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I Blame the Family Readiness Group

When I go to the Family Readiness Group and no one even says hello to me -- I blame the FRG.

When the events are all held during the day or only held at night -- I blame the FRG.

When everyone is already in a clique and they have nothing to say to me because I don’t have a baby/work full-time/don’t work at all/look too young/look too old/look like an enlisted wife/look like an officer’s wife/look gay/look straight, I blame the FRG.

These days, when I hear these kinds of complaints from military wives and military husbands, I just cringe. Because when I am the complainer, I feel totally justified.

When I am the one fielding the complaints, I suddenly realize that I was probably wrong all along.

Maybe my heart is three sizes too small.

Hearing these kinds of complaints makes me wonder if any of us ever consider that the problem might not rest with the Family Readiness Group or the Family Support Group or whatever kind of family group you are trying to attend.

Maybe the problem is that it is hard for adults to join groups. It is hard for adults to make new friends. Maybe we even have to try more than once.

Let’s face it: Americans are not as good at being part of groups as they used to be. It isn’t just the FRG or the unit picnic that people don’t attend. We don’t attend as many church groups. We don’t belong to the PTA. Memberships in professional organizations is way, way off.

Mind you, this is not the beginning of a diatribe against Facebook. Declining participation in groups was famously pointed out in 2000 in Robert Putnam’s Bowling Alone -- published four years before Facebook was founded.

Americans not very skilled at joining groups.

This is about the fact that joining a group is a skill set most Americans don’t use any more.

Yet military spouses move every 2.5 years. We give up our groups. We give up our friends. Those young adult friends you made on your first job you left behind in Ohio. The moms in your baby group still get together in Alaska. The parents you sat next to during soccer games are still sitting on the bleachers in California with their umbrellas unfurled against the pounding… sun.

This is one of the things that makes a good FRG so hard to do. The research shows that friendships are most easily made when you have a lot of low-stress, repeated encounters. Like in high school. Or in a college dorm. Or in the Kiss N Ride line. The older you get (and for this research ‘old’ can mean 23) the less frequently these friend-making opportunities occur. The less practice we have with them. The more likely it is that we will take offense and blame the FRG.

Cut me some slack, Family Readiness Group buddies!

So, yeah, I’m out of practice with groups. And I bet you are, too. So give me a break when I seem to be blaming you (because it is so much easier than blaming me). Just post someone at the door of the FRG meeting whose job it is to say hello to everyone who walks in. Welcome newcomers and almost-newcomers and congratulate them on their bravery. Serve cake. Because I like cake.

And I’ll promise not to blame you anymore. I’ll give you a second try and a third and a fourth until I get settled in this new place, too.

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