Ah….the play date. This is a typical and relatively simple thing that most parents do. Especially for those of us that choose to be stay at home parents. Have you ever met a home schooled child with little to no socialization? Weird, I tell you, just plain weird. I was in all of the academic clubs and competitions growing up and I remember them…all babbling and excited as a new puppy that has been waiting to be played with all day long. Just plain weird. Not my Jpeezy. He’s not going to be the child that has no idea how to behave around children his own age. He’ll never make captain of the anything like that. So play dates, for that reason, are an essential and crucial part of my job as his mother.
But for this Mom it’s not that easy. It may sound a bit strange but I am terrible (with a capital T) at making friends. I have my reasons. I know what they are, can identify and recognize them inside me, but that doesn’t change my overall reaction to people. I am the “Goldilocks” of interpersonal relationships. Allow me to elaborate further…once upon a time there was a social butterfly with a solid core of three best friends (spoiler alert: I am said butterfly). That butterfly was the first to spark up a conversation with strangers and made friends everywhere that they went. Then catastrophe hit and the butterfly crawled back into her cocoon and never peeked out again.
Okay, enough with the vague third person story telling, right? I’m going to make a very long and painful story short. So here I was, in my late twenties and happy as a clam until…I received a call that one of the almighty three had passed away. I was unbearably crushed. I was devastated beyond all reason. There was never more troubling news that was ever bestowed upon me up until that fateful moment. Now let’s fast forward exactly one year later. I receive yet another call from Florida. BFF #2. Gone. I never was even able to say goodbye. One year later? My mom. Sudden. No goodbye…exactly two weeks after my son was born. Just ripped from my now almost friendless life. Then my third best friend called me (though I should just be grateful that she could call me). She has long since struggled with addiction issues but I have stood by her through it all. I have personally dropped her off at rehab and have been the first face she saw when she walked out of the doors. On this call she expressed to me that she was going to make it work this time but to do that she had to cut all things from her life that were a part of her addiction. And unfortunately, that included me. Oh, the irony.
There I was, once a person with the most amazing support system and in just a few short years it was all gone. My beautiful friends, that knew me and loved me anyway, were all taken from me as quickly and as easily as they had come into my life. Though now I have my soul mate in my husband and we have a precocious son and that is all that I truly need. My family is my rock. It is the thing that I wake up for in the morning and I made the decision long ago to focus on that and not to allow myself to wallow in self pity or to become a person that lived in the past. I am a strong woman and have endured -nay, flourished– through the harshest conditions but I believe that is what made me who I am today and I like the person that I have become. Genuinely.
The only side affect, however, is that I am incapable of making new, real friends. I have a plethora of “acquaintances”. People to watch sporting events with and to have over for barbecues. But someone that I would call if I was down or someone that I know their deepest, darkest secrets? Not anymore. I know that any dime store Psychologist could look at this situation and see that losing my friends has caused me to shut down; that I am petrified of being hurt so profoundly again that I have shut myself off emotionally. Though the funniest thing about knowing that is not that I don’t make friends but that I can’t make friends. The fear presents in the most interesting way…I just find every fault with people imaginable. Hence, the “Goldilocks Effect”, as I like to call it. People are either too smart or too dumb, laugh too much or laugh too little, and…well, you get the point. No one is ever “good enough” (as though I am). I have simply accepted that this little quirk is just a part of who I am now. I can’t seem to do anything to change it and it doesn’t hurt me or take away from the love I feel for my family so I have learned to embrace it, in a sense. Just like I embrace all of my faults because they make me, me.
Until the play date situation came up. Now I am reminded that I cannot live in my shell forever.
I like to think that I thrive in a challenge so off to make friends with little boys, I went. I used to be so good at meeting people that I just decided to tap into that girl and all would be well, this would be a piece of cake. I had noticed that there were many more toddlers on the street over as opposed to mine so I began walking with Jp on that street. Frequently. Of course, my “master plan” went off without a hitch and now I am out making friends. Hip, hip, hooray *sarcasm dripping from every syllable*. It’s not that I don’t want friends, I do, I really do, I just can’t stop myself from picking everyone I meet apart. I know it’s a defense mechanism but it’s so deeply imbedded in my psyche that I can’t shake it. I simply can’t stop doing it. It’s maddening.
Case in point: I met two very lovely women that both have all boys. We’ll call them Ally and Debra (names changed to protect the innocent people that I am truly not even worthy of knowing). Ally is an ex-teacher and now stay at home mom that is very intelligent and well spoken. I think she’s stuffy. She’s not “fun” enough. Don’t ask me in what way, because I can’t answer that, but I dread going to her house for play dates because I feel as though I have to dress appropriately (which I don’t) and watch everything I say (which probably isn’t true either). As for the other mom, Debra, she is tons of fun and lighthearted. You would think I would love her. But I don’t. She’s not a “deep thinker” and I find myself grasping for things to say. Mostly, she likes to gossip about certain other neighbors (not my favorite pastime) and sometimes the critical things that she says makes me feel as though I have to watch what I say and do so that I am not the object of her next play date’s conversation as being the “inappropriate” one.
Ah…but they have boys. Jp needs friends so I have to suck it up and put on my big girl panties and go on these play dates for his sake. Because I love to watch him playing. I adore being able to see him romping around with the other kids without a care in the world. It is one of the pure joys of parenthood. Taking him to the park is all well and good but giving him a chance to make friends that are all his own is something that is special and wonderful at his age. I may hate every second of the forced social awkwardness that accompanies it but, as I have said many times and I will say many more, parenting in not a sport for the self-centered. So I go and make idle small talk that makes me want to scream but my son has a great time and that is all that really matters, right?
Until yesterday when Debra dropped a bomb on me that I had never quite considered. She has two older sons and conveyed to me that, “It’s good that you are becoming friends with the neighborhood because all of our kids will go to school together (it is right around the corner) and you will know these moms forever. You will be on the same PTA and go to all of the bake sales and car washes together so it will be great that you are already friends.”
What? Now wait just a darn minute here. I never thought of that!
Here I was, thinking that I was just getting by until he reached school age and now I know that these women are going to be in my life forever. For the next 16 years, at the very least. Oh vey. I had better get over my hang ups and with a quickness because I don’t want to be known as the “snotty mom”! And the truth is…there is nothing wrong with these women. It’s me with the issues and I am the only one that can fix that.
Did I mention I like to think I thrive in a challenge? Well, consider the challenge accepted.
I'm just living minute to minute, hour to hour, day to day.