Q: We are in the process of adopting a 1-year-old. She first came to live with us when she was 8 months. Because we didn't have a pregnancy to go through, we don't really know any other moms with kids our age. She started day care recently, and this seems like a great opportunity for us to help her (and us) make friends, but I'm unsure of how to go about asking other parents for playdates. Similarly, we have a couple of people in our condo complex who have kids around her age ... how do I go about approaching them (I don't even know their names!) to try and get the kids together? It takes a village to raise a kid, right? —Katie
A: Dear Katie, it takes a village, indeed. In this case you’re building your village from scratch. This calls for extreme friendliness and trial and error, like so many other parts of parenting. First, identify your target. There’s nothing more terrified than a new parent. (Then again, maybe the terror never really subsides. My own mother almost had a heart attack when I wandered too close to the edge of the Grand Canyon when we visited there together ... and I was 24! Still I’ll never forget the look of panic on her face.)
My point is, once you become a parent, you are automatically frightened—and no matter how many other parents you know, or how many millions of parenting blogs exist, you feel like you are alone in this fear. Fear makes you vulnerable to things like unexpected friendliness. It’s like when you are the new kid in school and everyone stares at you and whispers, and then finally a sweet girl comes up to you and tells you your dress is pretty. She is your instant new best friend.
When our family moved to a new town so my son could start kindergarten here, I was more nervous about making friends than he was. After about a week of mornings spent hovering with other parents around the play yard before school, I made a casual remark about looking forward to my date with a bottle of red wine, and another mom said “I’ll drink to that!” And just like that, I made a friend.
So I say just be your normal friendly self. Strike up a conversation during drop-off or pick-up from day care. Catch up to those parents in the neighborhood when they are out with the kid in a stroller for a walk. With parenthood in common, you’ll easily find something to talk about to break the ice. Once you get a good vibe from that mom or dad, invite them to your place to play, or to meet you at a nearby park for some adorable 1-year-olds-toddling-on-a-blanket-in-the-grass fun, or even for coffee at naptime. The kids can stay strapped in their strollers while you get to know each other.
If you’re not naturally friendly, you’ll have to fake it, I’m afraid, or you might wait around for an invitation that never comes. Think of it as just another sacrifice you make for your child. Who knows—you might wind up with a bunch of new BFFs. After all, playdates at the 1-year-old stage are more for the parents than the kids anyway.
Are you in a quandary that you can’t tell anyone else about? Send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I may choose to answer it in next week’s column. I’ve got your back, sister.