Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Just Because You Procreate Doesn't Mean I Have To Like You

It's just like dating. I go there in the hopes of meeting someone. I’m feeling desperate, so in the beginning I’ll give anyone a chance. Never mind that all the warning signs are there – Conversation is stilted. Or they talk too much. Or they’re boring or opinionated or, simply, irritating. And you know if this was Life Before, they wouldn’t be in it.

But this isn’t normal life. This is playgroup. And the stakes are high. What I’m reaching for is a lifeline – others who know what I’m going through. Do not underestimate the importance of being able to complain about projectile pee and knowing that it’s okay that you’re wearing a shirt with spit-up on the shoulder.

So in the beginning you go and you’re thankful for the company and just to get out of the house. You hold your infant like an offering. You sit there with bloodshot eyes and the requisite bags beneath, mumble incoherent things and exchange stories. You may say something like, “I got twenty-two minutes of sleep last night, so things are looking up.” And you ignore that little voice that says, “ I can’t stand you.”

And then as your baby grows and you get more sleep, realization sets in. Playgroup is a microcosm of the real world. And just like in the real world, there are people here who annoy you. And slowly it dawns on you – Just because someone procreates doesn’t mean you have to like them.

But what happens next? When Mrs. Annoying-As-Hell wants to go to the mall with you next Thursday so you can look for warm winter socks with her. Or Ms. Obnoxious-Opinion-Giver wants to spend every waking moment for the rest of your life with you. You can’t be truthful. You still have to see them every week. You can’t be mean. Same answer applies. That leaves you with only two options – (1) lie and (2) Seat Shift.

The first is self-explanatory and goes something like this – “You want to spend hours with me at your favorite scrap booking store? Sounds terrific. Call me and we’ll see. I just can’t commit ahead of time. You know how it is with a baby.” The beauty of this is that it has more than a grain of truth. Babies are unpredictable and they make a lovely excuse. When they call, you say that little poobear is cranky and hasn’t gone down for his nap yet. Sorry. Rinse and repeat. You know what I mean -- just keep making excuses with enthusiasm until the calls stop.

The second is a bit trickier but will help you avoid having to lie in the first place, which is time-consuming and boring and leaves you with that distasteful residue of guilt and anger. So I suggest Seat Shifting. This entails getting to the playgroup at just the right time, after Ms. I-Can’t-Hold-A-Conversation-And-Expect-You-To-Entertain-Me has arrived, and placing yourself away from her. Not too far or it’ll be obvious. But just on the other side of the circle where you can wave and mouth hello but spend your time admiring little Billy whose mom who you actually like but haven’t talked to because Ms. Over Talkative has been monopolizing her.

It may happen slowly, but I’m convinced there’s one cool mom in every group (besides you, of course). And the beauty of finding Ms. The-One is that after a little chitchat while you both size each other up, there’ll inevitably be the awkward pause after which one of you will say, “What do you think of Ms If-You-Do-That-Laugh-Snort-Thing-One-More-Time-I’ll-Strangle-You-With-Your-Diaper-Bag-Handle”? And the floodgates will open. You’ll share stories, each one more awful than the next. And an hour later, you’ll have unburdened yourself and you’ll feel understood. And, sigh, you’ll have a friend.

But until then, you’ll just have to navigate the minefield that is playgroup. And remember – you could be someone’s Ms. Please-Don’t-Seat-Shift-Toward-Me-Because-I’m-Over-Here-To-Get-Away-From-You.


At January 9, 2005 at 7:41 PM, Blogger Misery said...

This is an amazing post. . .you are a fabulous writer you should consider writing a book about new-mommy hood. . I'd buy it!

At February 4, 2005 at 1:48 AM, Blogger raymondo said...

enjoy all of the time you spend with your child now .the time is short and will seem like a flash later .i have seven children four of whom are grown .although i cherish the time we spend together now it was a wonderful time when i was thier world and they depended on me for thier needs.....ray

At January 17, 2006 at 12:13 PM, Anonymous Kristen said...

LOL. Well put.

At July 21, 2006 at 8:32 AM, Blogger mimi said...

I feel that way every time I take my baby to the park. I tell you I have always been a loaner and I think it is probably easier to just meet friends out and about when you can get a baby sitter. I think it is because most of us are not ourselves at a playgroup because we don't like our parenting skills questioned. Just go for the children and arrange your own play dates in some other setting. You might have to wait until the kids are a bit bigger but social life will come. What I am trying to say is that the best mommy support you can give yourself is finding people and a place that you can go once a week or so that you feel like yourself and not just a desperate mom in need of friends.

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