Truth time, playdates make me anxious. This is not a new development. Playdates have been giving me anxiety since about 1992. My childhood conjures up memories of laying on my bed listening to 90s R&B or reading the encyclopedia. My best friend? Depending on the day either a guinea pig (There was Callie 1, Callie 2, and Gingerbread) or my nearly decade younger sister, Shelby. I wasn’t a playdate kind of girl. Invisibility was the goal on the playground and not much has changed.
Nowadays, my two-year-old daughter, Henley, has me back out at the playground and avoiding eye contact is the name of the game. I’m an introvert with a lifelong case of shyness. While it seems silly to feel anxious about a playdate for my daughter, it’s what’s happening. I play out conversations in my head before, during, and after they happen. (Writing’s my preferred medium for a reason!) Part of my anxiety comes from wanting to get along with everyone and part of it comes from feeling exhausted by small talk.
I’m just not into it. “Where are you from?”, “What do you do for a living?”, “Wow, isn’t this day beautiful?” It all feels like a scripted dance, a performance I’ll do for this audience stopping in for just one show. Albeit, my dancing feels more like clumsy flailing, because I’m unnatural when it comes to small talk. I yearn to talk about things that matter to me, but my shyness springs forth in those moments and shuts down any attempt I might make at a real connection.
Sometimes, I wonder what’s wrong with me. Why can’t I be that cool mom mingling with others? The mom that makes everyone feel comfortable and welcome, I’d love that role, and yet it’s like my body can’t physically move closer to other moms and my mouth refuses to produce words. Avoiding playdates altogether would be oh so easy.
But, I totally understand the value of playdates for Henley: social interaction, learning to navigate friendships with their ups and downs on her own. To let that happen, I need to 1) Take her to playdates and 2) Be less reliant on her once we’re there. Often in playdate scenarios, I’ll sneak away to “check” on Henley, inspect equipment, or carry on a conversation with her. I’m fairly certain, I’m killing her vibes.
So, I’m trying. Last year, I did two things completely outside of my comfort zone. One, I started writing for Austin Moms Blog (AMB). Virtually reaching out to a community seemed more in my wheelhouse than taking the first stab at conversation during a birthday party or in the hallway at daycare. Even though I’m about as awkward as can be whilst hanging out with my fellow AMB bloggers, it’s progress. It shouldn’t be that hard to answer questions like, “What part of Austin do you live in?”
As I gear up for year two with this group of moms, I’m already planning my responses, “South Austin, what about you?” and “You know, I’m actually a cloudy day type of girl.”. Plus, I’m happy to report, I’ve managed to turn one playdate into a genuine rapport with another mom and we meet each Saturday at a music class for our kids. Seeing how happy they are together makes the small talk about work and the weather feel, dare I say, natural.
I’m sure there are more playdates on the horizon for me. Fortunately, as I get more confident in myself as a mom and really as a person, the more my shyness melts away. But I don’t see myself being that cool mom anytime soon. Imagining what it might be like has always been more of my thing.
What about you? Feeling the playdates or nah?