A Startling Development

Something strange keeps happening around here. On multiple occasions lately, my husband and I notice ourselves having fun. Actual fun WITH OUR KIDS! Not, “oh it’s fun to watch my toddler feed a goat” fun, I mean genuine fun. The kind we generally only have without our kids.

This is incredible news, people!

We like our children!

I think that the ratio of Needy Little Buggers to Funny Little People is starting to tip in favor of the latter. And thank God for it!

We just returned from a mini beach vacation. The water was a balmy 58 degrees, so I can’t attribute our good time to the restorative nature of warm salt water. I guess it could be the restorative nature of cold salt water, but I’m going to take a leap and give credit to the kids. They are becoming less and less unpleasant.

Occasionally anyway. I wouldn’t want them to be perfect. If they were, I never could take pictures like this:

time out with a view

We enjoyed catching crabs, finding starfish, flying kites, building sandcastles, and jumping in the freezing waves together. We had full 20-minute stretches where my husband and I could talk to each other while watching our kids play adorably together! We could fit all this in between snacks and sunscreen reapplications thanks to our growing kids’ larger stomachs and willingness to wear sun hats.

Sure, we had a couple of meltdowns and a few instances of sibling assholery, but the good outweighed the bad, by far, despite overly long car rides, less than ideal sleep situations, and that special brand of exhaustion born from full summer days spent outside.

I didn’t know if I’d ever get to this point. Our baby and toddler years felt long and punishing. Gone are cute pudgy legs and wet baby kisses, diapers and colic, and inflexible toddlers made more impossible when naps are disturbed. I feel the heart-squeeze of nostalgia, but mostly I feel lightened by relief. Here are my long-limbed, capable, humorous, adventuring huge personalities, who can almost wait five minutes until dinner. Hallelujah!

Mommy Dating

This is an updated version of a post originally published in May 2010.

We moved to a new town the spring my son was 15-months-old. So began my adventures in mommy-dating. I hated mommy-dating, but without a job to go to I had no other way of meeting new people. If you’ve never had to mommy-date, consider yourself lucky.

Mommy-dating is just like real-dating, except the scene unfolds at the playground, (or supermarket, library, museum, etc,) instead of a bar. I paid a little more attention to my appearance, and Luke’s, making sure we were both at least mostly clean. Ever on the hunt, I’d scan my surroundings for “attractive” moms.

What makes a potential mom-friend attractive? First, her kid’s age – no matter how cool a mom of a 6-month-old seems, there’s no way she wants to hang out with my wild toddler. Next, she needs to look kind of like me (effort-wise) – I’m not going to be bffs with a fancy mom. Finally, the hover test – if she lets her child roam more than two steps away from her, game on. So, with my sights set on new mom friends, I hit the “singles” scene.

Just like real-dating, I had to put myself out there: I made eye contact; I was approachable; I was friendly; I visited the same places again and again, so I could see the same moms again and again; I made idle conversation with everyone; I introduced myself; I asked for phone numbers. All of this was entirely against my inherently unfriendly nature and I found it exhausting. Worst part: I had an unreliable wing-man. Luke could be completely disarming, or he could throw sand in your kid’s eyes. I never knew which Luke I’d get until it was too late.

In many ways, I think real-dating is less awkward than mommy-dating. With real-dating, the whole pick-up process is expected and normal. Between moms at the playground it’s odd. It’s weird to go from chatting idly about the kids in the sandbox to, “Sooo, maybe I can get your number and we can do this again sometime…?” Truly awful. I’d come home from the park depressed because I hadn’t plucked up the courage to get cool mom’s number, and she hadn’t ask for mine. I’d go weeks hoping to run into her again.

That first summer I was able to set up a number of second dates. You know, a time to see if there is any real chemistry. I was unsure how to navigate these second dates, and several of them were pretty uncomfortable. At what point in a potential new relationship do you show your real self, not the charming version who picked-up this mom? How do you release your real personality? All at once? Or slowly, over time?

I decided to ease it out. I quickly found that these new moms fell into one of two camps: those who thought I was funny, and those who thought I was horrible.

Through this process of dating and personality slow release, I was able to build a new circle of friends. My mom friends. And then I moved. Now with two kids, aged 7 and 4, I find myself in the lonely trenches as a “single mom” once again. Dating as an older mom is completely different from back when I had just one toddler in tow.

Gone are days filled with library story times and baby swings. Instead, my potential mom friends and I have busy schedules filled with school commitments, sports, and homework. The kids of my potential friends have friends of their own, whose moms I imagine always hanging out together. Before, I worried that a new friend’s child matched mine developmentally, so she wouldn’t be shocked by my kid’s 2-ishness. But now the kids have to actually connect and like one another. I have to date the entire family!

It’s a slow process, made slower by the fact that I’m not nearly as desperate as I was a few years ago as a lonely mom of a toddler. I don’t cruise the pick-up scene like I used to. I wouldn’t even know where to find it. But, if I meet you and like you, and your kids are of approximate age and sex as my kids, and our kids show any interest in playing together, you’d better believe that I’ll be asking for your digits and that I’ll be overly excited next time I run into you at Target!

Mommy Dating

Figuring it out

Since we first picked our knuckles up from the ground, lit a fire, and covered our nakedness, mankind has been grappling with the Big Questions. Pondering the meaning of life, the flow of time, and the movement of the sun and stars has resulted in brilliant moments of philosophy, creative works that stand the test of time, and great leaps in our scientific understanding. And yet, we don’t have all the answers.

Despite thousands of years of philosophers, poets, and scientists putting their minds to the task, I still can’t explain “tomorrow” to my kids.

“Is it tomorrow right now?”

“It’s today.”

“But yesterday you said that it will be tomorrow in the morning.”

“Yes, and that was true yesterday, but this morning is today.”

“When is it going to be tomorrow?”

“Well, never.”

“There is no tomorrow?”

“Oh, no, there is one, but when we get there it turns into today.”

“I’m going to die before I ever get to tomorrow.”

“ACK! Don’t say that. Yes, well, I guess you will. We all will, but that doesn’t mean we’re dying today. Look, something shiny!”

Time is an all-consuming and entirely confusing concept to children. They hear us talk about it constantly so they want more than anything to master it. Don’t we all?

Master Time

“Is it once in a while yet?” my daughter wants to know.

“Um, what?”

“Is it once in a while yet? You said I can wear my flip-flops once in a while, so is it once in a while?”

I did tell her that. She can’t walk in those things but she adores them. So I put her off with the classic, “Those are once in a while shoes.” She figures it out though. “Oh! I know! I can wear them when we eat french fries, because that’s a once in a while food!” Move over Immanuel Kant, we’ve got a new master of Reason.

They know that minutes can be long or short but haven’t figured out how to control which type of minutes they experience. My, “OK, in a minute,” response to a request for something invariably means the long kind, whereas, “Bedtime in 5 minutes,” usually involves the short ones. I might have revelled in my power over Time once, a power not meant to be wielded by mortal men. I stretched and shortened minutes, bent hours and days to my will. And then Luke learned to tell time. Damn that school of his! 

Parents control time

Children spend their days trying to understand the world around them. They come up with explanations for the weather, lunar cycles, why they can’t see their eyes in their shadows, and how people in Antarctica cope with being upside down all the time. Bigger kids explain the mysteries of the universe to littler kids, making up for lapses in knowledge with profoundly unfounded confidence.

Now my daughter tells me that wishes she was a boy so the sun wouldn’t always be in her eyes in the car on the way home from school. And I find myself explaining the Earth’s rotation to someone who is not listening or getting it because her mind is full and otherwise occupied, figuring it all out.