Thursday, October 28, 2010

Those other parents

One aspect of being a new parent that I have found particularly challenging is interacting with other parents. My problem lies in two different areas (1) befriending other parents moms, and (2) regulating play/disciplining.

First, the befriending... Having other mom friends is important to me. I'm lucky enough to have two close by. In addition to the companionship, you need people to bounce stuff off of - behaviors, sicknesses, milestones. But both of my nearby mom friends work part time, so I don't get to see them as often as I would like. Even on non-work days things tend to come up - sicknesses, naps don't line up, zombie attacks. So I'm always on the look out for new mom friends.

But, I'm naturally pretty shy. My friends don't believe me when I say this because I often overcompensate for my shyness by laughing excessively and rambling like a bubble headed maniac. When I meet someone I usually feel awkward and struggle for the right words, with only the wrong ones escaping my lips. Although I have various pieces of paper to prove I am not a complete idiot, I inevitably make myself sound like an airhead or bigot of some kind. This isn't much of a problem when I was in school and meeting people in bars and you know, they were drunk. But now I'm meeting people on the playground. And usually the people I am meeting are not intoxicated.

at our local park

So in addition to my own personal awkwardness, throw into the mix that we don't have any framework for building conversation other than the children at our feet. No common enemy in a professor or boss. No shared experience in a class or meeting. No obvious common interest. I'm okay with the "how old is your child" and "what is your spawn's name?" bit, but beyond that I'm kind of hopeless. If the person doesn't meet me half way...or three quarters, I'll get stuck. And if we do hit it off? In a magic sort of way? Well then Nate will have a meltdown and we'll need to leave immediately. Or Nate will bash that kid in the face. Just kidding...sort of...

Which brings me to my second area. Nate is at an age where he doesn't understand the concept of sharing. And his new favorite thing is hitting and being generally aggressive. So he is an awesome play date. I am trying to teach him to take turns and to be "gentle." I think using baby sign language is helping/will help. He's started to sign GENTLE and I need to learn the sign for taking turns.

Obviously if Nate hits a kid, I need to intervene. But what if he grabs a toy from another child? What if a kid is on a riding toy and Nate tries to take it from him? What if Nate is playing with something and another child grabs it from him? Does the age of the other child matter? Does it depend on how well I know the other parent? What are the rules here? That isn't a rhetorical question. I would love to hear what other parents expect and how much they intervene.

Nate needs to be taught how to play nicely, but I don't want to micro-manage his play either. Just like when I would take Ava to the dog park - I'd prefer to stay out of the children's interactions as much as possible and let them work it out for themselves. But I often fear the other dog owner parent will get upset.  I don't know the rules. A little help?

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