Remember when you were a kid and your parents took you along to barbecues and parties with other families? You would be expected to make nice with the other kids. Whether you knew them or not. Whether you had anything in common or not. Whether you liked them or not. And, somehow, it all worked out.
Then you grow up and, for the most part, you choose your own friends. Right up until the point when you have children. Suddenly, you’re going along to birthday parties and you’re expected to make nice with the other adults. Whether you know them or not. Whether you have anything in common or not. Whether you like them or not doesn’t even enter the equation.
With both boys in full end-of-year socialising mode, I find myself in this position on a regular basis. Mr3 went to a party at an indoor play centre recently. Not only did I not know the parents but I have my doubts as to whether or not Mr3 actually knew the birthday girl.
“Whose party is it, Mum?”
Pause. “Oh. From my preschool?”
I’m not sure how other parents feel about these occasions, but I feel obliged to pull out my smiley face, and prepare a Charm Offensive. (I should mention that this is only after I discuss the option of taking a book along with The Builder. He never thinks this is a good idea. This is only because he’s not the family representative at these occasions.)
On the downside, all that charm can be exhausting. On the plus side, you do learn a lot about the school system in Fibrotown. I’m always particularly excited to meet parents with high-school-age children. They may not be as excited to meet me, particularly after I spend an hour or two peppering them with questions about their child’s high school. But, then, one thing I have discovered in my years as a journalist is that people do like to talk to people who are genuinely interested in what they have to say. It also helps to be a good listener.
So I go along, I smile, I ask questions and I listen, while the boys eat themselves silly on cake and run themselves ragged. And somehow, it all works out.