As an introvert who is married to an introvert, I assumed that our son would, of course, be an introvert.
As a toddler, Ryan would stand on the sidelines of the playground for upwards of an hour before he’d join in. As a preschooler, he’d sob at school drop-off time. My husband and I would look at each with a knowing glint in our eyes, the words hovering unspoken between us: “That’s our little introvert!”
As Ryan got older, though, and his personality really started to shine, we realised something. He wasn’t shy — he was cautious. He wasn’t wary of other kids or group settings; he just struggled with transitions.
Other people didn’t drain his energy the way I found myself drained after a dinner party or a holiday gathering. Instead, once he became comfortable in a situation, he seemed to thrive off the energy of others.
Now, at nearly eight years old — and as our only child — he craves the constant company of other kids. I’m in awe of the ease with which he makes friends and the value he places on maintaining those friendships. He would be most happy with weekends full of back-to-back playdates with his classmates, his soccer teammates,or the kids who sometimes visit the house up the alley.
The problem? Me. As his mother (or as I like to say, his “cruise director”), he relies on me to set these things up.
“Just call Matthew’s mum,” he’ll say. “Tell her that he can come over. And he can bring all his army guys, his Nerf gun, and whatever else he wants. Hey, maybe Darius should come, too!”
Call Matthew’s mum? I hardly KNOW Matthew’s mum after two years of seeing her almost every single day. And I’ve only met Darius’s mum TWICE, which is basically the same thing as never. What would I even say? Why is my heart racing?
I’m never going to be that chatty parent who manages to make friends with all the cool mums at school pick-up and casually schedules impromptu outings. I’ve had to learn how to keep Ryan active and engaged with other kids without putting myself out there so much that I want to shrivel up and die.
Here’s how I do it:
- The note-in-the-folder trick. When I need to make initial contact with a parent I’ve never met (or, ahem, have only met twice), I send a note in Ryan’s school folder with my phone number. He gives it to the friend to pass along to the parent, and the pressure is off. It usually works, and if it doesn’t, I can officially say I tried.
- Texting. It’s an introvert’s best friend. It’s short and sweet and much less awkward than a phone call (Pro tip: The name and phone number on those birthday party invitations almost always belongs to the mum. Save it! Once you’ve RSVP’d to a party through text, you’ve opened up the perfect line of communication for future playdate set-ups.)
- Hosting. Nobody really wants to host a playdate, right? It isn’t my all-time favourite way to spend a Saturday either, but it works. I invite the parent to simply drop off the kiddo (minimal small talk!), and while the kids play, I catch up on laundry or read a book. Everybody wins.
- Team sports. Lots and lots of team sports. Ryan gets to interact with a whole bunch of kids at once, and I can sit on the sidelines and talk to my husband and no one else and not seem rude.
- Holiday camps. Lots and lots of holiday camps. These are even better than team sports because I can drop him off and go find myself a quiet corner in a nearby coffee shop to do some work.
When all else fails, I simply cross my fingers and hope an extrovert will take pity on me and strike up a friendship so I don’t have to. (This has worked on at least one occasion.)