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

It’s not my fault – my teacher was a baby

It’s entirely possible that I’ve learned more from my children than they’ve learned from me. This is worrying because my children know next to nothing. Thankfully, they’re not responsible for teaching me any facts, of which they know none, or any language skills, or else I’d be difficult to understand, or any manners or social graces, or else I’d be a pariah. What they have taught me is how to parent.

I think all parents learn how to do this parenting schtick from their children. Get one of those happy, sleepy babies and you learn that parenting isn’t so tough so long as the child’s needs are met. Get a pliant, eager to please child and you learn that patient guidance and consistency are key. What kind of child you have, and thus what kind of parent you learn to be, becomes the lens through which you judge all other parents.

Our firstborn children really mold us. Any subsequent children come as a surprise and we need to relearn all that we thought we knew. Many parents take this opportunity to humbly regret all the judgement they might have passed on others because they finally got the difficult child the rest of us wished upon them.

My sequence is opposite. Luke has been a challenge since the day he was born – at 10 lbs 3 oz. My c-section was my first hint that nothing for the rest of my parenting days would ever go according to my plan. I wanted to be the baby wearing mom, whose baby smiled and cooed and slept peacefully in his sling while I went about my business. This was not to be. None of it. Luke hated being in a sling, Ergo, Bjorn, or any other device that I tried. When front-facing he’d mash his face against me, screaming, scraping off his own skin against my shirt with the vigor of his face-mashing. When he was a bit older he could tolerate facing forward in the Bjorn, but I could no longer carry him in one because he weighed too much. The Ergo was a no-go as he then still refused to face forward and I never figured out how to get the kid onto my back.

I learned that parenting is hard. That I basically couldn’t go anywhere or do anything unless I was willing to endure Luke’s screaming, baleful looks from sympathetic moms, uninvited advice from everyone, and judging eyes from all non-parents or parents of easier babies.

As Luke grew up he became many things, but easy was never one of them. (Still holding out hope on this one!) He did, however, become fastidious about wiping his face on his sleeve after every bite of food. This is pretty gross and untidy and I throw napkins at him constantly, but he is always clean.

Sally was an entirely different baby. Ever since she grew out of her colic, which I’m still surprised I survived, she has been easy going, happy, pliant, and eager for approval. I had to learn how to parent this much simpler* child, and I’m still learning. One thing I have not learned yet, is to wipe her face after eating as she does not fastidiously self-clean on her sleeve.

I never notice her crusty face until I’m out in public. Then I notice that she is the only child with a full milk-crust goatee and jelly stripes up to her ears. And again, even with my easy child, I find myself looking like a careless mother. “But my older kid is a sleeve wiper,” seems like a lame thing to say. And anyway, that doesn’t speak so well for my parenting either.

Oh well. I have mostly come to terms with the fact that I either am or appear to be a lousy mom no matter what combination of kids I’m out in public with.

*Don’t get mad, I don’t mean stupid.

WTF Tapas

It’s been a long time since I posted my last tapas. Either my kids aren’t as funny, or I’m too busy and distracted to find the amusement. Hoping for the latter, as I have a lot of years of child rearing ahead of me which will feel like an eternity with unfunny kids. The latter I can fix.

But you can’t fix unfunny. 

Luckily, when I noticed how long it’s been, I started paying attention and got a few gems.

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L has a dollar. This dollar keeps showing up although I expect it to be lost at any moment. Recently it was found amongst the debris on the floor of the car in front of L’s seat.

Holding it as we drove, he became thoughtful. He said, “If I put my dollar in water will it grow another dollar?”

I burst out laughing and explained that it would not. That’s when he wished he had a Too-Many-Machine. He could put his dollar into the Too-Many-Machine and it would turn into two dollars, then three, four, etc.

I told him that I wished I had a Too-Many-Machine too. I’d use it for cookies. He explained, with the patience of someone talking to an utter simpleton, that it’s called a Too-Many-Machine because when you put cookies in you end up making too many cookies and you get sick. You could also put Mommy in and have two mommies, which would be good. You could put S in and have two S’s which would also be good. But you wouldn’t want too many. And it’s hard to stop before you have too many.

I told him that he’s very wise to realize that. He agreed and decided to just try putting his dollar in water instead.

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Lately L and I have been doing simple math problems as we drive. I’ve been impressed with how quickly he’s picked up addition and subtraction. We take turns asking each other questions.

me: What’s three plus four?

L: (holding up three fingers on one hand, four on the other, and then counting them all) Seven! Now my turn. What’s a hundred minus house?

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Yesterday S wanted to sing me a song, but she couldn’t remember the song she wanted to sing. She kept asking me what song it was that she wanted to sing me. (Annoying in a way that only a nearly-3-year-old can be.) I guessed the usuals, “Twinkle, Twinkle,” “Baa Baa Black Sheep,” “Row, Row, Row Your Boat,” etc. She became increasingly frustrated with my apparent idiocy at not knowing what song she wanted to sing.

me: Please give me a hint. I can’t just guess it.

S: Gort and Gout! 

At this point, I knew exactly what she meant, although I had never heard her sing this song and I wasn’t aware that she knew it. Can you guess?