Community

RR’s new school asks for a lot more family involvement than her old school did. There are potlucks and picnics. There are fundraising events and volunteering opportunities. There are classes and committees. We routinely see and stop to chat with other parents in the grocery store or at the park. Reflecting on our previous experience, that’s about 1000% more interaction with the school and the families in it.

It’s a good thing. Of course it is. I’m delighted to see other parents. Last weekend I chatted with a stranger at the park whose son we recognized. She was having some of the same anxieties about hours (they are tight when both parents work a full day) and the adjustments she was seeing her child try to make. We are both coming from excellent daycares in the area and it was nice to feel like Debra and I weren’t the only ones watching our child melt down day after day. You might say, wouldn’t it be great to have a new parents group? But I would die at the sound of it. Another commitment? No thank you.

I’m an introvert with more than my fair share of social anxiety. It has taken me years to recognize that the excellent social skills my mother taught me are an incredible gift. Without them I would struggle every day. But, it’s still work, keeping anxiety at bay. I promise, you’d never know it if you met me, but I pretty much died right before I said hello to you. Thanks to my mother, I have an extrovert’s script and a few acting skills. It doesn’t mean I like it.

Work takes just about as much out of me as I can afford to give each day. From the moment I walk out the door, I need to start recharging for the next day. Soothing the nervous spots, rehearsing for lunch, steeling my nerves for that meeting with people I don’t see often. In a really good week, I can set myself up for a party or potluck. In a normal week, those commitments are just dread. Pure, gut-twisting, dread. Heard of the spoon theory? It exists not only for illness, but for any way a life is limited, including introverts and people with anxiety.

And so you see, our community has blossomed, but so have our commitments and obligations. I can only send my wife alone to events so often. I’ve never been comfortable saying, “I can’t help with/attend/contribute to that. It just takes too much. I’m sorry.” I just do the best I can. Between you and I, sometimes I wish that the school would stop planning potlucks and picnics and service days. But they are good. Community is good.

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10 Responses

  1. Those sorts of things don’t slow down as your child gets older – just throw in whatever sport they are playing and there you have it.
    Although honestly? Some of those parent friends we’ve made along the way are some of our dearest friends. The so-called mom network is how we collectively keep up with what’s going on at school and what the current stage in their lives are (really, they are all sassy and not happy with us at this point, it’s not just me.) Community is good.

    • Of course you’re right. And, if I understand it correctly, this is how we make it through all of the vacation days, snow days, and breaks and still manage to preserve some time off!

  2. If my wife sees this, we’ll be home schooling for sure. Shhh.

  3. Man–we went to the potluck for the preschool and kindergarten at school last Saturday (and have the 4th 5th grade one coming up), and I was really dreading it, and I think you’ve put your finger on it. I straddle the line of introvert/extrovert–my students are always shocked to hear me say it, but you will find me holed up in my office for hours alone after teaching. For me, making new community is hard, but once that community is familiar, the work becomes less. Like, I’m not grumpy about the next potluck because I know and am friends with that community. I don’t know if that helps or makes sense.

    • Familiarity will help, I’m sure. I also suspect that the fall burst of activity won’t last all year. Fall is a busy time for everything – festivals, etc. Come winter I’ll probably be happy to go to a potluck. Oh, who am I kidding…

  4. You are not alone in the social anxiety sphere, I have a legitimately diagnosed disorder, and darnit if it doesn’t flare up frequently. I am working on it, but it’s tough. I totally understand the though on parent’s groups, they are hard and they are grueling to go to and they drain a lot of energy out of you!

  5. I can so relate. I am an extroverted introvert. I am very social and outgoing, but it takes a lot out of me at the same time ironically, and I really really really need alone time to recharge. At work, during lunch breaks, everyone eats together in the conference room, but not me – I do my own thing. I can conversate all day long, but don’t take that hour of alone time from me! I value community but I have to force myself into it.

  6. Have you ever read Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain? If not, you have to. Seriously. It should be required for every introvert to read. And extrovert. So, everyone. lol It allowed me to understand my introversion as well as some coping strategies. It also helped me understand how to communicate my introversion to others. The book starts a bit slow in my opinion, but I was glad I stuck it out.

    As for your overall topic, I don’t look forward to this. We hope to be pregnant in a few months. The thought of then having to take birthing/parenting classes scares the crap out of me. Meeting new people. All that fun stuff. So good luck! I feel your pain and will be there before long myself.

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