Thursday, July 12, 2012

Just call me awkward

Okay, I’m annoyed. 

I’m sure more than I should be, but those are the facts, I’m annoyed.  

Before I go into why, here’s a little background on my personality…I’m definitely an introvert.  Sometimes I’m able to disguise this a bit, I am able to hide some of my social awkwardness and have normal conversations with strangers.  I am even sort of funny, and when I can tell someone else is an introvert, that’s when I’m in my best form.  I can make that person feel comfortable, I ask questions, I am interested in what they do and what their children’s names are.  I find ways to relate to them. 

Anyway, so I can do that.  I can actually function in social situations.  I am not completely weird… well maybe a little but I try really hard not to show it, and I’m pretty sure I don’t make people nervous. 

I’m definitely better one-on-one than in groups.  In groups I fade away into the background.  In groups I find myself unsure of where to stand, or how to interject myself into a conversation.

I can hold my own though, one-on-one, despite how much I may be freaking out internally. 

So yeah, I’m an introvert, and here’s the thing - the idea of approaching another mom at the pool or park in an actual effort to “make friends” is somewhat terrifying to me.  And while I loathe how awkward the whole process can be, that is just what I want to do, I desperately want to make some local mom friends. 

Friends that I can text at 8:30 AM to meet up with at the park. 

Friends that I can email the night before and say, “Hey, do you and the kids want to come by tomorrow morning for popsicles and pool time in the backyard?”

Friends that can keep an eye on my two year old and make sure he doesn’t run into the street or push a kid off a play structure while I sit on a blanket in the shade and nurse my baby real quick like. 

I want neighborhood buddies.  I want to be able to chat with someone while pushing our kids on the swings and not have to plan a week in advance and drive a half hour to do it. 

And also I want Gus to make friends.  He doesn't go do daycare, and with my part-time schedule sort of lives the SAHM/nanny lifestyle, and I don't feel like he gets to play with a lot of other kids his age.  Some of his aggression issues seem to be getting better (knock on wood) and the only way he's going to learn how to interact with other children is to actually do it.

So I want all those things, but to get them, I need to go beyond my current mode of operation.  Which looks something like this - we’ll be at the park or the pool or something, and Gus is playing with another kid and the other mom or dad and I will awkwardly smile at each other and sort of laugh together at the funny things our children are doing.  The knowing, commiserating, smiles. 

We will discuss the typical boring nothingness, like “How old is he?” and “Oh, and what a cute name!” or “That’s about how far apart these two are.” But then it never goes beyond that because I am too much of an awkward person to make it go beyond that, or to make the conversation turn into the actual exchanging of the digits. 

I don’t know how to say, “Hey man, so do you guys come here regularly?  Maybe we could meet up here next week?  Same bat time, same bat channel?” without sounding like and coming across as a total jack hole. 

We may converse a bit as we push our kids on the swings, but then they’re leaving and I’m all, “Gus, say goodbye to your new friend!”  When what I want to do is say, “Hey, you seem cool, I’m cool, it’d be fun to come to the park and know that someone else who is cool will be there, can we exchange email address or phone numbers or something?”

I mean really?  Why is that kind of thing so hard for me?  How do you go about actually saying that without not feeling like a total nerd and getting pit stains?
All that to say, yesterday I took a leap and thought, whatevs, why don’t I attempt to make local mom friends INTERNET STYLE? 

My little neighborhood has its own club, which really is just a word-of-mouth Facebook group of which I’m a member of.  People post stuff about new shops popping up in the neighborhood, city-wide events happening, fitness classes being offered, crime prevention, happy-hour meet-ups, that sort of thing.  So I thought, why not?  I’ll just post a note to see if anyone would want to set up a little mom-group thing.  Very informal like, but create a way to do the “let’s do this again sometime” thing online, rather than in person.

I thought it was worth a shot and figured there were other introverts out there like me who would like to make mom friends with others who have young chidren, but also find the whole thing super awkward.  
I also know my sister-in-law would like to talk to someone other than my two year old when she’s watching my kids three days a week… maybe have a grown-up conversation that doesn't revolve around Thomas trains and building and knocking down towers. 

You see where this is going?

I would have been happier with NO RESPONSE than with the few "helpful" responses I did get:

I’m sure they are well-meaning, but I can’t help being annoyed, for a number of reasons:

The first lady’s comment, its just soooo typical, the kind of comment moms of young children can’t seem to escape.  That same old cliché that you hear from more experienced moms, or moms of grown children – Buck up and get over it! Enjoy every moment because the time goes by so fast!  GAH!!!!  This kind of thing makes me SO FURIOUS because encouragement in the way of offering “perspective” is not always the answer to what ails me.  This lovely lady wrote about this phenomenon in a much more articulate way than I could.  In short, what she said.  

Chris’s suggestion to just go to the park and meet other moms that way is exactly the sort of thing that is hard for me, thus it is why I’m doing this thing on the internet.  A way of pushing myself out of my comfort zone and making the awkward park meet-up just a little less awkward by getting the “introduction” out of the way ahead of time.  I know I’m not coming out and saying this in my post, but I didn’t think I had to.

Here we are at the park.  Alone.  Easily making friends.
Oh, and yeah, thanks Lesli.  I see those moms.  I go to that pool.  The last time I was there it was a whole group of them, and they all seemed to know each other and the furthest thing from my mind was interjecting myself all in the middle of this entity. 

And finally, the thing that I find the most annoying?  That two other ladies had to go and “Like” Chris’s comment on my post, making me feel like even more of a tool.  Making me feel like an idiot for even attempting to do it this way, when the answer is clearly SO OBVIOUS.  I need to JUST GO TO THE PARK, and TALK TO PEOPLE!  DUH!  Like how stupid am I?


I told you, I’m way more annoyed than I should be.  But still.  I am annoyed, and I didn’t feel like I got the appropriate amount of venting out when I ranted on and on to Dan about it. 

Feel free to tell me if you agree with Chris, who so clearly thinks I need to let loose and simply stop being such a dork about it and go to the park and easily make friends. 

Because it is that easy for everyone.  


Baby Mama said...

Have you checked out Meetup? Are you in Minneapolis? The Minneapolis Hip Mamas group is pretty great. I went to several of their gatherings, but then got busy (and live on the other side of the city) and haven't gone much. Does it help at all to remind yourself that the other mom's probably feel the exact same way you do and are probably so thankful when you make the first move?

Erin said...

Oh god. How ANNOYING. If I lived closer to you, I'd totally be your text mom-park friend :) And honestly, if you're willing to drive to St. Paul, we have many impromptu playdates happening! However, I'm only available at times I'm sure your other real life friends already are, so that doesn't really help you... ugh.

The SAHM set seems very... um... cliquey. Highschooly. Some of my closest friends now were met through some form of the interwebs, but they also just happened to live a few houses down from me at the time, so that helped. I always have the best luck with just finding friends of friends at their gatherings who live near me - but I think I just got lucky that so many of the friends I'd made in college ended up choosing to live in close proximity to one another. And we're all working parents so it just works out.

I am an extrovert (but sometimes I question that) but I literally get queasy even thinking about "just making friends at the park" - I'm like you, I'll have the casual conversation, but that's it. Anything more than that makes me want to vomit out of nervousness. I'm sure there ARE stories of people who actually have success building long lasting friendships at the park, but I'm guessing they don't come from just one meeting - I could see after seeing the same people maybe 10 times, finally having exchanging contact info.

You had the right idea, I guess just not the right kind of people happened to read your post and respond :(

Erin said...

Ha - I have to chuckle that Baby Mama aka Allison just commented at exactly the same time as me because she one of the aforementioned "close friends" met through the internet :)

AliRose said...

Meet-up actually looks pretty awesome, thanks for the recommendation. And it does help to know others feel the same way.

I think I am wanting too much, I want to skip over the weirdness at the beginning of a relationship with new friends and jump right into hanging out all the time and our kids being best friends. ;) IS THAT TOO MUCH TO ASK?!

Berbs33 said...

This post made me chuckle a few times... you are far from alone Alicia! I am an extravert when it comes to some things but when I totally feel your pain with this issue. I too just want some local "mom friends" with kids my age but yet I just can't seem to make a connection with any of them. We talk when at T-Ball or picking our kids up from Kindercare but that is it... I want to be able to call one of them on the weekends and set up a playdate for Colton but I never do. What is even more sad is that I got a call form one dad (a kid that COlton went to kindergarten/kindercare with) about a playdate and we were not free. He made the first move so why am I scared now to return the call and see if another date works. We went to that boys birthday party and he came to Colton's (and his dad stayed and played the entire time too)... so why in the hell can't I just make that call! Oh wait, that is becuase me and phone conversations are awkward... I would much rather communicate via email or text. So anyways, after all that rambling you are NOT alone. I don't have any advice that can help you, I wish I did. If you figure out a good way please let me know so I can implement it into my life as well. Hang in there and I know you have heard this but once he goes to school he will meet kids and maybe you can make more connections there (although that isnt working so well for me, I just need to step up and call these parents cuase we have said it many times "we need to get the boys together over the summer" so the invite is there yet I am scared)!!

AliRose said...

Erin - I really don't know how it happened but my friends from college/high school all managed to spread out to each corner of the Twin Cities area. I'm right here in the middle, and then we've got Savage, Woodbury, Cottage Grove, Chicago (ha! yeah, obviously no impromptu play dates happening there). It's pretty ridiculous actually, the curse of the SUBURBS, pulling us all further and further apart. ;)

I'm not actually in Minneapolis, I'm just a teeny bit west of the Victory neighborhood of North Mpls, in Robbinsdale.

Anyway, glad I'm not the only one who gets all sweaty and nervous about picking up other moms at the park.

Oh oh! And I totally agree, meeting moms at the park sounds like it would take about 10 times of seeing the same people there before you'd actually exchange the digits and become actual friends. I don't have the patience for that!

Erin said...

I was just talking to a friend of mine who seems to be pretty good at meeting random mom friends (but she is of the bubbly chatty type for sure) and she said most of the playdates are organized far in advance and come from preschool or organized sports, which thus forces you to see the same parents multiple times. I really do not believe the myth of the "park meeting friends". IT'S ALL A LIE! Just like "enjoying every moment!"

Sarah said...

I can definitely relate. I really wish I had more mom friends but I am not sure how to go about it either- I am definitely like you and wouldn't approach a random stranger at the park. For some reason, I feel more comfortable trying to meet/make friends through blogs etc. but that's hard too!

Jo said...

I totally feel like I could have written this same post. I work full time so I feel limited in my time to go out and find friends/set play dates - I just wish they could be established already. I know I should probably try harder, but like you, I'm not sure how... and it doesn't necessarily come naturally to me.

My husband and I have talked to some neighbors who have a daughter a year younger than ours and were hopeful they would become good neighbor friends. Now that we've talked a bit I would feel comfortable making a suggestion to get together for a play date or a BBQ, but I've also realized that I don't think I'd want to. She's nice enough, but nothing like me. That's my other worry... that I finally get a play date set up and then I realize that I can't stand the person. I feel terrible stating that, but it goes through my mind.

Frugal Vegan Mom said...

That's so funny you posted this today b/c I just joined a NE Mpls neighborhood FB group and was thinking of putting up a post exactly like yours.

Because I also dislike playdates scheduled far in advance that seem so formal - all I want is a chill neighbor who will stop by at the last minute and hang out in each other's yards, etc.

I totally hear you about making friends on the playground, even though I'm a total extrovert, I don't get nervous about talking to the people, but I feel super awkward about asking about their work schedule, etc., and assuming they'd want to hang out. Hahahaa and bleh yeah I'm really sick of the standard "how old, what's his name?" convo too.

I have friends who live in Mpls, but even S. Mpls seems soooo far away sometimes.

Mama in the City said...

I think I've just realized that I'm a parenting park introvert too.
So, get this awkward park situation I had last weekend. We get to our local park and my son spots a child 2 years younger, but the only other kid at the park. So, he goes up to him and the two boys are semi playing together. Running around, etc while I'm nursing the baby.
After awhile the boys dad comes up to me and asks me for my number so his wife can call me as our boys are obviously having 'so much fun together' (they aren't really). I get all sputtery and weird and tell him my cell number and awkwardly wave to his wife on the side lines.
Then as I'm telling him my number that he is punching in his phone, I get a weird worried feeling and totally LIE about my name. I KNOW! Seriously, this is not ME. I don't even know what happened but I got all weird about this stranger calling me up for a park date one day. What the hell!?

Freckles said...

Love love love love love this post and feel exactly the same way. Everytime I go to the local park I hope to find another mom like me, who is shy and feels anxious when talking to new people, but hope that she is less anxious than me and will approach me to see if I want to become her new mom buddy. I think I've told you before that there is a couple in our neighborhood who have 2 young children (a boy that's 6 months older than Kellen and a boy that's 5 months older than Mila) AND a boxer. I mean, how much more alike could we be? Anyways, I'd tried several times to hint that I'd like to get the kids together and try to form some type of mommy/kid friendship, but nuh-uh. She totally did not take the bait and was super passive. Clearly she is too cool for me. So that makes me even more nervous to approach anyone, thinking they'll shoot me down as well. So, I usually just keep to myself hoping someone will feel sorry for me and invite me to be their friend. How pathetic is that? But, randomly, the other day I was walking to the park and a lady in my neighborhood who has a daughter a year older than Kellen said "we should get the kids together regularly"!!! I was sooooooo excited, I felt like I was in kindergarten making my first friend. We didn't exchange numbers or anything, or arrange how, exactly, we'd go about this, but I'm just glad someone is interested.

Anywho, I totally don't have any advice, because I go through the exact same feelings as you. But I'm thinking of looking at that website that your blogfriend suggested. I wish we lived closer so we could get together regularly!! Maybe someday soon??? :)

Betsy said...

I can totally relate. I am the most awkward person I know! I would love to have mom friends who live near me, but I have no idea how to make friends. With all of the classes Isla is involved in, you'd think I'd make at least 1 friend. NOPE! Small talk never goes any further.

I would be super annoyed too if thse were the responses I got on my post. Oh really?? Go to the pool? So lame. Why state the obvious, lady!? I have heard great things about meet up, but you have to pay for it. I've joined a few meet up mom groups on facebook but don't even have the balls to go to an event because the thought of chatting with strangers makes me panic. Ugh. Plus, I have NO IDEA what to talk to people about. My life revolves around my kids. No interesting job to talk about, no hobbies...nothing! I don't even watch tv much.

You are definitely not alone on feeling awkward. I will probably never approach a parent at the park and ask for their number. Although you could make mommy business cards to hand out freely. I heard they are all the rage these days :)

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