The internet is full of personality tests. All of the tests I have taken always say that I'm an extrovert. Probably true in part, but tests don't always give insight as to the situations when this doesn't apply.
Before I had kids, my group of friends were people with whom I shared similar interests or got along with well. Aside from the necessity of getting along civilly with the people I worked with, most friendships started naturally and organically. I wasn’t required to spend time with people I didn’t like or have anything in common with.
Now, with the kids, I am forced into being friendly with people I wouldn’t otherwise care to be around. Take the kids to the park and you have to come up with something to talk about with the parents of the other kids sharing the swings with your kids. Let the kids play in the neighborhood and you’re required to be a part of the parents group who sits outside and “visits” while their children play.
This forced and, in my opinion, artificial environment makes me bristle. That’s the part of my personality that the tests don’t get right most of the time. I’m social, but I resist this type of interaction. I don’t like it and I don’t do well at small talk. Just because we share the common vocation of being a parent, doesn’t mean I want to stand around and discuss things. It has nothing to do with the other parents, I know it’s me. And, the older I get the more I am like this. I am my mother.
Growing up in the suburbs, my mom was one of the few mothers to work. My mom was a nurse. The rest of the ladies were “homemakers” and every few weeks had all the ladies of the neighborhood over to their homes for their “homemakers” meetings. When I was little, I thought they actually discussed domestic things like recipes and getting stains out of clothes. But, my mom, who was friendly with these ladies, never joined the group. She was decidedly an outsider. When I asked my mother why she didn’t attend the meetings, go to the Tupperware parties or sit out on the steps with these ladies, she explained that all these women did was gossip and she didn’t care to be a part of it. I chalked it up to my mom just being anti-social, but now that I’m in the situation, I have become my mother.
Our neighborhood has the requisite busy body and the lady who wants to be Mrs. Jones and have everyone keep up with her. It also has the wonderful neighbors I would like to get to know better, but with the rest of the dynamics going on, it seems that won’t happen. We live on one end of the block and the rest of the kids in the neighborhood live on the other end. Proximity makes these children built-in playmates. My kids usually are the odd ones out because they have to go all the way down to the other end of the block to play with the rest of the kids. In order to do this, it requires that I go down the block with them and then spend the time jawing with the parents. This is so not me. The only things we have in common are the kids and the neighborhood, so things quickly reduce down to gossip. Not that I’m disinterested in the goings-on in the neighborhood, but something about basing a friendship, or even a casual relationship, on gossip and silly things, to quote my father, just makes my ass tired and I would rather not waste my breath.
To add further to the sturm und drang, my family doesn’t attend the same church as some of the families who are also Catholic, so I am sure they wonder what our story is in that regard. We also don’t spend many weekends in the city (we are at the cabin) so the kids don’t interact as much with the neighbor kids. Similarly, we don’t interact as much with the rest of the parents, so we too are the odd ones out.
Many of the things I get involved in are like cancer support groups. You’re not there because you want to be, but because circumstances have brought you there. Chatting it up with the other parents at swim lessons, or at the pool, or at the mall, or where ever, just isn’t me. I could sit on the bench at the park and watch my kids play without talking to another soul, but this can and does impact how other parents feel and how willing they are to let Johnny play with my son because his mom is not as social as she should be…or as social as they think she should be.
No one told me that when I became a mom I would instantly have to befriend every other mom (or dad) I stumble across everywhere I go. You can’t just sit quietly at the doctor’s office and read a magazine while the kids play with the toys. No, you have to talk to all the other moms and share stories of how your kids are doing and listen to how little Timmy didn’t sleep well last night, or how Kaitlyn, with a “y” and one “n,” is so advanced she is already doing quantum mechanics.
I know. My personality test should’ve said I am a curmudgeon.