There’s more to visiting home than seeing friends

Dear Annie: I’d like to make a plea to your readers.

My wife and I live far from the places where we grew up, but most of our friends are still close to our respective parents. When we visit, especially now that we have children, it is always stressful because of our friends’ expectations.

Because of work schedules, school schedules and our desire to take some vacations by ourselves, we don’t visit so often as we ideally would. That means our time back “home” is limited.

Of course, our top priority is spending quality time with our parents. We also really value our friendships, but the reality is that we can’t spend a whole lot of time with our friends. (It’s especially problematic for me because my friends have not stayed close with one another, so I have to see everyone individually. We can get together as a group with my wife’s friends, but with kids, these group get-togethers don’t lend themselves to our having quality time together — i.e., adult conversations.)

The main problem is that our friends just don’t get our situation. They’re always annoyed that we don’t spend more time with them. I think it’s mostly because they live close to their parents and therefore don’t get how meaningful our visits are.

So, Annie, would you please print my letter as a public service announcement to your readers? If any of your readers identify with my friends, I hope they’ll have more sympathy toward their friends in our boat. — We Would Prefer More Time, Too

Dear WWPMTT: I think many people who live far from their hometowns will relate. You can wind up feeling spread thin when trying to see everyone each trip home. Perhaps you’re trying to please too many people. You could always tell your friends a time and place to be if they’d like to see you while you’re back, thus getting all your face time in at once. Who knows? It might encourage your old friends who have drifted apart from one another to get close again. If they’re not comfortable seeing you in a group setting, that’s on them. At least you’ll have extended the invitation.

Ultimately, try to keep in mind that their annoyance stems from their really wanting to see you. That so many count you among their close friends — well, count your blessings.

Dear Annie: I was sad reading the letter from “Lonely Renaissance Man.” I have some other suggestions for him:

Find something you like and volunteer. If you like animals, volunteer at the shelter. You could tutor or read to elementary school students, sit with people in a nursing home or hospital. Help a florist on Mother’s Day. Join a church. Coach a Little League team. You’ll meet people doing these things, and you’ll share a common interest with them. The next thing you know, you’ll have a circle of friends and maybe even a girlfriend. I wish you the best. — Older and Wiser in Mississippi

Dear Older and Wiser: Wise words indeed. “Lonely Renaissance Man’s” letter provoked an outpouring of supportive letters such as this one. I hope it helps him realize he’s less alone than he thinks.

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Dear Annie is written by Annie Lane, a young, married mother of two. Send questions for Annie Lane to dearannie@creators.com.

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