A first date with a new community.

Well, I went. I went to the recipe exchange/playdate. There lately has been a voice nagging inside me saying that I need to get out more. That I need to meet some more people in my area with little kids. And you guys? It's hard. People are busy. When you have little kids it's exhausting sometimes to just make plans with other people and go through with them. Kids get the sniffles, naptimes don't coordinate, it's always something. Not to mention that a lot of people are already satisfied with their friend group and don't have the time and energy to get to know someone new.  Kids don't get along that well sometimes … this whole parent-to-parent thing is freaking hard sometimes. It takes effort and energy. And you have to put yourself out there sometimes with the risk that you'll get completely and totally rejected.

Sound a lot like trying to get a date to prom, doesn't it? Blerg.

As I drove up the hill toward the ocean (twenty minutes late … how do two-year-olds sense that you're running late and ALWAYS choose to be uncooperative at that specific time?) the houses loomed bigger and bigger. Finally I got to the end of the street to the biggest house. It loomed stories upon stories high and the ocean stretched out behind it.

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(We're not in Kansas anymore … this was the backyard of the house I visited. THE PACIFIC OCEAN.)

I was glad I'd put on my pearl earrings and eyeliner … the best a normal person from the bottom of the hill can muster with a squirming nearly-three-year-old and a baby in a carseat basket. What I'm trying to say is that I felt I looked nice, so that gave me a little tiny boost. A little one. We rang the bell at the gate and were buzzed in. We climbed the stairs and Sydney exclaimed at the statues lining the staircase: "Look Mama! An angel! Look Mama! A mama!" (It was a naked lady) "Look Mama! A horsie!" It went on like this for two steep flights of stairs. Dramatic, expensive art lined the path. A giant happy marble Buddha greeted us at the door next to a statue of The David. I was – I don't know? Relieved? – when our host greeted us at the door in her yoga outfit with no makeup on. She looked … normal, pear shaped. She was probably in her forties. She introduced us to her three-year-old daughter. More statues on the inside of the house … a giant pink marble lion, The David (again). Huge expensive-looking gaudy paintings. The entire back wall of her house was windows with an unobscured view of the Pacific.

It started to occur to me that this might be one of the few times in my life that I would be in a multi-million dollar home so I'd better take mental notes. I looked around for a photo of her husband … there were none. She wore a (substantial) diamond ring on the appropriate finger so I'm assuming she was married. Only photos of the little girl and one of herself with her daughter. The air was stiflingly hot from the setting sun and none of the windows were open. I wondered if her husband was a famous person and maybe that was why there were no photos of him. I wondered if he was … an innapropriate amount of years older than she (that's right. I was wondering if she was a gold digger. I was being totally judge-y).

Sydney hung back and clung to my leg as she does when we are somewhere new. Two ladies sat on one of three couches nursing their babies and waved hello. I turned around and there was a familiar face! A woman from my Mommy & Me class! I went from being thrilled to realizing I had no idea what her name was. I knew her daughter's name but totally blanked on her name. Dangit. And then I remembered that my daughter has a rep in Mommy & Me class and that this woman's daughter and my daughter had tangled in class that very Tuesday.

In a word? Shit.

But I was there. So I tried to be there. I apologized to her and told her that I was blanking out on her name and laughed it off with a comment about the baby teething and not getting much sleep (which is true … Elijah's third tooth finally cut through yesterday). Sydney was clinging to my leg still so I set the baby down in his car seat on the floor and dragged her over to the designated "play area." There were tons of toys and a little table and chairs with a plate of edamame for the kids to snack on. The other two little girls were already playing together and Syd stood watching them. She tiptoed toward a discarded toy and the little girl who lived there possessively snatched it. I dug through the toys to find her something similar and while I was trying to sell it to her Elijah started complaining from his car seat. I heaved him out and went back to trying to get Syd interested in a toy. She finally took it and I walked over to the moms on the other side of the room and introduced myself. I immediately forgot both of their names and when one of them tried to tell me her baby's name I thought she said his name was "Nixon." You should have seen her face when she corrected me and told me is actual name. I still have no idea what that baby's name is. But I'm pretty sure I'll call him Nixon if I ever see this woman again. Gah. It was so hot in there. I was so tired. Over my shoulder a bottle of red wine was cracked … it wasn't offered to me. What I could have really used was a cold drink of water. I longed for a breath of fresh air.

The girls started screaming over a toy the three of them wanted. Then the host opened a baby gate for them and up the stairs they fled … with me at their heels (I'm sorry but my daughter is not even CLOSE to trustworth enough to play upstairs unsupervised in a strange house. No .. just NO. And you guys should have seen the master bathroom in the upstairs of this house … it was the size of my front room and kitchen put together). Back and forth and up and down I went, schlepping my big ole baby back and forth in my arms across the room because I'd left the Ergo carrier drying on the line at home in my rush. A few other moms started filtering in. They dropped their casseroles on the counter and chatted with each other. They seemed … normal. They were dressed in varying degrees of cute and comfy and no one seemed botox-ed or snooty. More kids trickled in. Toddlers and babies and preschoolers. A pregnant lady. Everyone was really nice. They shook my hand and introduced themselves. I started calming down as we chatted about birth stories and how (or if) our kids sleep. Elijah flirted with them all. Sydney tended to an 18-month-old litle girl. She found a play stethoscope and "listened to her heart" and shephered her to the toy box as the older girls thundered back upstairs. She was lent a Cinderella dress and found the play kitchen. She bopped her friend from class on the head a few times with some wooden play food (of course!) but the mom from class was cool about it especially since her daughter bopped Syd right back.

In a word? We survived. And the next day I sent in my membership forms and fees. I figured the Wednesday meetup was probably as intimidating as it gets, right? It would be nice to make at least one or two new friends. So I joined the MOMS club.

Next up? The co-op preschool (probably).

How did you find community – in "real life" – as a parent with small children? Do you avoid it? Is it a necessary part of your life as a parent? I'd love some feedback. This is a new adventure for me.

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11 thoughts on “A first date with a new community.

  1. Dr. Maureen says:

    Good for you for going! It’s so hard to break into a group like that. But usually you can find at least one or two people who you’d be friends with anyway, and it makes it all worth it.

  2. Elsha says:

    My community of mom friends comes almost exclusively from church. It’s easy because these are people I see every week (or almost every week) to start with, so I already know names and kids and husbands.

    I’m lazy so I pretty much make no effort to find moms in other places. Maybe I’ll work harder at it when my kids are a little older?

  3. Lily says:

    Hey Manda, I’ve avoided those sort of groups up til now. Made friends in different circles: at church, at the seminary, etc. That being said, I joined a group today: MOMS (Mothers of Multiples Society). I need as much support as I can get. . .

  4. Michelle says:

    I am still trying to find some moms to connect with. I was the first of my group of friends to have a baby, so it has been difficult. I have looked into some of these groups but they all meet during weekdays…and I work. I am very frustrated that all of the classes I would like to take at our YMCA are either during the day or at 830am on Saturdays…I know that most toddlers are up for hours by 830, but my kid sleeps until 8 or 830 every day (hate me now, it is okay) and I am surely not going to wake him up! All that being said, I have found no groups or activities that are NOT geared towards stay at home moms. It is frustrating…I want to meet people too!

  5. Alyssa says:

    You’re so brave! Good for you! I’ve made friends lately at the birthday parties my son gets invited to. This is a new thing this year for him (he’s 4). They’ll all moms from his preschool class, and it’s nice to hang out while our kids play. And I connected more with some than others, so I’ve been trying to email about playdates and things. I realized I had really missed not having any girlfriends for a long time. it’s nice!

  6. Sheila says:

    I’m with Michelle… my “community” is a group of (mostly) singles in their mid-twenties. They are totally awesome, and they LOVE my son, which, of course, is part of the awesomeness.

    It’s a lot harder for me to get involved with other moms– it requires way more planning!

  7. nanette says:

    I was fortunate in that I had half a dozen or so gal pals who were pregnant the same time as me. We’re kind of spread out through So Cal, though, so it’s not easy to meet up frequently.

  8. Jenn says:

    Hi Manda! I’m a long-time lurker and new Mom who is in the thick of this “finding a community of Moms” thing myself. I don’t have any answers, but I too commend your bravery. I wrote a blog post for a local news organization about my own experience with it: http://salem.patch.com/blog_posts/on-mastering-the-mom-friend-flirt
    Of course, I haven’t done much but write about things, while you’re out there working on it. Here’s to both us finding some awesome mama friends!

  9. Heather says:

    Another lurker here. I actually found a great group of mom friends through the new mom support group at the local hospital where we gave birth. Once most of our babies got to be about 6 months old, we branched off and now get together for periodic playdates and moms night out. We’re an eclectic group, but it’s been so great to have this community! I was afraid I wasn’t going to have any mom friends (we really only knew one other couple from church with a baby and don’t know many people in our area), and I started feeling totally isolated on maternity leave. But I listened to my husband who really encouraged me to go and put myself out there. I know it’s really hard at first, but even if there are just one or two women that you like and can be friends with, it’s worth it, and it is such a blessing to hang out with people who understand exactly what you are going through.

  10. A'Dell says:

    This is something that I’m really, really bad at. I don’t really have any friends with kids the same age as mine that are available for more than an hour playdate every so often. I don’t have any standing appointments or relationships with people that exist solely because of our kids.

    When I am working I literally have ZERO time for new people in my life. It is hard enough to see the people I already know and like. But now? I have been on leave for a month and a half and, uh, this is getting boring. I have a ton of things to do but hot damn could I use a room full of same-aged kids and fun moms to chew up some time a day or two a week.

    I don’t know where or how or even if I will seek out a new community or try to expand my circle of friends. I feel like I should, for Claire, but honestly the whole idea sounds like a lot of work and that’s what makes me back away every time.

    I’m so impressed that you went to this and liked it. SO.

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