From the editor
Thursday, April 01, 2004
Singled out :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::
My boy ran to the trampoline. I lifted him up and sat along the springs with the other mothers.
I had come to this mom-and-tot class, hoping to find for my son a bit of exercise in the dead of winter. And for me, maybe a new friend.
I had a lot of great friends but none with a 2-year-old. True, I was working part-time at a newspaper, so I had adult conversations.
But I wanted adult conversations with someone who knew what it was really like to face a full day with a death-defying 2-year-old, determined to control his world and yours.
I needed someone to talk with, someone to walk with, someone to help me laugh when I wanted to scream. I needed another Mom.
My boy jumped on the trampoline and I jumped into the fray.
I looked around and tried to catch the eye of an attractive blond wearing a flowered sweater and perched on the corner of the trampoline.
"Hi, how are you?" I said to her as she turned towards me. I smiled, trying to seem interesting and engaging. She looked past me. No acknowledgement. No eye contact. No nothing.
She turned back to talk to another woman.
I smiled to no one-hoping to make it seem as if I were addressing the whole crowd.
After all, she probably hadn't seen me. Right? We mothers get so caught up in things.
So, I turned to the other side of the trampoline. I tried eye contact and my opening line all around.
This time and several more times made me realize-there was no mistake, no misunderstanding. I was roundly rejected.
I said to myself: "Don't look desperate. Don't be overanxious. You can do this. Just relax, Susy. Watch the kids. You love kids. Turn back to the kids."
As I was turning back, I made one more sweeping glance across the group. And then it dawned on me, this was not a place for singles.
I was looking to score with another single in the midst of doubles. Everyone there was already with a friend. They were too busy enjoying their time out as a couple to make room for an interloper.
I was the third wheel to everyone there.
I was about ready to give up and just enjoy my bouncing baby boy, when the blond turned to me.
"How old?" she said.
I looked at her, a bit confused. My mother always says a woman who will tell her age will tell anything. Unfortunately for my mother, I tell everything. Still, why did she want to know my age?
"How old," she repeated, no longer an interrogatory but a demand.
"Oh, you mean my son?" I said. "He's 2. I'm Susy. It's nice to meet you."
She was a woman on a mission, not looking for a meet and greet. "Young 2 or old 2?" she said. "I'm sorry?" I said.
"Young 2 or old 2?" she repeated, slowly and with great purpose-and a little louder for my benefit.
"Oh, my son just turned 2," I said.
She turned away to her friend, "Couldn't you tell? Didn't I tell you. He's so much slower than the rest."
Mothers can be real mothers sometimes. It's one thing to reject me-but dismiss my boy? I don't think so.
"Excuse me," I said, getting off the springs and standing next to her. "Are you a mother?"
"Why, yes," she said.
"That's funny," I said. "I couldn't tell. You're just so much slower than the rest."
The blond laughed. I laughed. And we became lifelong friends.
Not really, she didn't. I didn't and we didn't.
And worse, I couldn't even walk out. My dear little boy was so excited. He loved this class. I had to come back and walk into the same room with the blond from hell for nine weeks. Needless to say, that day she worked the whole room and by the time the parachute came out, I was alone holding up one end.
Yes, I realize I was a jerk. There is no excuse for being rude even if I was sleep deprived, juggling a job, a 2-year-old, my elderly in-laws and desperate for a friend-OK? But I also realized this was one more item on the Things-No-One-Warns-You-About-Before-Becoming-a-Parent list: Children not only change your life, they change your friends, too.
There are so many books on pregnancy, which consumes nine months of your life. Where's the book on how to navigate your child's friend's parents-something that consumes the rest of your life?
I have met some wonderful people as a result of my boys. People who have become lifelong friends. Pam and Carolyn were in my preschool car pool-two wonderful women whom I don't see often but are dear and special to me. People like Mary Beth and Jean who have taught me about friendship, love and that a mother's heart is infinite.
But there are too many parents out there like the blond: quick to judge and happy to tell you, you're wrong. This job of parent is difficult enough: Why would you make it worse?
I realized in gym class that day, I had a choice: Either become just like the blond or find a kinder, gentler path of patience and tolerance.
I also realized, my son had accomplished something my own mother and father had spent years trying to do-he taught me I must control my anger.
Someday I'll meet the blond again and apologize.
Well, maybe I just won't rip her hair out.
OK, I've still got a little work to do.