Yesterday I took the kids to the playground. It's a small playground and most of the time there is no one else there. However, yesterday we ran into a family that we have seen there before. It's a mom, probably around my age with two girls. The oldest is a year younger than Ainsley and the baby is a couple of months younger than Freddie.
When we first met this family, I said to Ainsley, "Why don't you ask her what her name is?"
"What's your name?"
I lean over and say to Ainsley, "Ask her how old she is."
"How old are you?"
"Two and a half."
"I'm three and a half."
This prompted her mom to speak to me a bit. Ask me about Freddie and so forth.
Then we both left the playground going to our separate houses and I kept thinking to myself, here was a perfect opportunity to maybe meet someone my own age, with kids the same age as mine, that lives in my neighborhood. But I did not take the opportunity. I did not ask her name, I did not tell her mine.
So yesterday, I see this family approach the playground and I'm determined to do better. But I'm so bad at it. I'm so bad at starting a conversation. I'm so bad at making small talk. So instead of trying to meet someone new, I often come across as a cold, unfriendly, snob. I know this because I've been told it by people after I get to know them.
So I say hi and that's about as far as I get. The girls play together and talk easily. The mom eventually asks me about my daycare situation and we discuss preschool and the neighborhood a bit. But I still don't ask her name and I don't tell her mine.
The whole time I'm thinking, I should get her email or give her mine and we can let the girls play together. But I don't.
I mean, at one time in my life I could make friends, because I do have friends. (Although, it's possible a lot of those unions were catalyzed by alcohol.) It's just that not a one lives within an hour of me, so there are no playdates or get-togethers. Those friends that I used to be so close with, I'm just not really anymore.
So why now can I not just say...
"Hi, my name's Jaime. What's yours?"
Seems easy enough, but the anxiety of opening my mouth and letting that spill out just overwhelms me and I can't make it happen. I can even prompt my daughter to do it...but when it comes to me, I just feel like such an idiot.
Then I usually just convince myself that I don't need friends. I've got my kids and my husband. And my sister and my mom...although they live pretty far. But then I see friends together, and it makes me sad. I wish that my friends that I do have lived closer so I could spend time like that with them, but mostly it makes me realize that I will probably never have that bond again because I'm too afraid to put myself out there.
Why is it so scary?
I load the kids back in the wagon, nervous about how I'll end this meeting. Not sure what I'll say so I don't sound stupid but I don't seem like a jerk.
I look at Ainsley and say, "Ainsley, say bye."
"Bye," they respond.
I wave, smile and pull the kids back down the sidewalk - away from another missed opportunity.