Play Date Reflections

by Courtney Sirotin on May 18, 2012

Post image for Play Date Reflections

I have a hard time making new female friends. We moved to Georgia five or six years ago and I still don’t have a close friend here. When I was pregnant people would tell me that once I had a baby I would start meeting other mothers and the moms of my kid’s friends would become my friends. I want to take a moment to talk about this.

I just got back from taking Dylan to a play date (he is now napping). We go on a lot of play dates for two reasons:

1) He doesn’t go to day care or have siblings, we don’t belong to a church, and we live far away from his cousins so I arrange play dates to give him the opportunity to play with other kids and learn social skills.

2) I’m making an effort to make friends and am trying to test the hypothesis that a kid can help this along.

We attend between one and three play dates a week and go to a park or somewhere else where kids will be on the other days. When someone suggests we get together for a play date I always say “yes” and if someone doesn’t suggest it, and their kid is Dylan’s age, I will bring it up. It is against my nature to arrange one on one alone time with random people I don’t necessarily feel a connection to, but I do it anyway because I am an excellent mother. (Ha ha, I kid.)

Here’s the thing…play dates are kind of weird. And this is true for the kids as well as the adults. You show up and plop your kid next to a kid they don’t know. Your kid starts getting stressed out because he has to quickly establish dominance over every toy in his peripheral vision. You start making small talk with a virtual stranger while simultaneously trying to make sure your kid doesn’t have, or cause, a breakdown.

Generally, you talk about your kids and parenting techniques while gently probing to learn more about the other person. Depending on my company I am either open or guarded in these discussions because I, as you know, parent differently than most of main stream America and have to judge my audience carefully, lest I be judged myself. Unlike some people who live on the fringes and embrace their otherness, I am often all too aware of being an outsider and sometimes try to act like a cookie cutter version of myself in order to not feel judged. For example, I might lie and say Dylan sleeps in a crib if I don’t think my company would be understanding of co-sleeping.

Over the last year or so I’ve found a few mother-child combos that Dylan and I have regular play dates with and I am grateful to have their company. It’s nice to have scheduled activities for Dylan and he is starting to get to know these other children and plays well with them. Still, it’s a lot like working in an office and having co-workers that you are friendly with during the day but don’t necessarily want to hang out with on the weekends. Its all just kind of…forced.

All of this is on my mind today because I just got home from a play date with two women who parent exactly like me. It was quite refreshing to have candid conversations, solicit advice and talk unguardedly about how I am raising Dylan.

AND YET, I still wouldn’t say we had much in common beyond parenting. Finding a friend can’t be forced, especially for someone like me. And its definitely not about parenting. Looking at the women in my life that I am legitimately close to, none of them parent exactly like me. While I do think parenting styles reflect some of our values and what we deem important, good friends can also challenge us and help us expand our thinking. I wouldn’t want to write off a friendship in search of my clone.

I am also aware that some of my parenting choices could be a reflection of my circumstances rather than a deliberate decision to do things a certain way. I am home with Dylan all day so I kind of have the time to be an attached parent. When he was first born I tried to get him to sleep in his crib but then brought him into my bed because I was tired and it was easier. Over time I’ve followed his lead and my instincts and we’ve simply fallen into our way of doing things but I never read a book or made a deliberate choice to be an “attached parent” (unlike the women at the play date I was at today who take it very seriously.) If I had to work, if Dylan had taken a bottle, if my circumstances had been different maybe I would be a different kind of parent. Who knows? My point is, on my hunt for a friend I am realizing its not about parenting and its not about our kids…it’s about the individual women and finding someone with whom I feel an unforced connection.

When I was single I never went to a bar with the intention of finding a guy because I knew I wasn’t going to find the right kind of guy that way (and I’d rather have no guy than just any ol’ guy). The guys I had crushes on were usually my friends first. Going on play dates with the hope of forging a friendship feels a little desperate, like going to a bar, but I’m going to have to continue trying because it seems like the best option right now. Of course, we are planning to move soon so you just watch…I’m totally going to find my new bestie living three doors down the day before we move!

If nothing else, all these play dates are giving me excellent material for a book someday…

It appears I get really introspective when I blog during one of Dylan’s naps. I remember feeling this way when I wrote this post during a nap a few months ago. I guess I’m just too tired for soul-searching when I blog at night.

Until next time…

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

RUSS May 18, 2012 at 10:30 pm

Wellllll………. I guess my first question would be: Did you talk with the other mothers about anything other Children & Child Rearing? If not, strike up the conversation about what they do for social activities. You might find they have other things in common with you. If you find one interesting outside the child stage, ask them if they would like to meet for a meal sometime. You might be surprised. Tough situation Courtney. I could write more but Maybe you need to do the initiating to find out more. Love you, Russ

Reply

COURTNEY May 19, 2012 at 2:36 am

I do talk about other things! it just that conversation usually starts with talk about our kids. I think I’m just too picky or something!

Reply

DONNA May 20, 2012 at 12:31 am

I am reading Lots of Candles. Plenty of Cake by Anna Quidlen, which I am enjoying a lot. It is sort of an autobiography of a person who has spent her life writing. She reminds me of you. She says we are who we are, then we become wives and mothers and forget who we are, then as time goes by we invent who we are all over again. She offers some insights, like the most important factor that will affect the kind of life we will live is not where we go to school, or what we do for a living, but who we marry. Interesting thought. There may be more truth to it than I would like to admit. She has a chapter of the book called girlfriends. They are an important support to her in her older life. but they do require an investment of time that I don’t think mothers want to take away from their families. It has definitely been that way for me.

Reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: