Today, I decided to take Sophie to a MOM group, despite my reservations (based on my previous experience). I feel like Sophie could benefit for numerous reasons:
1. It’s important for her to get other kid stimulation. A great way to learn!
2. Doing outdoor activities is better for her lungs!
3. I am going out of my fucking mind, and if I have to listen to one more children’s song or play hide-’n-seek or talk in a high-pitched voice as I maniacally trot behind my daughter because she is just learning to run so really playing hide-’n-seek is fruitless at this point – I might internally combust.
I pulled up to the beautiful community center exactly one minute past the starting time. No matter that this was Sophie’s nap time and she hadn’t yet fallen asleep. No matter that she hadn’t had a mid-morning snack and she was grunting at me as I tried to hoist her out of her car seat. We were doing this, dammit. I needed to meet more moms.
I entered the community center, feeling my heartbeat escalate. I always get nervous in new situations, especially when I don’t know anyone (hence being called a teacher’s pet most of my youth. Why? Because adults would actually talk to me instead of being stupid fucking kids with smart mouths, bad hygeine, and overly obnoxious ways of being. Who wants to play with that? Oh, yes, please make fun of me and call me names. That sounds like an awesome way to spend my once in a lifetime childhood.)
I entered the room and a pleasant (if somewhat harried) mother introduced herself and her children before slapping a name tag on my chest. I looked down at my tank top, realizing there was dried milk on both sides of my breasts. Perfect.
I readjusted the name tag and did a once over, noticing the rubbermaid bin of communal toys I knew Sophie would make a beeline for. Fat babies, thin babies and older children milled around, slamming toys into the concrete or looking generally disinterested. I met southern mom after southern mom, wondering where my people were. This was East Nashville, right? Where were the tattoos? The attachment parenting? The moms who didn’t look old enough to be my conservative aunt? Where were the women I could relate to?
I readjusted Sophie on my hip before reluctantly setting her down to run free. She sprinted to the toys and practically heaved herself inside of the toy bin, salivating on every ball, ramming colored pencils down her throat and palming giant wooden toys. I hovered over her, hoping she wouldn’t slam a cute baby in the face with the block she was holding.
I watched as all the moms – obviously comfortable enough with each other and their children to let them roam – sat and actually conversed. Instead of doing the same, I followed Sophie from room to room, as she tried to play with the big kids and screeched like a hyena as I tried to take her back to where the babies were.
Once the meeting began, we had to go around the room and introduce ourselves and talk about a milestone our child had just reached. Milestone? What milestone? I racked my brain. Sophie is literally cutting eight teeth at the same time, so she hasn’t slept more than three hours at a time in over a month. We got her out of our bed, finally, but would these moms think I was weird for co-sleeping that long? She could say a handful of words, do sign language and would mimic anything you showed her on the first try. But I didn’t want to come off like my child was too smart.
I listened as the moms discussed their three-year-olds writing poetry and handwritten letters and swimming a whole lap at the pool; one-year-olds talking and saying “dog” over and over; six-year-olds getting into prestigious schools; and then my turn. What was my milestone?! And where the fuck was Sophie?
While I was busy worrying about what to say to impress these women, all of their babies had magically transplanted themselves from playing back into the safe, plush laps of their mothers. My lawless child was over in the corner of the room, farting and stuffing a blue plastic ball in her mouth.
“Um, hi. I’m Rea. That’s Sophie over there. She’s 13 months. A milestone. Well, I’m really happy to report – and I think it’s a milestone but maybe it’s not a milestone but I feel like it’s a milestone -” (It’s over, idiot. You lost them already.) I cleared my throat and began again. “We haven’t changed a poopy diaper in over five months, so that’s something.” I shrugged.
All eyes bored into me. One mother rolled her eyes. One mother asked if I’d come over to their house. One mother said, “I have a three-year-old who’s not even potty trained.” Staring. Accusatory.
I began to backtrack. “Well, it’s not 100%. We just started when she was six months. And she caught on. It’s been easy.”
Accusatory mother’s eyes bulged. “Easy?”
“I mean for her. It’s easy for her. It’s very time consuming. You have to be able to be there, like, all the time. And she wears cloth diapers, so…”
So? So what? Now I sounded like an even bigger asshole who did nothing but trained my daughter to go on the potty like a “big girl” and cared so much for the environment that I only put my baby in the best cloth diapers.
“Is there a bathroom?”
Someone pointed out the door. I gathered my purse and Sophie and trilled, “I shall return!” before bypassing the very public bathroom and pushing through the glass doors. I kept walking until I was to my car and had Sophie safely buckled into her too-expensive completely yuppy Orbit car seat.
I felt my hopes dashed as I drove the short distance home. I was hoping to bond, to find a nanny, to make a new best friend who would magically also be my next door neighbor and just happen to have everything in common. And it wasn’t the women – they were all pleasant and lovely and sweet. They obviously meant a lot to one another. I just wasn’t one of them.
I suddenly missed Lauren (my Chicago soul sister) with a ferocity that shook me to my bones. I missed our walks and talks and disdain for all things organized mom. If she were here, we could grab a coffee and talk about how hard our lives were and how we never got anything done and if there was some way we could get a break so we could get some sleep then everything would be better.
I pulled up to the house and ran inside, the rain pelting my shoulders and Sophie’s freshly washed hair.
“Back to the dungeon,” I said. She looked at me and deposited a kiss on my arm.
“We’ll find you some friends. I promise. Mommy won’t ruin everything.”
I set her down and she took off toward Alex. He scooped her up. “How was it?” he asked.
“Don’t ask. I suck, I think.”
“You don’t suck. How do you suck?”
“Just in general.”
I shrugged. Maybe I did. Maybe I didn’t. But I knew out there, somewhere, were like-minded moms. And I would find them. I would.
So ready or not, here I come.