6.27.2014

the say when

I have never been particularly good about putting myself out there. I remember back when starting a new school year held such excitement for the other kids who were dying to meet new people and gain some fresh start while I was all set to just cry under my covers until any threat of change completely dissipated. "Just say hi," my friends would urge me when I pointed out that "so-and-so from LiveJournal" (hey, don't hate) was in my English class. I never said hi. I thought about saying hi, but I never said hi. Some people are just friendly and have no problem thrusting themselves into a friendly introduction or carrying on conversation with a complete stranger. I've never been one of them, or at least not easily. I'm more comfortable waiting for someone to make the first move before my guard sort of drops a little bit. Enough to at least carry on some friendly banter, at the very least.

Motherhood has made the art of making friends even more difficult. I was the first of my pre-Ethan friends to have children and the ones who are starting to embark on the journey into parenthood don't live locally. It sort of puts you in an uncomfortable place, trying to navigate parenthood yourself for the first time while trying to ensure you don't end up bouncing around a padded room from lack of communication with anyone other than an infant for days on end. My first months of parenthood were spent desperately seeking conversation from any adult I could find, be it a barista at Starbucks or the cashier in the Target check-out line. Someone who spoke actual words and didn't just cry or coo at me. I was sort of under the assumption that every other new mother was also in this same position but was a little taken aback when nothing seemed all that different from high school. I've written about it before, but the similarities between high school and parenthood are a little uncanny. You sort of sit there at mommy and me class hoping someone will speak to you with the same desperation of wanting to not be picked last for the kickball team. (And I'm sure I would have been picked last for the kickball team if I didn't exempt myself by claiming I had cramps first. For all my PE teachers ever knew, I always had my period.)

Motherhood as a first-timer felt like a constant string of rude awakenings. I imagined that "it takes a village" quote coming to life, a room of women desperately wanting to accept me into their group because we were all in this together and all had virtually no idea what we were doing. This wasn't so. I think my rudest awakening came when I realized how much time grown women can spend lamenting about things that didn't require lamenting about. Like circumcision. Hey, your kids who you're not watching are about to run into traffic but it's okay, spend another forty-five minutes talking about who does or doesn't have a foreskin. It's riveting. If it wasn't circumcision (which it felt like it always was), they'd lament about people who used formula. Or who lived in an apartment versus a house. Or who drove what car. Or who made what mistakes in high school because someone they know told them this story dating back to 1995. Or what terrible, lazy things their husband did that day. I would leave each mommy group wondering if I was the only person who didn't hate my husband while simultaneously fearing someone was going to do a diaper check before they let my son back into the next playgroup. ("No foreskin? No entry. Find another playgroup, kid.") I also started to really think about what choices I made in high school people would crucify me for while finding myself breathing a sigh of relief that I was a good five to ten years younger than everyone else. Whew. In the clear.

I'm not sure when I stopped caring, but eventually I did. Eventually it became easier to just sort of go with the flow of each day and accept that motherhood meant simply spending this time with my child. We managed to somehow make a couple of great friends who were equally apathetic to the Mommyhood Politics and our days felt a lot lighter. Better. Happier. I just wasn't a go-getter and never was going to be. Blissfully not caring about these invisible parenting checklists was the new listening to Pearl Jam instead of Janet Jackson (the thing that got you banished to eating lunch in the bathroom alone in middle school. No? Just me?). I didn't want to spend so much time lamenting over what other women were lamenting over. It was counterproductive. I just wanted to be. Be the mom who will take that extra twenty minutes of sleep over washing my hair every day, the mom with the cluttered house with floors that desperately need mopping, the one not ashamed to admit I'm sort of running a cat hospice in my bedroom right now and an incontinent cat is the way life rolled the dice right now; the mom who drives an older car because it's safe and it works and it's all I need, the mom who is trying to practice minimalism while admitting it's hard in flashy South Florida, the mom who finds my husband every bit as attractive as I did when I was fifteen; the mom who will never, ever have all my shit together. And the mom who says shit once in a while. Because, shit, sometimes you just need to say it.

I think the more into this motherhood role I get, the more confidence I'm finding in being myself and having myself be okay, or enough. The more I'm comfortable with writing the words that are circling my brain even though I know just about everyone who knows me in real life knows this blog exists. The more I'm a little more okay with being the first to say hello or initiate a conversation with someone I sense doesn't outwardly suck. The other day I went on a playdate with someone that I met at the children's museum. This is something I never would have done, out of shyness, out of fear, out of anxiety over having to use all of my strength to make conversation because it just doesn't come naturally to me -- but I went, and it was a nice time. My child ended the playdate with an utter meltdown and we left with him barefoot and stripped down to his diaper because he didn't like the clothes I'd packed and none of that mattered, because he's still talking about his new friend and yesterday we received an invitation for a second playdate. "Oh, a second date," my husband will joke and I'm finally okay to laugh because none of it has to be so serious anymore. Who we are is enough. No matter what I did in high school or how dirty my kitchen floors are or how hard it is for me to initiate conversation. Eventually just being is enough -- and if anyone tells you it isn't, they're part of the problem. It's like the "a-ha!" moment that I've been struggling to uncover since I was a kid.

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