I grew up in a small town. A place where my parents and a generation before them had established deep roots. So when it came to being social, we “stopped in” or “dropped by” to see if someone wanted to play. It was always a bit impromptu and go-with-the-flow. No end time in mind. Dinner might happen, maybe even a sleepover if I was lucky. I can’t imagine doing that in Silicon Valley. People would think I was nuts. Or more likely, people wouldn’t be home. If they were home, they would likely be getting ready to go somewhere and would ask to be sent a reminder email to plan playdates.
In my experience, this is when two parents agree in advance to meet at the same place, at the same time and let their children interact. It is assumed that both parents will supervise and bring enough snacks for everyone. There is a clearly planned activity and end time.
I was shy to approach the parents of my son’s friends to ask about getting our kids together to play. The brief moments I had an opportunity to engage with other parents were while dropping off or picking up from daycare. People are on a mission during those times and it seemed awkward to invite a practical stranger to a social function during all of the hustle and bustle of trying to get in and out.
I really wanted to make friends in my new home and having a connection through my son seemed like a good way to start. Plus, he had started to ask about having friends over to play. I decided to write a note to the parents of a boy my son was particularly fond of and put it in the boy’s cubby where I knew his parents would find it.
It was very simple – Hi, this is [my son]’s, mom. My son has been asking to have Sam come to our house to play trains. If this sounds fun, I would love to schedule a playdate. You can email me at….
I received an email two days later:
Nice to meet you.
I am Tracey, Sam’s mom.
Marco, my husband, shared the kind invitation. We’d love to make it.
Please let us know the best date for you.
We continued to make arrangements over email. I’m not sure either of us would have recognized each other in passing at daycare. We set a time to have our sons play trains at my home, 3:30-4:30pm on a Saturday. When the day arrived the boys happily ran off together leaving the adults to make a less smooth transition into small talk.
After some easy conversation about what our boys had in common, Tracey said she had a confession. She had never been to a playdate before and had been so nervous that she Googled what to expect. She said she now realized that had been silly because ‘you are just like us’.
Whoa. Those words completely changed my perspective of my new environment. Looking around Silicon Valley it’s obvious that a large population are expats. What’s not obvious is that we are all trying to find that feeling of belonging. I thought I was making a playdate, but what I made was a connection.
The first time I visited Los Angeles I hated it..We now love LA. For us, it’s a great family destination that has something for everyone.