At some point, we find ourselves ready to emerge from the one-on-one love fest that we do with our little ones and start to want some contact with other adults. The little ones really don’t know the difference until they are around 2, so this early seeking of parent-friends is really about us. So how do we choose these friends?
Honestly, many of us choose parent friends by proximity in time and space. Then, once we find ourselves in the same music class/gym class/art class at the same time, we give each other a once over and decide who feels right. It is very much like how we choose who to play with in grammar school. And we must remember that some of those choices yielded us amazing long-lasting friendships and some of them did not. This is ok, for the best really. If we can come away from the little one’s earliest years with one or two true friends, that is really fantastic.
I find that there are a few scales that need to be somewhat aligned for these new relationships to really come together:
Your parenting style along the permissive to rigid spectrum is very important here. You may really begin to take stock of this aspect of your parenting style – one that you will be examining agin and again in years to come – when pumpkin and company start to get some mobility. The key here is not to be judgmental of your or another parent’s style. Rather, to notice your own style and then figure out what feels comfortable for you and pumpkin. You might find it quite stressful to be with another parent who is frequently redirecting their child or you might find it uncomfortable to feel that pumpkin’s playmate could use some reigning in. You and the other parent don’t need to be an exact match here, but being within a comfortable range is key.
Another factor to consider is what you are both looking for in this relationship. Is it someone to chat with at the playground? Or would you enjoy a more involved friendship? How would you both feel about involving your partners and about seeing one another outside of time with the kids? There is no one correct answer to this question, but it does matter an awful lot that you are synced up in this regard. It can be quite uncomfortable to have to repeatedly decline invitations and enforce boundaries with a parent who is looking for more that you have to give and similarly disappointing to be on the other side – looking for more from a potential friend who doesn’t have the space to offer what you want.
And finally, the kids have to like each other well enough. A boisterous, physical little playmate might not be pleasant for your pumpkin if he or she prefers quieter play at this particular moment in time. Likewise, it won’t be much fun (for either of you) if your little one is more spirited and his or her playmate is upset by that level of energy. Again, the kids won’t be very friendly with each other just yet – just wait until they start to develop their first friendships, heart melting! But their being able to play in the same general area can give you all the feeling that it’s ok to give the kids a little space and everyone benefits from this.
A nonjudgemental but realistic stance is so important here. Remember that the goal is to find some company that you really enjoy and some support for this wild journey that is parenting. You have quite a lot to take care of at the moment, so this is not the time for collecting higher maintenance relationships. This is a chance for some much needed fun!