Back in 2009 my daughter, Gabriela started attending preschool. We were embarking on a whole new stage and everyday I was riddled with questions…”will she play well with others…will she bite other kids…are they feeding her…will she make friends?” The one questions I never really considered, “will I make new friends?”
This stage I reached was going to be the start of play dates. We want our kids to be social, learn how to behave properly with others and we as parents need to know these kids because eventually they will grow up together. We sometimes forget that this also means we need to meet and foster some type of interaction with the parents.
Remember that awkward feeling first day of school in the lunch room and you don’t see any recognizable face? You are anxious, sweaty and you just hope you don’t say any dumb sh*t? Yeah this was me the first year at preschool. We didn’t have any play dates that year or even the next year when she turned three. The real action for us is when she turned four and she started getting birthday party invitations.
I treated these birthday parties almost like a work cocktail party – you don’t want to embarrass yourself, you want to come off as bright, witty but not annoying and there’s no alcohol, well sometimes. When I did find myself at parties where it was beer optional, I really had to contain myself because I knew that the more relaxed I got, the more sh*t I would talk – again just like at a work cocktail party.
It was awesome because I was starting to cultivate relationships with other moms and dads. This was the gateway to play dates, well so I thought. I remembered to always look at a parent in the eye, shake a hand and say my name. To remember their name, I would say “Nice to meet you (insert parent’s name here)!” I don’t mean to toot my own horn but I’m pretty good remembering names and one of my short-comings is that I expect others to remember names as well as I do. My husband really burst my bubble because he sucks with names, I constantly have to remind him who’s who and then it happened.
I was called “GABI’S MOM” I was no longer Alexis. No longer myself but someone’s mom. It just really bothered me. I try so hard to remember other’s names and all of the sudden I’m just someone’s mom.
But wait, I am someone’s mom. One of my friends’ also had kids in this preschool and told me that it’s nothing and that’s just what happens. She also has two kids as do some of the other parents. I was still a relatively new mom learning my way. Honestly, it took me a long time to get over this. I lost my identity. I was just viewed as someone’s caretaker. Yes, I love my daughter and I”m proud to be her mother but I thought people saw me first. I remember even trying to reintroduce myself to certain parents only to be disappointed when I heard the pause after they would say hello to Gabi and then to me. I’d see it in their faces – after the fifth time I told them my name they still didn’t know who I was.
I tend to take things a little too personal. That’s what was happening here – if the parents forgot who I was then my daughter would get left behind on the pony birthday party circuits. This stayed with me for a few months but then I slowly started to make friends.
It began when I got closer to a mom that I actually casually knew from an infant swim class. Her son also attended the same preschool. She was also really good with names. The more she said my name around other parents, they learned my name and we all got closer to one another, in fact our kids also go to the same elementary school. It was a great time. I finally came to my senses and learned to let go of my silly selfish feelings. It doesn’t matter if they remember my name, as long as they know who my daughter is, is all that really mattered. I won’t lie, name recognition is a bonus.
Then I heard the familiar phrase uttered by another mother, “My name is Karen, not Jay’s mom!”* I turned around smiled and wanted to hugged her because I felt her frustration. We exchanged stories and we didn’t forget each others names.
Twelve very short months later, we are starting a new journey – Kindergarten.
I am going through the same wave of emotions…will she get along with the other kids…will she get bullied…will she pay attention in class…will she like school. And yes I become over come with my own anxieties – will I get along with the other parents? Will I make new friends, too?
Back in our day, our parents didn’t really know the other parents and they kept it that way. It was a way to keep your business to yourselves. Now we have play dates, soccer or dance classes together, we may even eventually vacation together. We welcome these type of relationships because we want to know the company our child keeps. Yes, being known does put me in a little spotlight but if it means other people looking out for my kid when I need help then I will put myself on full blast. Also, you will know the kids your child plays with and more than likely will be able to spot the possible trouble they may get into. Plus, you will have great blackmail info and the photos to support the info if you should ever decide to embarrass your kid and their friends!
If you are a shy person or you really feel that you don’t need any new friends that’s understandable. But you might benefit from accepting those birthday party or play date invitations. You might not be looking to make a new BFF but you could be adding someone into your support system for those emergency moments. Also, you are setting an example to your child on how to make friends. If you step out of your comfort zone to be friendly then it can also encourage a shy child to mimic your actions.
However, you can only do so much. I remember coordinating a tea party at my house. My daughter invited about seven of her close friends. Moms and a dad showed up – we learned more about each other and we all had a blast. By the end of the party we all agreed that we should take turns to host a mass play date party like this, maybe not a tea party but at least we were going to try to get our girls together.
Sadly, that was the first and last party. I learned that you can’t push people. We are all busy and there isn’t always enough time in the day. And also, I accepted that maybe nobody else was willing to put in the effort I did. That’s okay because we have our close knit friends. I know that even though my daughter may not attend the same school with most of these kids – we’ll still see each other around since we live in relatively small neighboring towns.
And we’ll always remember each others’ names.
* Names undisclosed to protect identities.