Yesterday was Riley’s last soccer practice. It was also the first day I really had any interaction with the other parents, thanks to the coach’s idea to have the adults get out on the field and play against the kids during the last half hour. The clusterfucked Calvinball-esque game that ensued was more than a little embarrassing (my soccer skills are … well, pretty much nonexistent) and hilarious and actually pretty fun, and it was the perfect sort of social icebreaker than I could have used, oh, several weeks ago.

But I can’t rely on someone else to help me over the parental small-talk molehill I’ve turned into a mental mountain and baseball’s coming up and this is just the start of years of kid activities and you guys, I’m just so goddamned bad at talking with people and I don’t know why I’m like this but I am and it’s not normally a big deal but sometimes it is. Like when you’re sitting on a bench with a group of other parents and everyone is chatting except you, and it makes you start to dread going to your kid’s soccer practice as though it were a twice-weekly root canal and it’s ridiculous and it sucks.

Here is the bench. Here are the adults talking amongst themselves in a friendly manner. Not pictured: me, silent and awkward and occasionally snapping photos of Riley or sticking my nose in a book but mostly just feeling incredibly self-conscious and wishing the earth would open up and swallow me whole.

field

Ah, I’m so tired of being shy. I’m lonely and I have no social life and I hate feeling this way during activities that should be perfectly normal and I hate the self-defeating brainloop it causes and I hate the creeping certainty that everyone thinks I’m a standoffish asshole when the reality is that I’m pathetically eager to connect, I just can’t get past the first step.

Comments

101 Responses to “Polar waters”

  1. Lawyerish on May 10th, 2013 7:57 am

    Having spent time with you in person on several occasions now, I can say with total confidence that you don’t come off the least bit awkward in person. You are warm, self-deprecating, generous, and insightful. I am sure that after a few minutes of talking with you, those other parents would see that, too. It’s who you are.

    You know how, after Internet people meet, they ALWAYS blog about how they were sure they were SO AWKWARD and they’re dying of embarrassment over something they said or did or didn’t say or do? Well, I bet if you polled all the other people from that interaction, none of them would say that that person was awkward. We all FEEL awkward, but we’re so wrapped up in our own concerns that we’re not keying into anyone else’s perceived faux pas. Which is to say that probably those parents aren’t thinking that you’re cold or standoffish; if they’re thinking anything, it’s probably also how to break the ice with you as a new person.

    Anyway, in terms of practical advice, I’ve had to work hard as an adult to overcome a lifetime of being shunned socially and feeling tremendously awkward as a result. I have found that it just takes forcing yourself to scoot down that bench or take three steps toward those other parents and saying, “Hi, I’m Linda, Riley’s mom, and since we recently moved here, I wanted to ask you all if you knew of [a great place to get pho or whatever].” Or just pick out a kid on the field and be all, “Hey, guys — whose kid is number X? He’s a great player!” (Flattery is the ultimate ice-breaker. IT NEVER FAILS. People are usually relieved/thrilled that you took the initiative so they didn’t have to.

    The sooner you do it, the better. You WILL be happier when you’ve crossed that invisible boundary between not-knowing those parents and getting-to-know them.

    Oh, if you feel like you need a crutch? Bring snacks. Treats. Cookies. Bring a bounty of stuff to share with the other parents, lay it out on the bench and announce to everyone that you felt the field was sorely lacking in food for the parents, so you’ve brought [whatever] to share. That will get people talking.

  2. Kristin on May 10th, 2013 8:06 am

    I can totes relate, too. I am not a mom, but a very involved aunt; their mom works during the day and goes to school in the evenings, so aunt K goes to a lot of practices, games, back-to-school nights, etc.

    I hope this helps: Try to accept yourself. You are shy and that’s OKAY. You don’t have to talk to someone every time/the whole time. Sometimes, you will want to read a book. Other times, you will want to chat (and sometimes you will be successful and other times not). It’s all okay! Don’t add extra stress to the situation by criticizing yourself and going down the “It will always be this way!” path. It won’t!

    Next time, sit slightly closer to a random person or group. Take a deep breath, try to empty your brain of stupid self-doubt (haha, I know), remind yourself that there is NO SHAME in being shy, and turn to the person next to you and say, “Hi, I’m Linda.” And remember, it doesn’t have to the The Best Most Awesome Convo EVER. It’s just a convo. There will be plenty of other chances after that one.

  3. Kristin on May 10th, 2013 8:16 am

    Also, I HATE small talk and see it as a waste of time, BUT this is a “fake it ’til you make it” thing. You have to be fake-nice at first, feel people out, and see if it leads to cool-realness. Sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn’t and that’s — wait for it — okay! :)

  4. bj on May 10th, 2013 8:27 am

    OK. There’s a lot of good advice here. I’m like you, too. The “do unto others” seems particularly apt, trying to think about what you’d like someone to say to you and saying it. I know there are some folks who sit at the sidelines with nose in a book, ’cause they don’t *want* to talk to anyone, and, people often assume that’s true about anyone who is sticking their nose in a book.

    Don’t know if someone else has suggested the possibility, but another option might be to take on a role for the team that forces you to interact with others. I take photos and try to distribute them. It’s not a great solution, ’cause it let’s me avoid talking to people at the sidelines :-). But, it does mean that I kind of know people.

  5. Nichole on May 10th, 2013 8:29 am

    Another me too! It’s a good thing all of our kids aren’t on the same soccer team. That much awkwardness in one place would probably tear a hole in the fabric of the universe.

  6. Anonymous on May 10th, 2013 8:43 am

    Be like you are online – open, observant, funny! One day, you’ll come across someone just as shy and your personality will put them completely at ease! I am so sorry you feel this way. X

  7. H on May 10th, 2013 8:48 am

    I am very shy. I have a best friend who is very shy and the only reason we became friends is because we were forced to talk to each other in college (we shared a music stand in band) and it still took a good 4 months before we were comfortable talking to each other. Anyway, we always talk about how introverts understand each other so well and feel better when we connect with other introverts but if we ever held an introvert convention to build relationships, no one would come.

    I hope you find a way to break the ice. I’ve been in this situation and managed, over the years, to build good friendships with some of the parents but the other parent always initiated the first conversation. I like reading the comments and suggestions here. I hope I find something that works for me too.

  8. Karen on May 10th, 2013 8:53 am

    Soooooo, why don’t you say exactly what your post said to one of the parents who look approachable and like someone with whom you may want to be friends?
    Anyone worth your friendship will start including YOU in conversations and after they find out your wonderfulness, they will include you in activities.

  9. Kris on May 10th, 2013 8:53 am

    Okay, I’m on the opposite end of the spectrum. I’ve been told I have a “kind” face, so people talk to me all the time. And I’m chunky & probably perceived as non-threatening, which probably helps, too.

    When I’m in a situation that requires small talk, I’ll make eye contact & smile at another mom; then I’ll usually pay them a compliment about something. Nice hair, cute shoes, perfect sized handbag, whatever. Or laugh about the weather & how nice or godawful it is.

    If it’s a dad I want to talk to, I’ll ask which kiddo is his & make a lighthearted remark about what a klutz my kid can be & how much he reminds me of myself at that age.

    But one small, from the heart piece of advice? Don’t try to break into the middle of a group conversation. Start with one-on-one small talk. Groups of women scare me. ;)

  10. Tupla on May 10th, 2013 8:59 am

    I have been dreading parent interactions for the whole four years of being a parent for this same reason, and now realizing that I don’t have enough mom friends, and now I really have no choice but make connections, also to help my son make friends. I can relate to all you say so much, especially to the “creeping certainty that everyone thinks I’m a standoffish asshole when the reality is that I’m pathetically eager to connect.”

    By the way, I love your blog, have been reading it for a couple years just never commented (for reasons you describe in this post :) ) but this time I just had to, because it resonates with me so much.

  11. Laura M. on May 10th, 2013 9:02 am

    Sit in the middle of everything and smile. Smile. Smile some more. And when you’re not smiling, smile.
    If you know where the parents usually sit, get there a little early and sit right in the middle of their usual turf. The first step to talking to people in person is being near enough to talk. So just get practice getting physically into the mix.
    And then … smile. Anytime someone looks at you or you at the back of their head or you raise your head to look out a the field or you blink… smile. This will invite people to talk to you, thereby outsourcing the ‘what to say, how to start’ work to them. It may change your outlook too. It’s hard to be thinking doomsday thoughts in your head when you are smiling.
    My two cents. :D

  12. laziza on May 10th, 2013 9:02 am

    I liked what Lawyerish said above about flattery being the ultimate icebreaker. Semi-related is advice – seeking advice is also an excellent ice breaker, and flattering to boot. (“Hey, I told the boys I’d take them out for ice cream after the game. What’s a great spot around here? We just moved a few months ago.”) The added bonus is they/you don’t have to think of something to say – there’s just a question to be answered. And good luck. You seem like a good friend to have.

  13. Laura M. on May 10th, 2013 9:07 am

    Sidenote to all of us are NOT SHY:
    Go talk to the people who look standoffish and are staring blankly at their cellphones!
    It seems that they want to chat but don’t know how to get started! :D

  14. Phoebe on May 10th, 2013 10:12 am

    I’ll join the chorus and say ME TOO! I’ve always been shy and super afraid of getting embarrassed. Sometimes the littlest thing can set it off. I’ll turn the reddest of reds, my face will burn, my chest gets itchy and if it’s really bad, my eyes might well up in shame. Even among friends I catch myself being extra reserved sometimes, to avoid saying something dumb. I’m trying to get better since I do not want my future kids to have to deal with the same social awkwardness and fear I did. I worry they’ll pick it up from me or that I won’t be able to help them overcome any inherited shyness. Thank you to all the people with helpful comments :)

  15. Maggie on May 10th, 2013 10:22 am

    I add my voice to others who feel uncomfortable. I think you’ve received good advice, so instead I offer perspective. I’ve been at this sports thing for five years with oldest. The pattern has been universally the same for me: oldest starts a sport with team A, I feel awkward as hell at practices not knowing any other parents, I finally get to know a couple of other parents by making myself interact with stupid light chat and get comfortable after about 2 years, then oldest moves to team B.

    I feel you so much right now because we just found out this morning that oldest has been selected for a soccer team he REALLY wants to play on and so my first thought was that I’m excited for him, but my second thought was “ah man, now I have to get to know a whole DIFFERENT group of parents and start over.”

    I can’t lie and say the beginning part has ever become any easier for me, but it helps to know that after awhile, I will get to know the other parents and even if we don’t become BFFs, I will eventually end up with some people to chat with for the duration of a game or practice without feeling like crawling into a hole.

    Frankly, I only kept trying at the beginning because I figured I had to be a role model for my kids – look, mom can chat with new people, you can too! Making friends isn’t that hard! (blah blah, total BS for me, but my kids don’t seem to have noticed ;-)

  16. Michelle H. on May 10th, 2013 10:55 am

    Amen on the role model angle, Maggie.

    My husband has never met a stranger, while I I never know what to say to new people. I’m sure when people meet us they think “Gee, what a nice guy! Wife’s a bitch, though.”

    But when I realized my 4 year old was afraid to approach kids in the park, and hid behind me whenever someone talked to him, I started making an effort to at least say hello to the other moms at the park. It was scary at first, but I’m getting better at it. And the kid who wouldn’t talk to anyone now won’t shut up.

  17. jo on May 10th, 2013 11:00 am

    I am the same way. I remember around 12 years of age and my best friend getting mad at me asking me why I was always so stuck up around new people. I never realized my shyness looked like that. I can’t help it then & I still can’t!

    I have even wondered what anxiety meds would do for me.

  18. Barb. on May 10th, 2013 11:07 am

    I really understand what you mean. I’m the same way. I can smile at people, and say “hi, how do you do?” and that’s about as far as I can go, because what do you say after that? I also find it EXHAUSTING to make small talk with people I don’t know, so on top of my social awkwardness I’ve got a whole other layer of extreme introversion. I do want friends… the friends I have made have all tended to be the really social extroverted type who don’t mind carrying all the heavy work of conversation. Which is fine, because I could listen to other people gabble on all day. It’s the response that I’m so terrible at. Or a fellow introvert, who doesn’t mind that our interactions are composed mostly of a companionable silence.

    My kids are now 11 and 8, involved in sports and karate. It’s taken me a while, but I have made friends, and it’s a ripple effect — you make one friend, and then you become friends with that person’s friends, and so on. Another thing I do is volunteer in the classroom. A lot. It gets me out of the house and gives me the chance to interact with the teacher, who also appreciates an adult interaction during the day. It’s much easier when it’s just me and one other adult, and we have common ground to cover. I’ve made some good friends that way, as well.

  19. MelV on May 10th, 2013 11:38 am

    Wow, its kinda nice to see all the “me too’s” on here, except I hate to think that other people have to feel like I feel. I could have written this post though you said it much better than I ever could have. Anytime I go someplace that will involve a group of adults it feels like everyone there is already best friends. Side lines, birthday parties, school drop off line, everywhere. Its exactly like your picture, group of laughing smiling inner-circle-joke-sharing people….and over here…me. What is that? Its been so SO long since I had a friend. Ive been told I come across standoffish and snobby but I think its the running loop of “everyone here has a friend already, they dont need you” that runs thru my head non-stop. Man I wish I knew how to stop that. I think I would make a pretty good friend.
    Someone in the comments said they wished we all lived near each other because we’d make a bad ass group of friends, I think I’d have to agree.

  20. Sundry on May 10th, 2013 12:07 pm

    So many good suggestions here, you guys. And ugh, I never thought about the idea that Dylan’s shyness might be the result of my own. :(

  21. pam on May 10th, 2013 12:25 pm

    it’s like you were at my sons’ tee-ball practice, because i’m the same way. need to read the other comments for some suggestions.

    and crap, my boys are shy too, but since the other kids aren’t, it hasn’t been a big deal.

  22. Phoebe on May 10th, 2013 12:32 pm

    I already posted about my experience and mentioned that I want to get “better” so my future kid(s) won’t have to deal the same way I did. BUT I do not think a shy kid is a result of learned behavior from a shy parent. I think sure there is some nurture that might come into play, but I am certain that I got my shyness from my parents the same way I got my eye color. Nothing can be done, but try and make it easier for them someday by learning how to overcome/ deal with shyness now.

    And also I want to say that I’ve seen shy kids that come out of very extroverted families and I wonder if that must be tough for the kids and the parent since they can’t relate super well to each other. If my kid ends up hiding behind my leg around strangers at least I know what that’s like from their perspective :)

  23. willikat on May 10th, 2013 12:53 pm

    I have to small talk sometimes for a living. I used to dread it. Until I realized that people are dying to connect–almost all people. Just even venturing out in the smallest of ways–commenting on the weather, complimenting someone on their hair/outfit/child’s manners, you name it–will get the ball rolling. Find the most extraverted person to do this with (people usually assume this is me although I just cope with my semi-introversion by talking a stream to hopefully deflect any awkward silences). They will respond with enthusiasm. If they are like me, and they like you, they might even use my line, which is “We’re friends now, right?” or “So, I want to call you.” Or “Do you want to be friends?” Sounds second grade, but I swear to God it works every damn time. I even said it to our pediatrician after a long week with jaundice, when she called me with the results for the 40 frillionth time. (She was like “This is Dr. G., etc.” And I was like “Oh, I know, you’re in my phone. We’re best friends now.”) Ever since, every time I see her now, she says “Oh hey, best friend!” I actually am secretly terrible at small talk and get nervous about rejection but this is a no-fail method. I’m not even kidding. And it goes to show you how desperately adults want new friends but can’t bring themselves to make them.
    Also I know I’ve said this to you before but if you lived nearby I would make you be my friend. You have so many funny observations and interests…you have a lot to offer.Once you start doing it, it gets a little easier. I promise.

  24. Brooke on May 10th, 2013 1:24 pm

    A lot of this hits home for me. I dread small talk particularly because I have a ten month old daughter and I always get the, “Is she your first/only?” question and then it’s awkward because my first baby died when she was born and suddenly I’m THAT mom with the dead baby and I have to either change the subject like it’s no big deal when it’s the hugest thing that has ever happened to me, or I have to try to navigate how it matters and hurts but we’re still quasi-normal people, blah blah. So a lot of time I avoid conversation because I don’t want to make other people and myself feel weird.

    That said, I have been making myself be more social and I can usually talk about other people’s kids or ask questions and ask for advice (even if I don’t really need it). I also find it easier to exchange e-mail addresses first–like, “Oh, would you e-mail me that restaurant recommendation?” (or for purposes of getting the kids together or whatever) and then after a couple of e-mail exchanges, I sent an e-mail that said, “Can we be texting friends?” which is totally lame but the other person said yes and now we have a normal text-and-call friendship which is kind of a big deal since making friends post-college or post-grad school is actually super hard.

    It also helps me to remember that everyone just wants to be liked, so instead of worrying about whether everyone likes me, I try to think about whether I’m demonstrating that I like them.

  25. Peggasus on May 10th, 2013 1:25 pm

    I didn’t read all of the above comments, but I, too, have been there. We moved to our previous town when my older son was in 3rd grade and the younger one was just under 3. I just went to parks, and did stuff at school: Cub Scout den leader, reading mom, Arts in the Classroom, became hot lunch chairman at the school, etc., and made lots of friends.

    Then we moved again seven years ago when the younger one was beginning high school, so those options were not available any more. I don’t know how big your town is (mine is about 5300), but small towns are a tough nut to crack. I still, after SEVEN FUCKING YEARS here, do not have one single person I could call and ask to come over for a glass of wine or to play golf or whatever, and I have tried. The people at the one local grocery store are nicer to me than anyone else I’ve tried to meet.

    Hang in there.

  26. Foodmomiac on May 10th, 2013 2:07 pm

    I am often the same way and was dreading being by myself with no friends during all of Max’s hockey games. So… I volunteered (via email) to be team manager. I introduced myself to everyone via email and was then forced to interact as I collected funds, shared game information, etc.

    It was honestly the very best way to meet people b/c it forced them to come up to ME. Not sure I would do it again (OMG so much work), but it always kind of taught me how to meet the parents and gave me more confidence. Now that baseball season has started, I’ve found myself being a lot more chatty and less nervous.

  27. Angella on May 10th, 2013 2:12 pm

    1. Read Quiet. Please.

    2. Move here. JB and Matt can hunt together and we can do all of the kid-related stuff.

    3. Just pretend you’re me and can’t stop talking? ;)

    Love you, lady.

  28. Annie on May 10th, 2013 2:56 pm

    I find this surprising too. I always thought you would be a cool, fun, and funny friend. I hope you can use some of these suggestions to help you. There has GOT to be one woman in Eugene who is friend worthy!

    Good Luck, you deserve adults friendships.

  29. Nancy on May 10th, 2013 3:50 pm

    I’m right there with you — I always feel so awkward! I have found that people LOVE to talk about themselves, and they LOVE to talk about their kids, so if you can come up with a couple of starter questions to break the ice you can lead toward those things and get them chatting! The hard part is remembering week-to-week who you’ve chatted up before, and TRY to remember what you hear. There’s some great advice here and I’m going to practice some of this stuff myself.

  30. Emily on May 10th, 2013 5:35 pm

    Ugh. Just substitute “daughter” and “ballet class” . Oddly comforting, though, to find out I’m not the only one that goes through this.

  31. Andrea on May 10th, 2013 6:00 pm

    It’s been years since I’be done the soccer/baseball with young kids thing. But I do know that we were on the same teams with some of the same families for years. Just being a familiar face made the second season so much easier. Baseball ruled our lives for much of the year for almost 15 years. At the end, I missed the other families we “grew up” with. They were never my best friends, and we never hung out together when our boys weren’t on the field, but we were always social through the games and through tournament weekends. I started taking pictures of all the kids early on. Who doesn’t love a picture of their kid on the field? That helped break the ice too. I took pictures of everyone (parents too) and at the end of season required pizza party gave everyone a CD with the pix on them.

  32. Koa on May 10th, 2013 10:03 pm

    Um, dude. I live in Eugene, and I totally, totally want to be your friend. I think you’re hysterical and just about my evil twin. Well. I might be the evil one. Let’s hang out. Park? Cocktails? I have a 4 year old son, I recently started writing a mama blog with a couple of hysterical gals, one of whom is a huge fan of yours and all but dared me to find you and be your friend. I love dares. I’m pretty outgoing, I’ll totally make the first move. Frankly, I’ve been a stay at home mom for 4 years now, and I’m a little bit bored with kids and moms who don’t find their kids to be bizarre. Also, I think Eugene is THE WORST PLACE EVER to make cool friends. And I’ve lived here for a long time. We can compare notes. When you’re not shy, like I’m not, you just say it like this – hey mama, let’s go out, what do you say?!

  33. Melissa on May 11th, 2013 4:29 am

    So, I read this and thought…I wonder if she’d like Koa. Koa who, when I found out she lived in Eugene shortly after you moved to Eugene I told HAD to read your blog and keep an eye out for you and be a complete fangirl loser if she saw you, in my place since I’ll never be in Oregon.
    Then Koa commented before me. :)
    I feel the same way. I never know what to talk to other parents about. I recently hit it off with a preschool director and wanted to befriend him and his wife and had no idea how to proceed. I kept thinking that if he and I were single and I wanted to date him I’d know what to do…but friendships as an adult? I’m clueless.

  34. Lisa on May 11th, 2013 6:52 am

    I’m not a parent, but I can totally sympathize with you & all the other introverts/shy folks commenting here!

    – I second the recommendation on reading Quiet if you haven’t already. I read it & felt so much better about being an introvert. Our society doesn’t give enough value to this trait & yet it is mostly the introverts that are quietly changing the world. You need to not feel bad about being an introvert. We are made to feel that way growing up- I can’t tell you how many times as a kid people thought I was “stuck up” or some other awful thing, when no- I just hated small talk. Still do.

    -What helped me as a teenager is that I went to a high school which was exclusively for geeks, tech nerds & art nerds. I still would not talk in class ever ever ever, but I had some great friends & felt free to be my unique creative self & that experience still helps me today as a 38 year old creative professional

    -I “cured” myself of shyness by going to graduate school in another state. There are less expensive ways to do this & I don’t recommend what I did necessarily. I was totally out of my comfort zone, away from everyone I knew & loved. It was a really competitive, cut throat program to boot. I had to learn to swim in a pool of sharks, and oddly enough, this is what taught me how to talk to strangers.

    -Another thing that helped me was on recommendation from a teacher from that high school I went to that I remained friends with & still talk to today. He is also a hard core introvert & told me teaching helped him. I became a teacher & took his advice. Teaching is like acting- you put on a persona & that same persona can work in these small talk situations.

    So yeah- some sort of immersion- close your eyes & jump in the shark infested waters experience might help you, or if you get the opportunity to stand up in front of a class & teach or present something or act on stage- sounds kind of crazy & it’s terribly scary at first, but trust me, it works. Because I did these things to myself, I can now talk to almost anyone at the large corporation where I work. I still sit back & wonder how I did it.

    There are times when I totally let my natural shyness wash over me, though- I helped set up for a presentation last week for over 100 people at my company. Had no problem chatting w/my bosses beforehand, but when it was over & we broke for wine & cheese- I hugged the wall, had a half a glass of wine, put it down on a table & quietly left the room to go home to my husband & my cats.

    Good luck- you can do it! My last paragraph made me think of something else- one other tactic I do to get around small talk & awkward socialization at things like that- I volunteer to help. If you’re busy setting out chairs, getting equipment together, manning the av booth or taking photos, you’re too busy working to talk! I do a lot of event photography at work & it’s a great way to feel like you are contributing without it being agonizing!

  35. Julie on May 11th, 2013 8:42 am

    Loose the book – it isolates you! Watch the game and you’ll get to know the names of all the kids and start cheering them on – eventually the game itself will be the ice breaker.

  36. Anais on May 11th, 2013 8:31 pm

    Loved your reference to Calvinball. :)

    Not a parent, but I too am very socially awkward at times and constantly feel like I’m sticking my foot in mouth and making an ass of myself.

    I always feel super embarrassed doing perfectly normal things in front of others, too. Like dancing. My coworkers danced up a storm at our company Christmas party. I tried to dance like I wasn’t feeling super self-conscious, but then felt like everyone could tell that I was super self-conscious so I felt like an idiot with all eyes on me and just stopped dancing. The anxiety in these situations nearly kills me. I hate it. I sympathize with you.

  37. June on May 11th, 2013 9:37 pm

    I am terrible at meeting people, esp when said people already seem to have a long history with each other and I am the New One. My husband is even worse at starting up conversations, so if we’re going to make any adult friends in town, it’s up to me.

    But what works REALLY WELL is to do volunteer work. Then you meet a bunch of people and you naturally have a common thing that you have to talk about – the work you are doing together – and then personal stuff, etc, will start to flow later. The major con of this strategy is that it is a huge time suck – time away from your work, your kids, your exercising/hobbies/relaxing – so volunteer in binges or moderation. I don’t know how to make the leap from volunteer-friend to friend-friend (ie, someone that you might call up on the phone just to chat or rant about your kids or go shopping with).

    I just moved again (to a rental last August and then to our new home 3 weeks ago), so it’s time to start again. Now that the weather is getting nicer, the neighbors are coming out, and we’ve been introducing ourselves like mad. I try to make jokes, laugh, apologize for my kids’ terrible behavior. I secretly (or not so secretly) write down everyone’s names as soon as I can, or otherwise I will totally forget them.

    My oldest starts kindergarten in the fall. I’m bracing myself for school volunteering. I’m trying to gather up the courage to find and attend another knit-night group. Another mom of twin boys gave me her name and number last December, and I still haven’t worked up the courage to call. (And she never called me, either.) Sigh. Why is it so hard to get friendships off the ground and running?

  38. Käthe on May 12th, 2013 7:08 am

    I love that everyone else is shy, too! I thought I was the only adult left who hadn’t mastered small talk.
    Two things I’ve noticed:
    1. Say hi right away, every time. It’s super awkward for me if I haven’t said hello and then five minutes later… Now I say hi? No… 10 minutes later… Now? Just weird. Arrive. Say hi. Sit down. See what happens.
    2. Just walk up to someone and say, Hi, my name is ____. This happens TO me a lot and I’m always thinking what? why are you telling me your name? But then I have to respond in kind and it gets the ball rolling. Pretty smart.
    I figure my kid is shy because I’m shy. It’s not my fault, but it’s not helpful to her for me to not be a good example either. I often think about how to be a better person so she sees a better example.
    <3 you can do it!

  39. MizzM on May 12th, 2013 11:38 pm

    Wow. This is so weird to me! Your “internet persona” just oozes coolness and you come across as the “most popular girl in the room” that everyone wants to call her friend! I have been reading your blog for years, but rarely comment because I always thought you were “too cool” and “too popular” to care about anything I had to say! I’m one of those annoying extroverts who desperately tries to make small-talk with total strangers, wanting so badly to make new friends, and then feeling horribly rejected when it goes nowhere, always thinking it was something I said or did, so I go home and berate myself for being an “unlikable person.” Maybe it was just my approach and LACK of shyness foisted upon someone who wasn’t prepared to reciprocate? I dunno. Despite being an extrovert, I’m still lonely and probably even MORE desperate for social interaction than you. I’ll keep trying, now that I know that maybe it’s not just ME, but LOTS OF US who are insecure and tentative about forging new friendships. All I can say is it is SOOO much easier when your kids are little and involved in activities attended by other parents. At least you have multiple opportunities to “meet and greet.” My kids don’t play sports and ditched Boy Scouts/Girl Scouts long ago, and I feel more isolated than ever. I spend a lot of time reading “Chick-Lit” and resenting all of these books about long-term female friendships, when I have none that resemble what is portrayed in these books. Why do you think so many women Blog? Because the internet provides a forum for other women to respond and interact with supportive, editable comments in an anonymous way they would never be brave enough to do in “real life”! I have Blog Friends who probably know more about me and “my angst” than any of my “real life friends.” I think you need to really READ your comments and recognize that every random person who commented here could be just another soccer mom, neighbor, classroom volunteer, etc. ALL of us are awkward and goofy and tongue-tied and unsure of ourselves–wouldn’t it be great if we just let that go and realized that the other person reaching out is no different and just trying to connect? We are GROWN WOMEN. Accomplished, talented, unique, smart, hilarious, creative, and, most of all, KIND. Women are KIND. We need to GET OVER our stupid high school insecurities and STOP rejecting people just because we are afraid of rejection. First of all, it’s actually NOT likely to happen, and second of all, even if it did, WHO CARES? You still have your spouse, your kids, your family, your dog, whatever.

  40. Katie on May 13th, 2013 6:15 am

    Oh, do I feel your pain. And if you ever find a way to get over that first step, please share. I’ve moved three times in seven years and while I logically know it takes times to make friends, well, three years at this most recent location seems like a long enough time to make friends, but the only friends I have here are my boyfriend and two dogs.

  41. Maggie on May 13th, 2013 7:23 am

    I just want to pipe in as a totally, non-shy, can talk to anyone person. First of all, I have a VERY shy child, so please don’t blame yourself for your son’s shyness. Secondly, I feel for you and so wish our kids were on the same team so we could chat it up! It will encourage me to seek out the shy parents now, because I often do feel like they are being standoffish, so I am glad to know I could be totally wrong about them.

    I am grateful to get this little bit of insight to my own child. I don’t want this to be a problem her for her whole life or I at least want to help her get some skills to use when she is feeling super shy. It is so hard for me to comprehend how she feels since I am the complete opposite, so thank you for sharing your experience. If you have any advice for me on how to help my child (and what not to do), I would greatly appreciate it!

  42. birdgal (another amy) on May 13th, 2013 11:12 am

    Hi, my name is Amy and you’ve just described my life. I am horrible at making that first connection, even though I really WANT to. And, you’ve just moved, which I can’t imagine would be easy on ye old social life. I’ve lived in the same place nigh on eight years now, and I still have only 2-3 close friends in the area. I’m starting to get to know more of my daughter’s friend’s moms, which is nice, but man is it a looong process. Anyway, here’s my fist bump to you for sharing and hoping it gets easier with time :).

  43. Mary Clare on May 13th, 2013 11:42 am

    Thanks for sharing! It’s insightful to see the perspectives of other introverts. If only we could all get together – in, of course, small intimate gatherings of 3 people or less. ;)

  44. Her Ladyship on May 13th, 2013 12:31 pm

    Trust me, everyone feels awkward too, and it is the worst to have to approach people. I have to do it all the time for my work and what I find is easiest is approaching someone who’s also by themselves versus a big group. 9 times out of 10, the other loner is super-relieved that someone approached them and open to talking.

  45. Robin on May 13th, 2013 12:59 pm

    I wish I lived near you, I would totally chat you up!

    I’ve moved so many times in my adult life that I now have no trouble approaching random people at the park and being like WILL YOU BE MY FRIEND? YES YOU WILL.

    I thought for the longest time that self-confidence would just suddenly appear out of nowhere, and I only realized recently that it’s something I have to practice. There are plenty of times when it’s awkward and you strike out, but then there are times when you really hit it off with someone and it’s easy and brilliant.

    I don’t believe in shy! Don’t box yourself in!

  46. telegirl on May 13th, 2013 2:11 pm

    I hope you’re still reading. I agree with some of the others about not having your book out as it sends off all sorts of wrong signals. We started our first venture into sports with kindergarten soccer. I do not consider myself shy but I can be self-conscious (who isn’t?!). I have a suggestion for you that will keep you busy and keep you involved. You are an amazing photographer; take pictures of the practices and/or games. If your team is like ours, we use a website for our team (BonziTeam) and I post all the pictures there.
    I started taking my Nikon 35mm digital camera to the games and I take pictures of *all* the kids. I also am having a great time doing it. As I am taking pictures I can compliment the nearest parent on their son’s/daughter’s skills or ask them a question and then the conversation starts. If you start feeling awkward, you can always excuse yourself to get to a better vantage point. It’s less of an intense interaction. Baby steps. :) At the end of the season, I plan on putting all the pictures onto a CD for each kid and give them at gifts at the last game.

  47. Jess on May 13th, 2013 2:49 pm

    God, yes. This. So very much.

    My oldest is nine. My next 8, and every year, every season, it’s this awkward thing where I have to watch my language and not joke about inappropriate things and its just so hard.

    I have no friends. I’m so lonely it’s physically painful, and it just makes me want to go out and meet people. But I’m not good at meeting people. I can’t seem to keep friends. Women confound me. I always feel the end of the conversation drop off like a cliff.

    Parental chatty waters are treacherous to navigate.

  48. Sarah on May 13th, 2013 3:26 pm

    I don’t know if you’re even still reading these comments but just wanted to say, you’re not alone. I thought having kids would help me get over my shyness and I guess it did, to a certain extent, but I am still so far from where I want to be! My kids are small and I too get so freaking lonely I could cry, and I can’t seem to force myself to do anything about it….there’s a nation-wide mom’s group chapter in my city and by all accounts it is THE place to make new friends. Lifelong besties!!! But it would involve me walking into a room in a rec centre full of babies and moms that I don’t know and I just cannot make myself. I get jittery and upset just thinking about doing it. I HATE that about myself. I hate that I probably come off as aloof even though inside I’m all “talk to me! I’m nice! I like you!”. It’s horrible. My older son went to preschool this year and the teacher’s raved “the moms all become close and are going for coffee together by December!” Well, if they are they aren’t inviting me, because I am not friends with any of them. And some seem really awesome and nice and like I’d get along well with them. It actually makes me sad when they all stand around chatting and I silently slink back to my van.

    OK so uh, not very helpful comment!! Just wanted to say that I get where you are coming from 100%. And I am writing down all the great advice you’ve gotten here to use for myself :)

  49. Ally on May 14th, 2013 10:11 am

    Wow, i can’t even get through all the comments, but it’s amazing to see how many other women have such similar experiences! I often feel the very same way. But what I find most frustrating is what someone else wrote – that even when I can strike up a really good conversation and really hit it off with someone, it never really goes further than that. I wish it would go to the stage of leading to a CLOSE friendship with another parent, someone i can call up any time just to chat, or to drop by, etc. I’ve lived in my town for 6 years now and I feel like I have yet to make friends like that. :(

  50. Suburban Snapshots on May 14th, 2013 5:11 pm

    I don’t have anything to add that I’m sure someone else hasn’t already said, but if it helps to know, I do go out of my way to notice moms looking alone and uncomfortable, and to ask a question or 2, not because I’m the most awesome person ever, but because I was the lonely gymnastics mom, and now I’m in the chatty group that won’t shut the eff up.

Leave a Reply