You’re a good mom. You know your kids have to socialize with other children to grow up to be functional human beings. They need regular friends, friends they see often, friends they can bond with. You can sign them up for sports teams.
You can take them to Mommy and Me music classes or gymnastics. But nothing beats the free, old-fashioned playdate where they can engage in imaginative play, get muddy, and generally destroy your house together, which must be some kind of childhood bonding experience. My kid and his two best friends once pulled down a ceiling fan at my best friend’s house. Another time, they dug up a dead cat. These have been deemed the best playdates ever.
Except there’s only one problem: A playdate requires two mommies (or daddies, whatever). And you’re an incorrigible introvert. Talking to people other than close friends dries your throat out and sets your hands to shaking. You never know what to say. Everything you do feels wrong, from your sentences to the way you stand to what you do with your hands. What do you do with your hands, anyway? You have trouble simply approaching your kids’ friends’ parents for a playdate, let alone plowing through the actual execution. You know your kid needs friends. But the thought of an actual playdate scares the ever-loving fuck out of you.
But there’s a solution for us introverts.
One, look for the kids your kid is playing with — at the park, at story time, at any number of events you can attend and skulk in the corner. Look for the other mom skulking in the corner. After all, the only thing that matters is that her kid is somewhat the same age as yours and isn’t flinging rocks at their head. Use this script: “So-and-so seems to be playing well with Junior. Would you like to meet for a playdate sometime?”
They will say yes. They always say yes because they don’t want their kid to grow up into some kind of wide-eyed sociopath. Be prepared for them to jump and seem terrified as you start the convo, because if you picked right, they’re as much as an introvert as you are.
Meet at a park. That way no one has to clean.
When they show up, you’re going to have to be assertive for once. Take some deep breaths. Repeat whatever mantra works for you. I recommend “This is so my kid won’t grow up and hate me.” Gather all your courage and say to the other parent, “I’ll be on that bench over there on my phone.” If you have to, lie and say that you have work to do.
Then retreat to that bench, take out your phone, and ignore everyone. Hopefully, the other mom is doing the same — and if you picked right, she is. Look up only if someone screams. And if they do, quickly figure out who’s at fault, handle it, and move on. As in, move on back to your bench where you will not be required to discuss anything with an adult whom you don’t know.
Let’s be honest: It’s their kid you’re interested in, not them. You don’t give a fuck how many siblings they have, if they have a good relationship with their mother, or what they think of Gilmore Girls. You genuinely do not care about these things. And pretending to care takes so much energy, so much time, and so much effort that by the end of the playdate — which you cut short by the way — you’re exhausted. You and the kids spend the rest of the day zombified in front of the TV.
After a few playdates like this — playdates where the other parent also plays happily on their phone and ignores you — you might sit next to them, still on the phone. Maybe you’ll make a comment: “Did you see this meme on Facebook?” or “Wow, the kids are really having fun.” They will nod. And way to go! You made a friend.
Maybe you’ll talk more. Maybe you won’t. But you know they’ll never consider a concerted phone retreat bad manners. Hell, maybe you can even progress to a Kindle. And this friend, this glorious friend, will get it: You don’t have to talk. You just have to make sure no one kills each other.
You could be friends with this person for years while exchanging nothing other than disciplinary advice, random nods, and unanswered comments about the weather. After all, you’re there for the kids, not for you. And a mom friend willing to ignore you is the best kind of mom friend, if you’re an introvert.