We have neighbors two houses over who have little kids.
I go outside every day, usually multiple times, with Harrison and Mara. Most of the time the aforementioned neighbors and their little ones are outside playing as well. It’s great to see the kids running around together.
Harrison, Mara, Mason, and William all gather around, play, and get along just fine.
It’s all about the kids.
The other parents are super nice. Their kids are very well behaved and seem to be pretty low maintenance.
And, on paper, the parents and I should be friends. On paper.
Why/how is it easier for kids 1, 2, 3, and 4 years old to make friends than it is for a grown, mature adult? Specifically me.
Of course the easy answer is little kids can (and do) just walk up to other kids and blatantly ask them if they want to be friends, zero worries about what happens next, and it always works out. But can you imagine doing this as an adult?
Imagine the look on the other guy’s face at a dinner part when you have just been introduced, and boom…Hi Justin, would you like to be friends with me please?
If somebody asked me that I’d think they were systematically off. probably a head injury dating back to childhood, birth, or some sort of trauma. I’d cordially say yes and spend the rest of the evening both feeling bad for, and avoiding, that person.
While the kids are outside running around, I’m usually pacing back and forth awkwardly, or gazing around the neighborhood sporadically, a lot of the time not knowing how to hold my head or where to look, hyperaware of every tiny move I make. Imagining my actions are being evaluated by the other parents at all times.
In sports, it’s similar to a team playing ‘not to lose’ instead of playing to win. It’s a big difference.
In short I worry about everything I’m gonna say, instead of just saying it. And if I do happen to act on a whim, I spend the next few minutes evaluating and second guessing the entire sequence.
Then I feel weird about getting my folding chair out of the garage and bringing it over to their house, even though I know I’m going to be there for at least an hour. I don’t want them to assume I’m planning on staying for too long or getting too comfortable on their property. So I only do it about 25% of the time.
And I’m quick to look for any sort of key words or phrases that imply it might be time to go. “It’s almost lunch time.” “What time is your next business call?” “Can you help me with something inside?” etc
If I hear any of those conversations in the background, I’m quick to pack up the kids and get outta there.
Or even if I’m simply asked, “So what are your plans for the day?,” after I’ve already been there for a little while, my antenna goes up.
I’m always looking to avoid any when are you leaving type conversations.
And, when we talk, most of the conversations are awkward. But from the looks of it, only awkward for me.
I feel pressure to start up conversations. And when the retorts to my questions are short and simple I back off. I never know how far I can push it with anything because I don’t really know them. It’s so easy to offend people these days, and conversations about the weather can only last so long. Eventually what I say is going to have be elaborate, have substance, and lead somewhere.
In fairness to me, none of the adults seem to respond with more than a sentence or two to anything I throw out there, while having no problem keeping consistent conversations with each other. That’s a sick feeling. Some of the stuff I bring up that I think is legitimately interesting, and is not an attempt at a phony conversation starter, will fall on deaf ears.
Granite they’ve all known each other longer, but give me a little something every once in awhile. For gosh sakes I’m trying here! I hate myself for forcing conversation a hell of a lot more than you hate me for what comes out of my mouth. Trust me.
Of course there is an obvious cure for all this:
But I doubt I have to explain to the reader the repercussions of drinking at 9-10am daily. Or the overall stupidity of drinking alcohol around little kids at any time. Or doing it just to get that slight extra confidence boost that could just as easily make you look like a jackass.
Plus I have a wife-imposed—non special occasion—intake allowable limit I adhere to, which is more than respectable. So it’d be pretty much pointless all around.
An invitation to house for a beer or two on a Friday night seems more logical, but our conversational flow has never headed that direction.
Another stumbling block in this whole thing: My sense of humor is a little different. It’s an acquired taste. A lot of people don’t have the patience for it, and even the ones who do would say I have a tendency to push the limits from time to time.
Rarely in my life have a met somebody who instantly likes me. It usually takes a minute or two. Except for when I was a kid.
Probably why most of the friends I have, I’ve known forever.
And why I can count the new friends I’ve made since being in Texas on 2 fingers.
Why, when I was a kid, did I never notice my parents having any problems talking to other parents?
What am I missing? Maybe it’s something super simple that just hasn’t occurred to me yet. Or maybe I have big, big, BIG problems with social anxiety.
I’m certainly not incapable of having or starting pleasant conversations with peers.
I can sit at a poker table with people of any gender, race, and age and pop into a conversation like it’s nothing. For a few short hours I can be liked, ignored, hated, or deemed irrelevant by anyone playing in the game. And I just won’t care. I’m never worried about what I say or what anyone thinks of me in that setting. That indifference makes me more personable, and as a result I’m generally more liked. It’s beautiful.
So why the hell, at 38 years old, do I worry about what other parents think of me as a person? The reality is, at this point, the only thing they probably really give a shit about is that I’m a good father and display appropriate behavior around their kids.
At least I easily check those boxes.
Ah hell, maybe I’ll just invite them over sometime to play poker.