To that mom sitting in the corner at the birthday party at the bounce house, I see you.
I know that you’re not trying to hide from fellow mommies or avoid conversation. I know what it’s like to be out of your element. I get that small talk is a weakness and that it affects your self-esteem. Trust me when I say I’m right there with you.
To observers, or those who don’t know you, it’s easy to assume you purposely distance yourself from others, whether it be because you’re not in the mood to talk or are too stuck up to mingle. At least, that’s what you assume others are thinking when you catch them taking you in from across the room.
Maybe some will think you’re shy and approach you to help you feel at ease, an action that means so much to you it makes you want to grab that person and wrap them in a hug.
Insecurities loom as fear of being shut down, kept out, saying the wrong thing paralyze you from approaching the group of moms who have gathered to chat as the kids play.
They seem to have it all together, and you don’t think that you have a handle on anything these days. They all have so much in common: varying interests and stories to share that resonate with others. But you don’t have anything noteworthy to share. Your kids don’t go to the same school. TV and reading are your hobbies, not crafts and leading committees.
You feel out of place and on the outside looking in. You consider walking over to the mom who smiled when you locked eyes, but you doubt what you’ll share, what you’ll say and if you will have anything in common other than kids will be enough to hold a conversation.
Instead you talk yourself out of it and stay in your seat.
I understand that once you leave the party you’ll replay the day over and over again in your head, damning yourself for not being sociable, not trying hard enough, not putting yourself out there to gain new friendships for you and your daughter. You’ll second guess yourself, question whether or not you talked too much or not enough.
It’s not them. It’s you. It’s always you. If only you could pull it together and chat like everyone else does.
If only you could step away from the seat in the corner or leave your daughter to play with the other kids instead of hovering over her, acting as though she needs you close by. We both know it’s a ploy to make others believe that you’re not socializing simply because your child needs your help. The truth is, however, that you’re too scared to leave her because she’s your safety blanket.
In fact, it’s always been this way for you. You have always relied on your best friend who serves as the ying to your yang, the boisterous to your meek, the brazen to your timid, the who cares what they think? to your did I come off okay?
You’ve long ago realized you’re not good in crowds. That small talk and quick connections are not your strong point, instead preferring one-on-one conversation.
Yet here you are at another social event for your daughter because she, unlike you, is not afraid to be herself. Of course, she’s only 2 ½, but there is much to learn from her. The way she approaches other kids and adults: “Hi, I’m B, what’s your name?” The way she waves and says hi to those she passes in the supermarket or on the way into school. The manner in which she handles those who do not return her hellos or invitations to be friends.
“She didn’t say hi,” she tells you, a worried look on her face.
“Well, some people just don’t like saying hi,” you tell her, secretly cussing out the little girl who gave your daughter the cold shoulder. “But don’t be sad; there are lots of other kids who would love to be your friend.”
Your daughter believes you. She shakes off the disappointments and moves forward, the rebuke forgotten, removed from her memory.
But you’ll remember it. You always remember those moments of embarrassment and hurt, awkwardness and discomfort.
You remind yourself to channel your daughter’s strength and ability to brush off the negative and keep on moving toward the unknown without concerns of the next person’s response.
It’s something you continually vow to do, but somehow it’s harder to achieve.
Until you garner the strength to put yourself out there, I’ll watch you as I hover over my own daughter, hoping you’ll come and say hi.
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