I figure making friends in a new country is like putting on your oxygen mask first before assisting your child: You need to get your own supply going before your child can hope to survive. This means you can't be afraid to ask a mom out on a play date. And it really is like learning to date again. You think about the best approach. You don't want to come on too strong. You eagerly look for subtle facial expressions or body language that might indicate their true feelings about spending time with you. If they say they're busy you pledge not to ask again but to wait for them to express interest in you. Then, if you have a really good time, you hope they want to ask you over to their house and that the kids get along.
Finding a tribe of mothers is one of the best things about being a mom. For me, raising a child isn't just about the relationship I develop with my son and our family unit. It's very much about the community of families we establish as parents. Knowing we were "One and Done" it was vital to us that we find those people and Z have other kids to play with. And really, I needed to find an adult play group; moms I could relate to who were willing to laugh when our boys decided to collectively pee in the woods.
In St. Albans I have a Mum Tribe. They are the ones I walk with to and from school. Who lend their ears to my flaky notions of education. They talk me down when I feel like going postal because the teachers tell me I can't pack a piece of chocolate in my kid's lunch while the ones who buy school lunch get sticky toffee pudding. Their diplomacy is infinately more refined than mine and they don't use the word "fanny" in the wrong context. They come out to the pub and buy rounds for each other (a tradition in England that leads to admissions of bad parenting and sappy hugs). They forgive me (I hope) when my kid makes theirs cry. Best of all is when you find one who says, "Don't rush back from London. We'll just put him to bed at our place."
Not only is our school nearby, we live in a neighborhood filled with kids. Now when Z claims he's "so bored, I need some screen time!" I can order him outside without having to supervise. And like a cat, he knows his territory and rarely breaches it. One day when he went missing, I wandered around until I found a note taped to the outside of a neighbor's door: "Zander is in here." If that's not 21st Century village life, what is?
I have my Seattle Mom Tribe to thank for seeing me through the sleepless nights, baby food facials and poop that spills over the top of a diaper. Those days are long gone, but my fondness for these women remains. It was wonderful to have seen so many of them on our visit home. A little grayer but not afraid to show it. Growing and changing, starting to think about themselves again. We camped together. We walked. We sat on the beach past dark drinking whiskey. I woke up with the worst hangover since college...
It bums me out that this tribe of friends is so far flung. But I look to the fact that I'm making new ones in other countries. And when I'm an old lady I'll have plenty of stories to tell and plenty of porches to visit. And hopefully many more opportunities to tell my Tribe of Moms/Mums how grateful I am that they are part of my life.