Friday, January 4, 2008

Groups



I am an introvert. I used to be embarrassed about it. I thought introvert just meant 'awkward around people'. But it doesn't mean that at all. Being an introvert means I am quiet in New Groups. I don't have a million friends, but the friends I have are close and are not going anywhere. I need time alone to reenergize. I am way better with new folks in little groups (like 2 or 1 on 1) than a big group. I think it might also be a reason why this city can overwhelm me so much. New York is one really big group.

So, sometimes this introvert bit can be a little inhibiting. One of my New Year's think-about-it's is to arrange for Andrew to have more social interaction. So much of our time is him and me doing what we do. He is a phenomenal independent player, but not so much a teammate. Sharing? Who needs that?

Now, Andrew doesn't complain about our quiet days. And I am quite satisfied except for this niggling feeling of guilt. And I find niggling feelings of guilt hard to ignore. So I made the goal and am taking action and am having an unusually hard time with the whole thing.

We have a found a playgroup that meets in a church a few blocks away. It would be 2 hours a week for about $200 for 10 weeks. We have heard good things about this group: lots of toys, snack time, music time, etc. But. First of all, the idea of paying so much money so that Andrew and I can make friends does not sit right with me. It makes me feel a little pathetic. I can't shake this idea that it is a sign that no one will play with us unless we pay them. See, pathetic?

And, actually, the harder pill to swallow is facing another New Group. Of donning the role of the quiet mother. Of looking around at all the new moms (who, when my imagination is really acting up, all are best friends unwelcoming to the intruder), not knowing what to say that would be appropriate for all of these people and so not saying anything. And therefore being mislabeled 'nice'. All for a mere $200.

My other New Year's things are coming along well. I knew this would be the hard one. And so far it is. But, maybe, just maybe, good things will come of it. That's why we are trying this out in the first place...with that hope in mind.

And maybe this niggling feeling of guilt will settle down.

17 comments:

Seeking La Loba said...

Yeah for the courage to try new things! I share your new group anxiety, but from lots of experience being thrust into new groups, I know that if I stick with it, there is often good pay off.
And as far as the money goes, I don't think you should think of it as paying for friends. With rent being what it is in NYC, just think of it as your contribution to communal space and resources. I think it's a bummer it costs anything at all, but hey, NYC can be tough that way.

Mrs Pea said...

I am really torn on this issue - like you, I am an introvert and it seems our son is one too - our daughter may be an extrovert but she's only 8 months! Our son really doesn't do well in social settings but asks to go to groups. I hate them! I hate small talk with strangers, trying to make friends/tell if someone wants to talk or just feels sorry/negotiate the mummy-chat without giving away my childrens' stories...we've found a local home education group that meets once every two weeks. We went once so far - when we came home, baby was was exhausted but totally hyped, our son was stressed to the max and all I wanted to do was sleep!

Part of me though thinks that children learn social skills through interacting with anyone - even parents as well as peers.

Robyn said...

I feel like I should make an introduction. Everyone, this is Mrs. Pea. It is sheer beautiful coincidence that she is a Pea. Really. She is no relation. I'm not even sure if Pea is really her name. Mrs. Pea, is it? Anyway, I found her on another friend's blog and look here! She has found mine! And, from reading her comment it seems we have more than just Peas in common.

Anyway, Mrs. Pea, sorry to make such a fuss. This will be the only time. I promise. It is good to hear from another mom that hates play groups. Thanks for your comment. I'll keep you posted about how it goes.

Melissa said...

Hi Robyn,
I can relate. I made a point to get out from the beginning with Atticus, because I knew I would spend too much time at home if I didn't. I started off going to the breastfeeding support group at the hospital, and most of the close mom friends (and Atticus' close friends!) that I have are from that. But since then I have gone to playgroups, playgrounds, library reading and music groups (those are the best- they're free, too!). But, everytime I'm going to a new thing for the first time, I get really nervous. Most other moms that I've gotten to know tell me they feel the same way.

What has worked well for Atticus and I (because he likes to be home, too) is to try out a bunch of things and commit to them. Then we both get used to the rhythm and feel comfortable going. The librarians know us very well, and he isn't shy with them at all.

It's also tricky finding a balance between enough time out of the house, but not too much time. Especially now that Atticus isn't napping, we need time out of the house more than we did.

We usually go to a reading program at the library called "Mother Goose on the Loose" on Tuesdays and a music program on Thursdays. We also get to LaLeche league meetings.

But we both work best (personality wise and energy wise) with one-on-one playdates, which have happened as a result of meeting people when we go out.

I don't think you should feel guilty about not getting Andrew out more. He is a lucky little guy. Most kids don't even have close to what he has as far as loving parents go. But I do think it pays off in the end. AFter going to a few awkward playgroups (or whatever), you'll find a mom that you connect with and a kid that Andrew plays well with and it'll take off from there. My closest mom friend was such a huge support when Enzo was born- organizing meals for us and helping with Atticus. And it's so fun to see Atticus and Mason playing together.

It's weird, though- the getting to meet other parents world is like the dating world. Sometimes you'll meet a mom and you just won't connect, even if it seems like you should. And sometimes it's nerveracking for a while to get out there or to call a new friend, but I really think it's worth it.

Okay- I have probably said way more than you want to hear.

If you do get out, let us know how it goes!

Melissa said...

P.S. Any playgroups I've tried, I have hated, too. Structured programs with a little time to talk after and play seem to work best for us. Even if Atticus is overwhelmed at music at the library, he comes home and sings the songs and talks about it like it was the greatest thing ever. And if I have one or two meaningful conversations with other parents, my day is better off, too.

Melissa said...

P.S. Okay- after this, I'll stop. I just reread my first comment. When I said we try a bunch of things and then commit to them, I meant, try a bunch of things, and then pick one or 2 to commit to, leaving a day or two a week at home or for errands and a day or two for individual playdates.

Melissa said...

I keep saying I'm going to shut up, and I don't. I guess I can relate to this more than I thought. I am very much an introvert, too, but I find that being a mom has helped me get out more and be part of the community. If I talk to another mom that I would otherwise have nothing to talk about with, I find so much in common with them- sharing birth stories, talking about sleep habits and naps, sharing craft or game ideas, and talking about different approaches to discipline or parenting philosophies.
Really. I'm done.

Robyn said...

Wow, Melissa! Thanks! This was an encouraging read. It's good to hear that it has worked out so well for you. I guess I worry more about parents that don't parent the way I parent and think I am a total weirdo. But, I guess that will probably happen and I'll just move on...just like dating!

Wait. I still haven't moved on from this one guy I really like...

Firefly said...

"all the new moms (who, when my imagination is really acting up, all are best friends unwelcoming to the intruder"

Robyn, I just want to point out that this describes introverts perfectly. Considering that might help you get through the hard group beginning. What I mean is--the extroverts ARE going to welcome the intruder into the group, but are perhaps a touch less likely to be seeking their next best friend. The introverts are less likely to welcome the intruder into the group, but are perhaps more likely candidates to grow into your next best friend. So, in a way, given what makes you happy relationally, you might be happiest in the long run walking into a group where everyone knows each other in a best-friends-kind-of-way and isn't especially welcoming of intruders.

Don't know if that will be helpful to you--it always helps me to try to reframe "new people" in various configurations to help me get past the scary-faceless-crowd sensation.

Thank you for introducing Mrs. Pea. That really confused me. At first, I illogically thought YOU were posting as Mrs. Pea. Then I saw that there was a daughter, and I (still illogically) thought your mom must be posting as Mrs. Pea (Robyn's brother is an introvert?). It wasn't til I registered that the daughter was an infant that it dawned one me that this was a whole separate pod of Peas. Imagine that! And just across the water from you, too.

thedanceofthegates said...

If it makes you feel better (in terms of Andrew): My mom was an introvert. I was an introvert. I played in my room or had one friend over at a time. And I'm still a rock star.

Ali said...

These cards are adorable.

Goes On Runs said...

i am an extrovert...i get energized by people..... not necessarily crowds, groups, or social settings....but people and i LOVE my introverted friends!!!! and my sons (while verbal & loud are showing signs of being overwhelmed by large crowds) need quieter people to engage with, learn from, share with, and listen to. and while being an extrovert, i don't like new places where i have to face my own insecurities of being an extrovert....which in my head translates to being loud and a poor listener with an obnoxious laugh. how are those synonymous?! my head is a crazy mixed up place... i'm glad we are created in HIS image and now our own.

Robyn said...

Wow Kathy! Thanks! That was so good to read. I just thought new groups were the extroverts playground. It's good to hear how everybody has a few obstacles to tackle in those kinds of situations.

and I don't think you have an obnoxious laugh at all!!!

Anonymous said...

Wow,did you ever start a chat-room (whatever that is)! When I was your age if we had not been in the situation we were in (the Military where the wives got together 3-4x's a week) I would have stayed home forever. Would you consider me an introvert? You are perfect as you are and Andrew has never met a stranger! It's different when you are "working outside the home" and interact w/ dozens of people daily, isn't it-uber teacher?

Mama V said...

Good for you for setting this new but scary goal and for taking steps towards it! From a fellow playgroup participant, I too had similar worries -- and I'm an extravert! (For a while there, I didn't think there was such a thing as a shy extravert, but here I am...) It's such a mixed bag of folks - some clicky, some just wanting to sit and zone out and not interact, some friendly and amicable, while others make a bee-line to get your attention and swap stories/experiences about our children, etc. I try to make it only what I need it for me to be on that particular day depending on my mood -- either a moment to sit and rest and be somewhat anti-social or to join in on an interesting conversation going on in the dress-up corner on which I was eavesdropping. I hope it can be whatever it is that you want/need it to be for Andrew AND you... (And hey, I"ll be there!) :)

Firefly said...

I am deviating from the topic of the post a bit into questions about the Meyers-Briggs personality test. It was so interesting to read all of the various feedback on introvert vs. extrovert. I am especially interested in the "Goes on runs" comment: "i get energized by people..... not necessarily crowds, groups, or social settings."

I was taught to think about extroversion a little differently than this and am curious about your thoughts, mainly because these categories get used so frequently and I'm generally unsure about what people mean when they apply them (or what Jung intended the categories to mean in the first place, for that matter).

So, they use the Meyers-Briggs extensively in the Westmont Career Counseling Office, which I made frequent use of my senior year. The extrovert/introvert questions always tripped me up (and still do--I'm never totally sure which I am). The director there attempted to clarify the distinction to me once by cautioning against against answering the test questions purely in terms of "people." Specifically, he said that "all bets are off" when you are talking about small-scale, intimate interactions with close friends, since these kinds of interactions usually allow introverts to thrive and can be as energizing as being alone for them.

This interpretation suggested to me that the extrovert/introvert categories are to a significant extent determined by how people respond to "crowds, groups, or social settings" rather than simply to "people." His point was not to say extroverts don't care about being in small, intimate groups, but that this isn't as significant a determiner in distinguishing them from introverts.

I've since taken that information to mean that the most likely candidates for extroversion are the ones who, in a new group or in a large group, consistently give the appearance of being at ease and satisfied (energized). So, in a big, new group, I'd never pick out the loud, poor listener with an obnoxious laugh as the extrovert. I'd pick them out as someone who appeared uncomfortable and lacking social skills. If asked to make a guess about them, I'd at least think it were possible they were an introvert, because that might be contributing to the apparent discomfort. On the other hand, if in that setting a person came off as very attentive and available to listen to everyone in the group (strangers included), I'd probably think they were an extrovert--because it's so uncharacteristic of the introverts I know to have that kind of abundance available in that kind of social environment. They are more likely to be conserving their energy, maybe through focused, quiet responsiveness, but usually not by widely circulating the appearance of open hospitality and care and thereby inviting people to tap into their energy stores.

So, in short, if I meet someone for the first time in a bustling social setting and they immediately make me feel special, cared for, lavished with attention, I generally think "extrovert"--especially if they seem to be making everybody feel that way. The person who seems relatively uninterested in me til I am plopped into a one-on-one orbit with them, that's pry the introvert.

Okay, so...having fleshed out my understanding of the terms, I wondered if you'd say more about yours (if you happen to find this comment at this point). Even though I can often identify significantly with the descriptions of extroversion that I've encountered, I think (but am not entirely sure) that I am more of an introvert--maybe toward the middle of the continuum. I think this because, despite the fact that I am very energized by people (usually more so than by alone time), I'm generally only energized by very small-scale interactions with intimate friends. Put me in a big group setting or plop me in amongst a bunch of strangers, and I frequently want to bury my head in the sand. So, I'm curious to hear how it is you know you are an extrovert.

Robyn said...

I took the Meyer's Briggs my first year teaching in New York. The staff at our school did it as a group bonding thing. It was so good for me to see that I was an introvert, mostly because of the questions involved. They didn't make it seem so bad.

I identify with the classifiers "energized by time alone (which also means time with Dave and Andrew...I see it as time when I am 'performing' or analyzing everything I say)", "having a core group of very close friends instead of a large group of friends that aren't super close (one of my friends that defines herself as an extrovert said that her husband and I were her only confidants and she thought it was strange that I made the cut)", and the idea that meeting new people is easier in small batches..though I see your point, that might just be an everybody thing.

There were some people in the group that took the test that had an even score for introvert/extrovert. They did not strongly identify with either category. I imagine like most thing, there is a sliding scale for how introverted/extroverted someone is.

ok. not sure if I answered any of your questions, but your post, Firefly, brought on these thoughts and I thought I'd share them!

Word out.