Just say hello

As schools are back this week, I thought it would be a good time for me to take Donut to a play centre.  It’d be quiet(er), and there wouldn’t be any “big kids” running around.  I had decided on taking him to a lovely little play centre, called Playdays Cafe, which is in St Helens (Merseyside).

Now, I’m a member of several websites, that encourages mums to make friends with other mums – so I decided to extend my little party of two to be a mummy social.

One particular website I’m a member of, is (ironically) called Mummy Social, and does allow you to set up events, and invite other mums in your area (or further afield, if you wish).  So I did.  I set it up about 10 days ago, and hey presto!  My invitations were automatically sent out to those in the St Helens and Liverpool area.

It was the eve before my “social”, and no one had clicked the “attend” button on the site.  However, I wasn’t disheartened.  As I said – I was already planning on taking Donut anyway.

I quickly made a post on a local mums facebook group, extending the invite there, and I did get a lot of interest – 4 other mums said they would be there with their little ones.

This morning started off as usual.  Gning and Donut decided they wanted “milk and cookies” for breakfast, and as soon as they were ready, we were out the door.  I dropped Gning off at school (just started year 1), and Donut got really upset, because he wasn’t going to school (he goes to nursery, three times a week).  I explained to him that we were going to play instead, so he hurried me back to the car…

I arrived at the play centre early.  A lot earlier than I had invited the mums for.  I had said 10am, but I was there for 9:30am.

I’m one of those people who suffers anxiety, and I did have a mini panic-attack this morning, thinking that people would actually turn up!  What would I say to them?  Should I just say hello?  How would I keep the conversation going..?

Donut quickly ran off and started playing.  He knows this particular play centre inside out, and has a habit of climbing up to the tallest part, then starts crying.  He gets “stuck”.  He isn’t really stuck…  He just realises that he’s at the top, and can’t remember the way down.  This is exactly what happened at 9:55am.  He stood at the top of the frame, looking down at me, sobbing.  One of the girls who worked there shouted up to him, “are you ok?”, she asked.  I replied that he always does this – he just can’t remember the way down.  I stood up and went to help him, but the girl had beat me to it.  “Don’t worry about it – I’m used to going up and down this thing.  You just sit down and enjoy your coffee”, she said with a smile.  Brilliant.  Mother of the Year award goes to a complete stranger, who shot up the climbing frame quicker than I could pick up my cup.

Donut made his own way down, with guidance from the girl, and was so happy when he reached the bottom.  He did his little happy dance, and even “high fived” her, before she made her way back behind the counter.  Next thing you know, he’s up at the top again…  Only this time, he remembered his new learned skill, and was back down!

There were plenty of other mums, and carer’s of children, in the play centre.  I looked around, looking for any glimpse of familiarity in their faces.  Was that the girl who replied that she would attend?  I’m sure I recognise that little boys face…

One mum was heavily pregnant, and looked really stressed out.  She had a little girl with her – I’d say about 18 months old or so, and the tiny tot would not leave her side.  The bump had to climb over the 1.5ft barrier occasion on occasion to force her daughter to play.

Another mum was there, and had what looked like a 3 year old boy, and a baby boy – around a month old.  She looked a natural.  Laughing, chasing the child around, whilst “wearing” the baby on her chest…

Then I realised that Donut had disappeared again.  I thought that he was up on the frame again, but then I heard him laugh.  I turned around, and noticed that he was in one of those coin operated rides, with another little boy of a similar age, and the machine was on.  Mum of little boy was at their side, smiling.  I shot over to their side, and apologised that Donut was taking over her sons’ ride.  She laughed, and told me not to worry about it.  Her son doesn’t usually mingle well with other children, but he seemed to like Donut.

It was now 10:20am.  I was getting bored, sitting at the table alone.  If anyone had turned up from the Mummy Social site, or facebook group, no one had made an effort to try to find me.

I hastily posted a status on the latter mentioned group, asking if anyone was there, and if they were too shy to say hello – because I was in the same boat.  I did get lots of replies, but all were “sorry, I forgot”, or “I didn’t know you meant today…”.

I called Donut over, and asked him if he wanted to go home and see daddy, which he said “yes” to.  On with his shoes, and home we went.

I think the point that I’m getting to here is not about anyone else turning up, it’s about something much more.  I was sat on my own, and apart from the other two mums’, who seemed to be there without any other adult company, there were other “groups” of mums / child-carers.

Did you know that 4 out of 5 people would rather use the statement “I’m depressed”, rather than “I’m lonely”?

If you’re with a group of friends, and you see a mum sitting on her own – smile at her.  Say “hello”.  It’s not much, and takes no effort at all, but you may just bring so much more to that persons’ day.

Seek out the mum who is focused on her smartphone.  Most of the time they will say, ‘Oh, did you mean me?  Hi.’  A little eye contact, a little smile, a little victory for humanity.

You never know – you may just have met your new best mum friend by one simple word.

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Young love

Gning’s just got changed for bed, and he has his vest on inside out.

Hubby asked him if he had been changed in school today, because it was the right way round this morning. Gning replied “no. I didn’t do it, the teacher didn’t do it, and my friends didn’t do it…” The smile on his face was a cheeky one.

I asked “have you been playing with Belle today?”

Gning replied, “yes, but I wasn’t nudey…”

Well. I should bloody hope not either!!

**Belle is his girlfriend. My 4 year old boy has a girlfriend

Mummies need friends too…

When a woman becomes a mummy, there are a couple of things that could happen.

The first is that she already has friends that have children.  Some are older, some are the same age…  She feels secure and confident that her ‘already’ mummy friends will be on hand to help and advise her.

The second is that she doesn’t have any friends that are already mummies.  They hang around for a while, but the new mummy has to turn down days / nights out because she has her hands full.  The baby is taking up all of her time.  Eventually, her friends don’t bother with the invitations any more.  The new mummy then loses contact.  Sure, one or two friends may stick around, but things are never the same.

Me?  I never had any friends to begin with (other than my husband), but the craving for friends was still there.

I have always said that I am not a people person, and I think that I that because I struggle to make friends.  I always have.

I like to think that I am an interesting person…  I have a wide variety of hobbies, interests and music tastes, so I am sure to have something in common with near enough everyone.  The only thing that I have never been in to is going out, clubbing.  Even when I did used to go out (ages 18 to 22 – or there abouts), I was never in to it.  I only ever went to keep in with my ‘friends’.  I think it’s because I struggle with what to say.  I just seem to ramble.

I actually made a friend a few years ago…  She was just a couple of months older than me, and we had a lot in common.  She didn’t have any children of her own, but two step-children.  We had dinner parties together – at each others houses, had days out together, and even went on holiday, camping, together.  It was all great fun, and I loved being able to talk to another woman – as a friend, rather than family.

I think when you have friends who are family members too, you feel slightly cautious about what you can and can’t say.  I think you’re slightly afraid of who else may hear within your family.  Well.  That’s how I feel anyway.

However, my friendship didn’t last.  I made the mistake of trying to make family friends, rather than a friend for just me.  My husband and her husband clashed.  It wasn’t because they had too many things in common…  It was their personalities.  It all came to heads when I felt like my friend and her husband were trying to ‘dig deep’ in to my personal life.  It wasn’t that I wasn’t willing to talk, but they were asking questions, trying to turn me against my husband.  I still haven’t figured out why.

When I fell pregnant with Donut, my cravings started again.  I’m not just talking pregnancy cravings either, ha ha.

I started posting on a parenting site called Netmums (this is an international site – not just for parents in the UK), asking for friends with children of a similar age to mine.  I received a few replies.

One reply came from a girl who lived a 10 minute drive away from me.  We shared ‘essays’ of messages, back and forth for weeks…  Then all of a sudden, she just disappeared.  I did message her to ask if she was ok, and I’m still waiting for a reply from May.

Another reply came from a lovely girl who lives down south.  Not what you call a conventional friend, as the chances of us meeting are minimal.  However, we have been corresponding for months now, and each email is long and chatty…  Exactly what you are looking for with an epal 🙂

Two more replies came, and I have met both ladies.  Both live a bit of a distance away from me, but are definitely not out of the way.

G lives about a 30 minutes drive away, and she has a lovely little boy who is almost 2.  Gning got on great with him, and we are planning on meeting again soon.

A lives about a 45 minute drive away, and her lovely little man is just 9 months old.  Talk about being a smiler!  Gning wasn’t with me when we met, but Donut was.  I’m looking forward to going for another coffee with her tomorrow.

So, why do mummies need friends?

I think it’s necessary.  Not just for the kiddies to meet and play with each other (although that is a very important reason in itself); but for women to be able to get out of their usual routine of just looking at the same four walls, day in and out.  It’s important to socialise…  Humans – no matter how much of not being a ‘people person’ they are – need companionship.

Sharing a general interest, going for days out, crafting together, baking together…  Offering support and advice.for each other.  No matter the reason, having a friend is important.

A very social experiment – the conclusion

My previous post entitled, A very social experiment – an introduction, described my journey in to the world of having penpals, and brought you right up to date of my venture in to finding and making friends in other countries, without leaving my home.

After receiving several message from men in northern African countries, saying nothing but “hi”, and the odd, “hello, you are very beautiful, we can be friends…”, on a daily basis, I was starting to get rather annoyed.  Don’t get me wrong, I was receiving other messages, from genuine people, but very rarely.  I always seemed to be the person to write the first message.  I would write an in-depth introduction, describing myself and my hobbies, and stating that I would like to be penpals.  I hardly ever got a response…  If I did, it wouldn’t last longer than one or two further messages, then that was that.

On 10 February 2014, hubby proposed that I conduct a sort of ‘social’ experiment on Interpals, to see what encourages people to write.  I decided that I would change my photograph on three separate occasions, to see what sort of responses I would get.

This was my usual profile picture:

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With this picture, I averaged 20-30 people per day, viewing my profile, and approximately 3-5 messages per day.

 

On 10 February, I changed my profile picture to this:

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As you can see, the photo is rather different to what I normally have.  To me, the photo is a little more ‘appealing’, and less “I’m a really fun/crazy person”.

On the evening of 10 February, I made a note of my findings.

Views:  248

Messages:  26

No messages were considered to be ‘genuine’ friendship requests.

On the morning of 11 February, I changed my profile picture to this…

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I honestly thought that this picture would increase my views and messages 10-fold, as this picture is even more ‘appealing’.  Maybe the picture was slightly too dark to get the response I thought I would acquire.  Anyway, here are the results on the morning of 12 February:

Views:  107

Messages:  12

No messages were considered to be ‘genuine’ friendship requests.

On the evening of 12 February, I made my final profile picture change of this little experiment to:

3

 

I wasn’t really as keen on this picture compared the the first change, as I looked so young on this…  Mind you, this picture was taken 7 years ago…

This morning (14 February), I changed my profile picture back to the original (silly faced me, ha ha), and I made a note of my findings for the above picture:

Views:  101

Messages:  55

Three messages were considered to be ‘genuine’ friendship requests.

I don’t know why the above photo gained less views but more messages than the other pictures, but I think that people tend to write to people who look younger, rather than older (and ‘silly’).  Maybe it’s the Mona Lisa smile..?

Anyway, as my experiment was not of a scientific nature, more of a psychological one, and purely for my own research, I found it interesting.

Conclusion:  I will be putting a block on men contacting me from Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Turkey.  I know it’s wrong to ‘tar them all with the same brush’, but there’s only so much one person can take.

A very social experiment – an introduction

When I was 10, my school joined a writing exchange programme, and we all had the option to be ‘paired’ up with someone in another country for a £1 donation.  I took the letter home with me, and my dad thought it was a great idea, as he used to have penpals when he was younger.  “It’s a great experience to put pen to paper, and to write to a complete stranger who lives somewhere completely different to you”, he said.

I can remember the form which had to be completed.  I had a choice of whether I wanted to write to a girl or a boy (or either), and whether my new friend came from France or Germany.  Dad ticked the ‘either’ box, and I chose Germany.  Thinking about it now, I was silly not to choose for my penpal to come from France, as I was already in the process of learning French.  I was pretty good at it too..!

A few weeks later, my teacher handed me a square slip of paper.  It had the flags of the Union Jack, France and Germany, simultaneously placed around the outside (as a border), and the print gave a name, age and address of my new friend.  His name was Jürgen, he was 10, and lived in the city of Ulm, in Germany.

We wrote for a few years, but we grew up, and one day, he just never responded.  I wondered if my letter had gone missing in the post, or if his had; so I wrote again.  Still nothing came back.  I knew that my penpal was no longer.  I was about 14 years old.

But, even though I was waiting for nothing, I had been bitten by the penpal bug…

I can remember making a friend, whilst on holiday.  She lived in England too, but about 150 miles away.  She was a couple of years older than me, and she grew up and went to university…

Around the same time of me making friends with her, I actually wrote to a magazine, asking for any penpals throughout the UK who were roughly of a similar age (I think I was roughly 15 years old…), who had similar interests to mine.  Well, at the time, I was already heavily in to my Kung Fu training, so it was practical for me to write to a martial arts magazine.

I was so excited to receive so many responses, and all within a week of my letter being published in the magazine.  I honestly think that I had over 100 letters…  However, I wasn’t about to sit down and reply to them all.  Instead, I began to sort and sift my way through them.

I was cautious.  I read every letter that I received.  The letters that didn’t give an introduction, or the persons’ age, would go in one pile.  On the same pile, I would place the men who had wrote to me who were all aged 20 and over.  After all, why would they want to write to a 15 year old girl?

It was a shame feeding (almost all) the letters in to the shredding machine.  99% of the letters I received were all handwritten; and a lot contained photographs of themselves.  I didn’t shred the photo’s though…  I made sure that I wrote a very courteous note back to the people who had sent me a picture, thanking them for their letter, and explaining that under the circumstances I could not write to them.

After my organising session, there were 6 people who I was interested in writing to.  One soon disappeared after I replied to them, another I wrote to for a few months, another turned out to want more than just ‘snail mail’ friendship…  After weeding out these 6 people, I continued to write to the only girl who had responded to me.  She was the same age, and we were both studying the same style of Kung Fu, and we were the same grade!  We met many times, and even went on a couple of ‘mini’ holidays, however, our friendship was wearing away slowly, and at the age of 27 (long friendship, huh?  Ha ha) I got engaged.  That was the last straw…  She sent a friend request to my fiancé, then congratulated him, not me.  She was then messaging him all the time…  Or trying to.  Anyway, it didn’t last very long after that, and I haven’t spoken to her since.

A couple of years ago, I wanted to get back in to having a penpal.  Preferably, a ‘snail mail’ pal, where we’d have to dust off the paper and envelopes, and scribble with ink…  It’s too easy to send an email, and although in some circumstances, I prefer to be able to send an email, I still find it so much more on a personal level to receive something handwritten.

On my search for a penpal, I signed up to a penpal website called Interpals approximately 2 years ago.  My profile is in depth, friendly and welcoming, and yet I am still waiting for my ‘one true penpal’ to appear.  I’ve had a few ‘trials’, if you like, but I’m still waiting for something other than a message in my Interpals inbox that says, “hi, how are you?”.

Who knows…  Maybe in another few years, I may write another post, and describe a friendship that I have had for a few years, with someone in another country to my own.