Navigating the Seattle Ice

The Seattle Ice. A new hockey team? Sadly, no. It’s a term coined to describe the general social demeanor of native Seattleites. Before we moved here, Matt and I were on a cruise and we met a teenage boy from Washington. He chatted with us for quite a while. He was friendly and polite and obviously interested in talking to adults. He really impressed us. Kids from the East Coast weren’t like that. They would never have a conversation with two adult strangers. So we applauded our decision to move West. I was pregnant at the time and who wouldn’t want to raise an engaging, polite, West Coast kid?

Once we moved, we discovered an entirely different social phenomenon. I joined a moms’ group and met lots of moms — natives and non. But every time I tried to connect with a Seattle mom, friendly as she seemed, she’d freeze up. I tried with mom after mom with the same result. My husband and I found the same thing with the people we’d meet together. They were very friendly on the surface, but if we tried to go deeper, they distanced themselves.

We did make friends eventually, but we gravitated to transplants. I connected with two moms initially – one from Australia and one from South Africa – and I met two more when we moved to the suburbs – both Californians. My husband befriended a coworker from New Jersey. We’re happy with the friends we’ve made but we’re worried about raising our daughter here. Do we want to raise a kid who exhibits the Seattle Ice? We’re not like that. We’re both from the East Coast. I’m from New York where everyone may not be friendly but you know whether a relationship has potential within the first five minutes. What you see is what you get in New York. My husband’s from southern Virginia where people are much nicer initially but with the first “bless your heart” you know who’s not a friend. In both places, you know where you stand.

Rose is shy. It will break my heart to see her try to forge friendships and get iced out. And worse, what if she adapts by adopting the Seattle Ice? Everyone around her will have it. How can she help it? How do we, as parents, teach her how to be open in a place where everyone’s so guarded? I try to tell myself that our influence will outweigh the social factors, but will it? How do we shove sincerity down her throat?

This concern could make us leave Seattle, and honestly, we like it here. It’s a beautiful place; we’ve found friends; and we appreciate the mild winters. Although I like to move around, I’m satisfied with where I’ve lived and I recognize the importance of a stable environment for Rose. We don’t want to go anywhere else.

So far, Rose has befriended the other kids at the babysitter’s – she talks about them so we beilieve they’re her friends. She plays with our transplant friends’ kids; and she likes a little girl at preschool who doesn’t return the favor. It’s not that the little girl doesn’t like Rose. She’s just not interested in making friends. And seeing their relationship is like a glimpse into the future for me. Will that be her life? Will she try to befriend little Seattle kids and experience rejection after rejection? What will that do to a kid who has such difficulty approaching other kids in the first place?

I don’t have an answer. I don’t know if we’ll be able to stay and raise Rose to be a sincere, genuine friend or if she’ll be overcome by her surroundings and wind up superficial and guarded with no real deep attachments. I guess the best we can do is to encourage her to forge real relationships; develop our own relationships as a model for her; and teach her that, even if she gets hurt, taking a chance on friendship is preferable to molding the Seattle Ice.

One comment on “Navigating the Seattle Ice

  1. Hi Maria :o)
    Don’t give up. There are some very warm, friendly and giving people in Seattle. I lived there from ’91 to ’95 and to this day I still communicate with native Seattleites who are definitely on my list of sincere friends to keep forever. I have worked with them, socialized with them, met their families and they’ve even visited me in other states. I think we had this conversation at Thanksgiving. They’re out there – probably in the Starbucks shops ;o)
    Hang in there….from your roommate’s wife who agrees with you that every home should have one like him. Sad but true, you’re going to have to give him up one day ;o)

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