I’ve never went speed dating myself, but the concept is pretty simple and yesterday whilst taking my toddler to the park, I realized getting to know other parents is a very similar concept.
Speed dating gives you four minutes to meet someone, ask a few questions and decide on whether you’d like to pursue another meeting with that person.
In a park meeting for instance, you’ll probably be there longer than four minutes, but between chasing your kids around, engaging them in activities and generally making sure that they are staying out of trouble, you have limited time to chat to other parents with undivided attention.
For a lot of us, the way we ease into conversation with other parents is to ask their children’s age. It’s a non offensive question that can lead to the exchange of information about your own child, especially if they are engaging in play together. Feeling nervous? Maybe drop a compliment in there: “Your son/daughter is so cute/well behaved/well spoken.” There’s nothing a parent likes more than to hear good things about their child!
See the parallel here with speed dating? In those four minutes if you can’t at least ask something that carries on the conversation, you can at least compliment the person you are trying to get to know. And similarly, something inoffensive is always the best option after-all, you want to leave with a number, not a black eye!
So you manage to engage in conversation with this other parent, the questions may continue with exchanging of names, the classic “do you come here often?” And finding out whether you share similar parenting situations eg: stay at home/working. The key here is to keep the conversation light, try not to bring up controversial subjects like breast vs. bottle, vaccines vs. non vaccines (although this one may sway you in following up with a future play date/meeting).
At the end of the day, keep asking the questions until you find some common ground. Like dating, it may not be perfect at first, but a lot of the time even if you don’t follow up with solid plans, you’ll probably see these parents and their children again and it’s always nice to have a sense of familiarity when venturing out into the exciting (and sometimes scary!) world of raising children.