On Friday, we went to a gathering of secular (non-religious) homeschoolers at a local park. I was super psyched about this because I have been wanting to find some other secular homeschoolers and wasn't sure if there were any around here. I was really looking forward to it but was also feeling pretty anxious, because this is the group of people I really want to meet & get to know & hang out with. We got there early (that's right, people who know me IRL - I arrived early to something!), on some advice I read somewhere that said it's easier for kids to make friends when they aren't trying to join an established group already in the midst of playing. Makes sense. This was definitely helpful, because it gave Max a few minutes to get over his initial shyness and get acclimated to the place. When we first arrived, there was also a busload of kids there from a local daycare, wearing matching blue shirts with the daycare's logo on them. Max started playing a game of chase with a few of the daycare kids. I was really tempted to say, "Hey! We're not here to play with the blue-shirt kids, we're here to meet the other ones!" but I bit my tongue. I thought, oh well, at least he's playing with other kids and having fun.
While Max was busy chasing, I was chasing too, following Emmett around the playground and up-down-up-down-up-down the play structures, keeping a close eye on him lest he slip and fall off one of the high spots. I was trying to figure out how to try to meet people while chasing this crazy toddler around, but fortunately he finally got tired of that and went into "hold-me" mode and pretty much stayed that way for the rest of the afternoon. He rode in the backpack carrier quite happily for well over an hour. Then I actually did get to meet a few people - even some actual unschoolers! The first ones I've met in real life! I felt very shy and awkward, but everyone seemed nice and made me feel welcome, and I tried hard to mentally imprint all their names because I totally suck with names. The one person I really struck up a conversation with and talked to for a while was actually a homeschooling dad. Leave it to me to find the one dude in a crowd of women to talk to - I have always been more at ease around guys than around girls. Two women I had met before came up to us and confused him for my husband for a second. I quickly and awkwardly corrected them. Hopefully all the women don't think I'm some kind of homeschool harlot or something.
Meanwhile, the daycare kids had left and the whole atmosphere of the playground was perceptibly different. The homeschooled kids seemed to be calmer and more pleasant overall, making eye contact with me and saying "hi", and the older kids were looking out for and helping the younger kids, even ones they weren't related to. Everyone was just so friendly and polite. One group of kids sat in the shade and played a card game. Another group of kids was sitting up on one of the structures just playing quietly together - and there was Max absorbed in the group, also sitting quietly and playing, and having a good time! That sight made my heart so happy.
A little later, he weasled himself into another group - this one consisting of older kids - and got someone to let him borrow their Nintendo DS. (The kid is a junkie for electronic games, what can I say?) I'm not sure if they really wanted to share with him, or if they were just being polite, so after a few minutes, I told Max it was time to go. Emmett needed his nap, plus I was about to pass out from the heat. Max was not happy about this, and I feared he was going to go full meltdown but he only produced moderate protests because he was ready to pass out from the heat too.
I considered the outing a total success. I met some people, Max played with some kids, and there was no embarrassingly defiant behavior or tantrums. (He seems to be going through a wicked defiant phase.) Someone said they are going to do this again in a couple weeks, and if so... we'll be there!