A playground can be a scary place. Unusual people you don’t know. Glassy eyed glances your way. No one wanting to play with you. Grasping your security coffee with both hands.
Yes, that’s right.
Your child is fine. Bounding through the park like a lion cub. Two minutes in and he is Iron Man, playing with Spidey, off to save the world.
It’s the parents freaking out.
Here you want to have a conversation that won’t end with one half throwing themselves on the ground and screaming, yet you are too scared to strike it up.
As adults, many of us aren’t great at leaping out of our comfort zone. The effort of finding friends is far greater as an adult and it is certainly outside of those bounds no matter how much we want to meet new people.
What we really need to do is take a few lessons in friend finding from our children.
Lesson 1: Man, I could go a juice box!
How many times at playgroup have I watched my little man do a drive by on his trike, checking out what all the other kids are eating. He will give the kids a nod of approval, normally shout out the name of the food that has caught his eye and sure enough he will be playing with that kid as fast as you can say Tiny Teddy!
A mother with a coffee in her hands staring glassy eyed into the pit of pre-school crazy is probably craving an adult conversation as much as you. Go up to her and comment on how much you are looking forward to a coffee yourself. Comment on how much you like that brand of coffee if it is on her cup. These are just conversation starters and easy ones at that. The conversation will quickly flow if the other person is up for it.
You never know, the next time you see that mother could be in a real café because you had so much in common!
Lesson 2: Tag you’re it!
Have you ever noticed the spontaneity of a game of tag? There is not often a discussion between four year olds on who is going to be up first, the boundaries and for how long they will play. No way! The game starts with a slap to someone’s shoulder and a holler of “TAG YOUR IT!” They work out the rest as they go along.
As adults we often don’t start something in case it doesn’t end up well. What happens if we start talking to someone who ends up being a whiney pain in the you-know-what? Well my suggestion is just start talking and find out later. Unless you begin your conversations with your full name and phone number what is the worst that can happen? You can always need to be somewhere else and fast if it doesn’t work out. But what if it does? What happens if the person you just start talking to also has a secret hankering for Zac Efferon movies and 80’s glam rock? What! Don’t act like it is just me!
Lesson 3: Can Lily come over to play?
15 minutes into a play at the park and my son will come up to me, “Can Lily come over to play?” Say what now? Who or what is Lily? Kids take full advantage of any situation. They don’t want to stop playing, they are getting along great and just want a little more time to take on a few more rounds on their balance bikes.
I speak from experience on this one. If you are enjoying a conversation with someone and feel super comfortable. What is stopping you from asking them to grab a coffee with you? If you are at your local park, invite them over for a cup of tea? Seriously! I was once “picked up” at the local park. She invited me over for tea after talking for a little bit at the park and we are still firm friends a year and a half later.
Of course, if your child is anything like mine, he could be asking the local homeless person over to play but you can gage if you want to ask someone out on a Mummy or Daddy date. Just don’t let the possibility to make a new friend simply slip by.
Watch those kids! They are brilliant in their simplicity in a world in which adults make so hard.
Have you ever picked up a pal in the park?
This post originally appeared on PlayDate Australia.