Friends with children

Joys and Pains of Making New Friends as a Parent

When my son was a toddler, I read about this fantastic parenting hack that would teach your child not to interrupt you while you were speaking with another adult. I was to simply nab his little hand that would urgently tap on my arm mid-conversation. Be graceful like Mary Poppins herself and gently hold it in place until we reached a natural break in the conversation. This could allow me to shift my attention to him without being rude.

You know what? It worked. In fact, it worked a little too well for this introvert who isn’t — shall we say — a master or fan of small talk. While it was great that I could count on this hack, with some friends it wasn’t necessary. They never minded when (biased) the cutest little boy there ever was interrupted for something.

Eventually, I abandoned that very sound parenting advice. When I did, I discovered something. My kids became the ultimate social wingman. Think about it, invited to a party you’d rather skip? Sorry, my kid has soccer practice … or a recital … or a cold. Looming awkward pauses in a conversation with someone you have nothing in common with? Turn the attention to the kid who will either have a meltdown or do something adorable. Need an excuse to leave early from anything, ever? Man, I hate to run, but it’s nap time, or we have a birthday party to get to, or it’s a school night.

They initiate and buffer any conversation with ease. They go anywhere you need them to because they have to. They are always an acceptable reason for arriving late or leaving early. They are one of the only socially acceptable reasons to flake on an invite last minute, whether the sitter fell through or they brought the germ of the week home from school.

I realize all of this makes me sound like a socially anxious introvert, and that is because I am. Motherhood has brought me so many joys over the last 12.5 years but creating my own little social “easy” buttons is not one that I anticipated, but I am not mad. When my kids were young — like playground age — I was pretty confident socially. I would just strike up conversations with other moms by the swings like it was nothing. What a wild phase that was for me, no inhibitions.

But, you know what they say about phases — they end. I’m teetering between regretting my decision to halt that slick parenting hack and just being so, so sad my kids don’t need me enough to interrupt me or help me selectively opt in and out of engagements. There are no more dirty diapers or tantrums to bridge awkward pauses. They’re not old enough to just stay home if they don’t want to tag along, so there goes that failsafe “I couldn’t get a sitter, so I’m out” excuse. And, when they are in tow, they’re usually not shy about emoting they’d rather be home playing video games. This can be any combination of one-word responses, the “meh” face, deep sighing or being glued to the screen in their hands.

Event with friends and children

So, as with our previous PCS, I’m dreading the friend-making on the other side of the cardboard boxes. I’m going to have to fly mostly solo for the first time in a long time and just really count on my kids’ friends’ parents being really cool and willing to match my sarcasm step for step. I know for sure that when I do become engaged in a conversation I do not need to be rescued from, my kids will be there. They will mention a memory that just sparked from years ago, pulling me away from new acquaintances to ask if I remember that one time when they said something really funny. It will have absolutely nothing to do with the paused conversation, but in a way, I guess they’re still helping me put potential friends through the sniff test. If someone isn’t okay with (biased) best kids in the world resurfacing from the tween world of one-word answers to talk to their mom, then I probably don’t need them on my friend roster anyway.

Kristi Stolzenberg
Written By Kristi Stolzenberg
Marine Spouse

Kristi started writing for Blog Brigade as a new Milspouse in 2008, and all of a sudden, she’s a seasoned (but not overly salty) Marine spouse.

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