friends provide a safe place to wrestle with faith questions and marriage questions and parenting questions.
Friends are fallible. They have their own lives. They are not our Jesus and we cannot suck all the life out of them in an effort to feel whole and loved. So we won’t put all our faith and hope in them, but we will appreciate the incredible support and encouragement they provide.
Watch the Women Are Scary Video
Excerpted with permission from Women Are Scary by Melanie Dale, copyright Zondervan, 2015.
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Do you have fourth-base friends? I know I could not have survived the big storms of life without those fourth-basers who I knew I could call at 2am and who would tell me the truth even if I didn’t want to hear it. How about you? What do your girlfriends mean to you? Come join the conversation on our blog! We would love to hear from you!
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Making mom friends is sometimes scary. And always awkward. To make it a little less awkward and more fun, Melanie is offering our readers FREE Downloadable Conversation Starters! Get the free printables today along with the first few chapters of Melanie’s book!