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Jul 23 2012

Parent Dating: How to Pick Up New Friends

By at 2:45 pm
playground empty

The scene.

They tell you about the exhaustion, the hours of feeding, the diapers, and the cuddles. They don’t tell you about the revolving door your social life is about to become.

Parent Dating Phase #1: The Pregnancy Pick-Up

In the last month of my pregnancy with my son, I met three other women who were also eight months pregnant and lived in the same neighborhood. They were my early foothold into parent friendships. We cheered each other on when the boys (yes, all boys) were born, immediately started comparing notes on problems the kids were having, and had a few “playdates,” whatever that meant in the first year of their lives. One of them introduced me to a listserv of moms having children in the same month. October is a busy birthday party month for us now.

Parent Dating Phase #2: The Playground Pick-Up

As we started taking our son to the playground, we had more opportunities to parent date. Playground dating is different because you can sidle up and try to start a conversation about the cute things your children are currently doing with each other. I’ve had mixed success with this. There are some who have remained playground friends (people who I talk to at the playground all the time but we don’t schedule playdates), there are some who don’t return calls, making it awkward to run into them again, and then there are the true successes.

My friend Larisa and I met on the playground. Things looked positive from the outset: our sons were the same age, a day apart, and they played nicely together; they lived a block and a half away; Larisa was also a writer. We exchanged information. Before I had a chance to go through the is-it-too-soon-to-email dance, my son and I ran into her on the street. I invited her to go with us to the Central Park Zoo. We have since laughed about the high-risk of this “first date”; so many things could have gone wrong. Our parenting styles could have clashed or the kids could have clashed. We would have had to suck up being in Manhattan with two children under two and a parent we didn’t want to be with. As it turned out, we all became close friends and Larisa was one of the first parents to cross the line to personal adult friend.

Parent Dating Phase #3: The Parent Again Pick-Up

As if it weren’t hard enough to make parent friends once, we had a second child. We were lucky enough to have two sets of parents from the first round pregnant with us again and one of my childhood friends, Ellie, was pregnant with her first. Excitedly, I created another listserv for moms delivering in March but its activity dwindled when maternity leaves were over. We discovered that the thing that gets in the way of parent dating for our second child is our first child. The pregnancy pick-up had only worked a little and the playground pick-up was much harder when I was trying to have conversations with a new parent while making sure that one child didn’t faceplant and the other didn’t get crushed by the crowd on the spiral slide. Until Ellie and I started having playdates with the girls at 10 months, it hadn’t even occurred to me to actively try to do pick-ups for my daughter. Thank goodness for old friends.

Parent Dating Phase #4: The Preschool Pick-Up

Just when we had developed some good relationships with our son’s friends and their parents, it was time for preschool. His friends scattered to different schools. We knew a few kids who would be at our son’s school but they were all acquaintances. We were going to have to start dating again. I groaned about it to my husband on our way to school potlucks and as we considered which school friends to invite to his birthday party two weeks after school started. But parent date we did: my husband had playdates with the school friends and their parents fairly frequently; I often talked with the parents at drop-off as we were walking out, free of our children, and there were even a few younger siblings for my daughter to play with. We got comfortable again but I was relieved to see the neighborhood parents in the summer.

Parent Dating Phase #5: The Prevalent Pick-Up

This fall, my son’s going to be starting a new year of preschool. There is one other child that we know will be in my son’s class and that was only by mutual requests. We’re hoping to have my daughter start a music class and the rest of her social life.

I’m getting my pick-up lines ready again.

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