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Dear Care and Feeding,
I feel like a social outcast among a group of parents in my community. I can’t tell if it’s my social anxiety and overthinking, or if I have indeed done something to make myself a pariah. I’m very sensitive to negative social cues and tend to miss positive ones, and I don’t know how to get to the bottom of this problem.
The thing is, I don’t really want to hang out with these parents. I chat to be polite, but I never show up to “Moms’ Night” because I don’t like wine, and the idea makes me sweat. I prefer to talk to people 1-on-1, and seeing a gaggle of parents standing together and chatting makes me want to run away. My kids seem fairly well-adjusted despite my social limitations. How important is it to bond with other parents? I do have a few individual parents who I enjoy being around, but others, eh, not so much.
—Outcast in Philly
To figure out how much you “need” to bond with these other parents, you’ll have to ask yourself what it is that you want from your relationship with them. Allies in your child’s well-being with whom you maintain a polite distance? A connection so that you’ll be able to stay connected to your child’s interactions with their children? Or, might you like to have a friend or two in this group—just only from a select number of its members?
If it’s that last one, then you need to suck it up and go to a couple of those community events, so that you can interact with someone you find favorable long enough for each of you to feel comfortable exchanging contact information and try to forge a relationship outside of the collective. If you simply want a polite ally, well, you still need to attend a few of those dreaded wine soirées so that you can have an idea as to who is raising the kids who will be around your kids, and make sure that you’re known as a trusted adult in a community of adults that are, hopefully, all unified by at least one thing: the desire to keep your kids happy and healthy. And if attending one of those functions is simply too anxiety-inducing to bear, remember that you and these other parents should have these goals in common; for that reason alone, you gotta try to exist with them appropriately.