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In which i discuss stairstep friendships

I don’t know if this is the technical term but today I want to talk about stairstep friendships.  What is a stairstep friendship?  It’s a friendship with someone who is either older or younger than you by about half a generation.  My mom always had friends who were different ages but obviously, when you’re growing up, going to school and engaged in other activities, most of your fiends are going to be your own age.  When I first started working at International Paper Company, I was 23 and I shared an office with someone who was 30.  She was married and seemed to exist in a totally different life than mine and it took quite some time to realize how much we really had in common and we became great friends.  After all, when I met her, my first thought was, “she’s so old!”

But it wasn’t until I had my kids that I really appreciated having friends who were older than I.  Naturally my mom who lived nearby had plenty of advice – both asked and offered freely – for me on raising a child.  When Keely was 10 months old, Kevin and I moved into a house that we had built.  It was a new neighborhood so some of the women organized a ladies group (yep, it was the first and possibly only time I ever considered myself a lady).  I had a 10 month old and I was already pregnant with my second child (this was quite embarrassing to me as I thought only teenagers got pregnant by accident).  One of my neighbors, Jacque, became both my mentor and one of my very best friends.  In fact, I’ll go so far as to say that I doubt I would have survived my kids’ early years without her.  When I met Jacque, she had three boys who were 19, 17 and 13.  They were the sweetest, nicest and most fun boys in the world and Jacque might have been the friendliest person I ever met.  Jacque loved babies.  I mean seriously, this woman LOVED babies. Keely and I would stroll down there in the afternoons and hang out at her house and she would grab Keely and just rock her and I would be so thrilled just to have some adult companionship, especially in a house full of teenage activity.  It was great for me and great for Jacque.  A win-win situation.

Beyond this, Jacque felt bad that Kevin was slowly starving to death due to his wife’s negligence and constantly sent dinner down to him.  Being included in this loving family was a gift that I never could have expected.   Eventually, Andie decided to push her way out of my body and of course, my parents were out of town so in the middle of the night, we called Jacque to come stay with Keely while we went to the hospital and Andie attempted to kill me.  I’ll tell you about that some other time.  Jacque was always there when I needed her.

The minute Andie was born, Jacque had her little girl.  Seriously.  When Jacque’s mom came to town and we had them all to dinner (I occasionally cook) and Jacque told her mom, “Hey mom, this is my baby, not yours!”  Hahaha…and to think that all that time I thought that Andie was MY baby.  As it turned out, Andie had more than her fair share of health problems.  Between 1 and 2 years of age Andie had 6 major asthma attacks and pneumonia.  She couldn’t go to Mothers Morning Out because I couldn’t take her out of the house and she was home for the duration.  Although I had a sitter occasionally, I was losing my marbles with two kids who were 15 months apart and one who was on a nebulizer 4 times a day.  This is where my “stairstep” friendship came in to play.  Jacque would call and say “bring me a baby” and I would take Andie down to her knowing that Andie would be in good hands.  This would give me either time for myself or with Keely.  Her invaluable friendship, advice and mentoring was the core of my existence. 

While it’s true that my mom and dad lived in town, my mom was suffering from many, many health problems and eventually died when Keely was 6.  Without the love and support of Jacque and her family, I know I wouldn’t have survived this period.  Her boys were down at my house constantly and were some of my main babysitters.  I felt embraced by Jacque and her family and I’m sure Kevin would have starved to death without her.  Jacque and her family eventually moved away but I still keep in touch with her and the boys and I feel a hole in my life that only she can fill. 

These days, I go to the gym and have become friends with many women who have children much younger than mine.  It’s funny though…when my kids started school and I saw women whose kids were older, I didn’t feel like we were even on the same plane of existence.  They didn’t seem bogged down with all the minutiae of having little kids.  Now, I know women whose kids are younger and in some ways, those early days seem so long ago.  But it’s so fun to see childhood through a different set of eyes.  I love being able to encourage younger moms who are going through many of the same things I went through.  When your kids are sickly (and trust me mine were), you feel overwhelmed.  But just hearing it from an older mom that “you’ll make it through this period” is encouraging and for me, being able to offer advice makes me feel that it was all for something.

Between my three kids we’ve had 5 surgeries for ear tubes, one for adenoids, a bronchoscopy, 12 broken arms, 2 dislocated elbows and one broken elbow, metabolic problems, asthma problems, Asperger’s diagnosis, pelvic tumor with a possible cancer threat, not to mention the normal childhood diseases.  Yeah, the list is ridiculous.  During this same time, my mom had back surgery, heart attacks and eventually died of cancer.  My dad died of cancer too.  It was a rough and often, emotionally traumatic period.  So do I feel like I have advice to offer?  Hell yeah I do.  So when some of these younger moms ask for advice, I’m happy to help.  It also reminds me of the good times I had with my kids when they were younger. 

So I look at these friendships as a gift; both from the giving and taking point of view.  Now that I’m blogging, I’m meeting women of many different generations.  The mom blogging community is, for the most part, younger than me.  Many of the things I read I have definitely experienced, but I’m well beyond them.  Occasionally, I have commented to people that “this too shall pass.”  There are tough situations and times out there. I know because I’ve experienced some of them.  It’s been a welcome addition to my existence and I love it.  So, I’m thankful for these “stairstep” relationships on so many different levels.  I hope to keep meeting new people of all different ages and I hope that in some small way, my experiences can help other, younger moms.

I’m just saying…

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21 Comments

  1. Emma Jayne
    January 13, 2011

    Lynn, this is such a beautiful tribute to your friend! It sucks your family has had so many health issues, though. I do hope everyone is back to good health now.
    I have always loved having older peeps because they don’t get caught up in the BS like the Youngsters do and they don’t mince words. I’ve been told “You’re an idiot. Get over it” so many times by my senior friends it’s like a mantra now. Such sage advice…

    • Lynn
      January 13, 2011

      yeah…they moved away eventually and i miss them to this day. I sent this post to her and she sent me her picture. Jacque was awesome…still is…and i would NEVER have survived without her.

  2. Abby
    January 13, 2011

    …am I just repeating your life in an alternate universe?

    One of my best friends is my dad’s girlfriend. She’s in her early 50’s and I’m glad to have met her. With no mom around, I go to her with all sorts of weird questions. And my MIL. Actually, none of my lady friends are my age. Hm.

    • Lynn
      January 13, 2011

      i think it’s whatever works for you…you have your sisters who are your own age so maybe that’s why you’re looking in a different direction.

  3. Samantha
    January 13, 2011

    One of my dearest friends is ten years older than I am. Most of my friends are older than I am. Not all by 10 years, but I find the younger crowd to be too immature. I didn’t plan it this way, but it has worked out for the best.

    • Lynn
      January 13, 2011

      I never planned it that way either…just worked out. I have plenty of friends my own age, mainly because our kids were young at the same time. Because of my gym, i have befriended many women younger than myself as well. It’s fun.

  4. Craig
    January 13, 2011

    Not to get all biblical here – it’s very much my thing but this is my first comment so…

    The Bible speaks of younger women being counseled by older women – and the same for men gaining wisdom from older men. And I think it doesn’t stop there – we can learn lots from people younger who have different perspectives.

    God Bless

    • Lynn
      January 13, 2011

      I agree with you. It’s been amazing having good friends that are in different stages of life than i am. Thanks for your comment

  5. SurferWife
    January 13, 2011

    Isn’t it anm odd feeling when you realize that you aren’t the ‘young’ one anymore? When you are more seasoned as both an individual and as a mother?

    I am experience that phenomenon now. I am not the youngest and I actually have advice to offer and it kinda freaks me the eff out.

    • Lynn
      January 13, 2011

      yeah…it is an odd thing…sometimes i wonder how i can have kids in college when i remember college so clearly. I just can’t believe that i’m as old as i am.

  6. Pam
    January 13, 2011

    I treasure stairstep friendships too.
    One of my close close friends is turning 79. (Yep. That’s a 7) She still works and lives like she’s pushing 60. I adore her. She’s about the same age as my mom, who died a few years ago, but it doesn’t matter.
    I’m also older than most of the other twitter moms and that’s great.

    • Lynn
      January 13, 2011

      I’m older than most og these twitter moms too! Where are you from?

  7. Theresa Sonoda
    January 13, 2011

    I so enjoy all my friends, doesn’t matter the age. Most of them are younger though, because, well, I’m getting up there. I really get along with young people. I managed a staff of young computer technicians before I was laid off, and enjoyed my work relationships with them much more than my management duties. Hell, I’m just happy to have friends! I don’t ask for much out of my friends and can’t afford to give them much, except for my love and devotion. Seems to work though.

  8. Pixi
    January 13, 2011

    I love this story. Lucky, lucky you to have made a friend so wonderful.
    I’ve never really related to women my age, at all. At 22-26, most of my friends were nearing 40. And even though I have no children, that is what I strive for in my future & I love to talk about kids & to moms.

    • Lynn
      January 14, 2011

      Sometimes it’s all about what you have in common with people. Thanks for reading!!!

  9. Sharon
    January 14, 2011

    This is a great post about stairstep friends. I realized while reading this, most of my friends are about 10 years older than me, or older. It has been that way most of my life. I remember even when I was in school, most of the time I would hang around the generation 5 to 10 years older than me. . . as long as they would let me.

    I like the way you wrote this!

    • Lynn
      January 14, 2011

      thanks…and i appreciate your comment. I’ve always had friends older than me and now…younger as well.

  10. Becky Brasloff
    January 17, 2011

    Loved reading about your friendship with Jacque. I too have fond memories of her – she was a very special person – always thinking of others!! I remember going to a couple of “ladies luncheons” at your house & you having the great pottery server for lemonade!!

    • Lynn
      January 17, 2011

      Hey! It was fun running into you guys the other day. I’m glad to see you all doing so well. Kevin and I were discussing how perfect that neighborhood was for our young family. Hope all is well and thanks for checking me out!!

  11. Nina B
    March 6, 2011

    Hi Lynn! I 100% appreciate what you’re saying. One of the things I miss most about teaching was the camaraderie with other teachers of all ages. I think my friendships are probably a bit narrow now. Great post.

    • Lynn
      March 6, 2011

      Why thank you…it’s so neat to be in different stages. You learn from them and they also learn from you! Thanks for commenting

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