The Imperfect Parent - We Are All Strangers Until We Meet
Whatever happened to having a best friend, or group of friends?
I understand that we all go our own ways, and start families or careers at various times, we lose touch and life gets busy. But when did it all begin to mean so little to us? I am 41, with two children, a wonderful husband, and very few close friends. Even the people I consider close, I rarely see in person. Then when I am out I continue the "lonely" trend by being an introvert.
Meeting new people is never easy, for me anyway. There is so much we could learn from our children in this case.
So...you’re sitting at the park watching your child play, he runs up to other children and joins in the game at hand or starts to chat. The parents, on the other hand, we are either making it look like we are intently watching our children, checking a text on our phone, or in some other way, conveniently avoiding eye contact with the other adults around.
This is a comfort thing for me, I am naturally introverted but can have extrovert tendencies. I will rarely start a conversation, but get me talking and you may wish I would just shut up! Nerves and excitement creep in and I open up, perhaps too much at times. Lately, I have found that if I do make an effort to talk, other parents I talk to seem the same. Do you think it is because deep down we all want to chat? We are all looking for a new friend or ally in this parenting world? Maybe we are just so used to being busy, avoiding eye contact and thinking we are being “social” online, that it has become too much effort to connect face to face.
It is possible to be friendly and enjoy adult conversation when the kids are having fun playing.
Last month, I was staying at a hotel near Fredericton and had Clayton at the pool with me. He said “hi” to everyone who walked in or swam by, while I focused solely on him. That is until a mom arrived with her 5-year-old, who was perched on the steps with Clayton. Mom wasn't in the pool, making it easier to avoid talking at first. Then as her little girl saw me letting Clayton jump to me, she wanted to do go off the same side of the steps (they dropped off into deeper water). I told her mom it would be over her head, and we started talking as the kids were playing. Me, between them as they used me as a jungle gym to float and bob in the shallower water.
It was the strangest experience for me, within 5 minutes I knew they were from Toronto and were traveling to Cape Breton (where I was born!). She was also asking what they could do that day in Fredericton, as it was raining where we were. We chatted about activities for her 5-year-old, the little one she had to cater to, as the 14-month-old would be in a stroller, and sleep later on the car ride. We talked about different places and things to see and do in Cape Breton as well. In the course of the conversation we found out we were the same age and both had problems having our second children, with more years between than planned. We connected, and it was one of those conversations I will remember for a long time.
As I walked back to my room at the hotel, I thought, “good for you, you talked to someone and it was fine!” Then I realized, I knew her daughter’s name but never asked hers. Thinking back on it, I think it would have been a nice connection to make and exchange emails, or at least social media profiles, so we could chat again. But, I never think to make those connections, outside of actual “Networking” events, or business situations. I am bad with names, but I will remember a face, not good to follow up or start social communication, but love it when someone reaches out to me.
Our children are so eager to meet others and talk to anyone, it’s a natural instinct. The younger they are, the more they are open to meeting people. We then tell them not to talk to strangers, discourage them from speaking to other adults, and they see us ignoring each other. What are we doing? Maybe we should be learning more from them.
Don’t get me wrong, we need to teach them to be safe, but remember, EVERYONE IS A STRANGER until you talk to them and get to know them. Your next good friend might be sitting at the other end of the park bench, and you may miss the opportunity to meet them.
Are you an Imperfect Parent? (Hint: WE ALL ARE!)
Check out my other Imperfect Parent columns:
- My Child Lives On Crackers and Milk
- You Are A Good Mom...You Really Are!
- Snack Time, Are You THAT Mom?