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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

In which I realize that I am not awesome

I had a chance to be awesome the other day.

I was at a playdate with Awkward Moment Mom and the the Mommy Politics Moms.

It was hosted by AMM and she had also invited one of her friends who has a slightly older girl than the rest of us; a peek into the future for the rest of us. And boy, the future looks pretty freaking adorable.

The MPMs and I were having a conversation about friends, couple friends, pre-kid friends, and post-kid friends. Our revelations? That before you have kids you make people work harder at being interesting before you let them into your "friend circle"; once you have kids, however, you have automatic ice-breakers and perhaps you make it easier for other people to enter your life.

Given the fact that I've spent more time with my mom friends in the course of one week than I did with my pre-kid friends over the course of one month, this just seems entirely true.

It's the playgroups, and wanting our oblivious little children to have BFFs when they're 6 months old, that encourages, promotes, and forces these friendships on us.

AMM's friend, with the adorable little girl, then remarked: "I think it's been hard for me to make those parent friends, because I work. I'm not 100% time, only 70% or so and I'd like to cut it down to about 60% time, but I miss out on those playgroups and playdates and opportunities to create and maintain friendships with other parents."

This comment provoked a paradigm shift for me, a parenting Copernican Revolution. I almost always view myself as the odd-parent out: the dad, the dude, the one without traumatized nipples or concussed vagina, the one who has to work hard; at fitting in, because in my mind the other moms are almost auto-friends, and I'm just tagging along.

But now, I realized, I have no monopoly on fringe-dwelling. Here was a smart, funny, charming mom who also had to work harder at these friendships. And it had nothing to do with dangly bits or lack thereof, and everything to do with opportunity.

I was stunned by my realization. And I was, like Kant, woken from my dogmatic slumber and inspired to do something. This mom had not asked for help, and perhaps didn't need any, and maybe didn't want any. But she had expressed a dissatisfaction with the state of the world, and I could do something about it, in some small way. For her. For my wife, who has to work too much. For the other working parents who feel a little excluded because of circumstance. For the other at-home parents who wished they could do more to help.

And so, on the heels of her confession, my mind raced around and I tried to think of the best, most helpful, inviting, friendly, and caring thing I could say. Because here and now, I could make a difference in this woman's life and it would cost me nothing and would probably mean a lot to her.




I couldn't think of anything to say.

No. That's not true. I could think of something, and it was entirely inappropriate and I don't even know where it came from.

"Oh. Well. That must be hard."

I wasn't going to say it. Because it was trivial. And it was precisely the kind of dismissive comment that I always fear hearing from moms when I offer some participatory remark. Like "Oh, it's nice of you to try to engage us, Dad, but really you couldn't possibly have anything interesting to add to our mom-versation. Just sit quietly and we'll let your daughter play with our kids. Because that's really all the consideration you deserve."

So there was no way I was going to say the only thing that flashed through my mind. I was never ever going to subject another person to the kind of trauma I was paranoid about enduring.

But, because I was so focused on what I wasn't going to say, I never thought of anything I was going to say.

So I sat there. Looking at her. Perhaps prompting her to say something else with a semi-encouraging look. But she had said what was on her mind, and now, four seconds later the conversation had died and needed to move on.

Sorry folks. I am not awesome. But maybe I will be, next time.


Anonymous said...

you're awesome just for putting so much thought into this. reach out next time.

Aunt Becky said...

You're a sweet guy, and I wish that I lived closer to you, because WE WOULD TOTALLY BE FRIENDS.

I have no real "parenting" friends, and could use some. And you? You are awesome. I don't care what you say.

for a different kind of girl said...

The other day I was sitting with a group of moms who are full on, SAH moms. No part time jobs, nothing. They meet a couple times a month so the kids (all younger than mine...I really need to have a baby, I think) can plot world domination and the moms can do what they do. So one turns to me and asks why I haven't been to any of their gatherings.

I used the "Oh, I always forget those! Can you call me next time?" line, but really, what has kept me from attending is feeling that, because I work just a little bit, I sometimes feel out of their loop. I was just too afraid to say it like that. Silly? Totally.

But then part of me was all "Yeah! The cheerleaders finally like me, the drama kid!"

ScientistMother said...

you may not have said something to make her feel so "in" the group, but you did something more important, you didn't make her feel "out" of the group. Sometimes saying nothing is the best thing in the world.

Mandy said...

I'm sure that since she felt comfortable enough to say something that was the first step.

Next time, you'll know you have an opportunity to jump in and say something profound and meaningful. Because the rest of us always say profound and meaningful things when called upon. Really. We do. ;)

kittenpie said...

And yet in my neighbourhood, the stay-at-home moms seem cliquey, so when I was home, I hung by myself, or on the fringes of nanny groups... I am just too shy for this stuff.

Stacie said...

and you just totally shifted MY paradigm by writing this because I always felt the odd man out because I'm SOOOOOO not like the other moms. I didnt' do the playgroup thing, the playground thing, the pta thing, none of it because I totally felt like because I was so much younger than the rest of them (I started a bit early) that they 'disapproved' of me somehow..real or imagined, that's how I felt, it never occured to me that the dad in the group might have felt the odd man out or the working mom by just posting this and making us think just a bit, totally makes you awsome! Let her read your blog...she'll know..

SciFi Dad said...

Wait... your nipples aren't traumatized?!?

Mumma Boo said...

Paradigm shifts all around! It's nice to know that there are others who feel left out of the loop, no matter what group they fall into. Just wait until your kids get into school - the parent friends seem to come out of the woodwork - especially when you're enduring yet another class birthday party!

JonMcP said...

So true! I've noticed it in the nanny crowd as well. The ladies who should fit in better than me because they have vaginas but don't fit as well as me because they've not been up at 3 AM with the kid screaming and fevered.

Mom101 said...

Eh, don't beat yourself up. You could have said something like "Well you have nice boobs."

Which, come to think of it, I would have said.

Headless Mom said...

This is a great post. We have all felt 'left out' in some way or another. With HG it was because I was the stepmom, with the boys, it's because I'm a little older. And with others it's because I'm this, that, or the other thing.


Stefanie said...

It really counts that you actually saw the world through her point of view. Many of us are outsiders whether it seems that way or not. I know I don't fit in well in many circles and I feel starved for local, fun, moms who have at least a little edge. But it's tough for me with twins and a 3 year old to get together with the ones I do know. So I'm alone. A lot.

KJTD said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
KJTD said...

Amen, headless mom!

I know I feel on the fringe most of the time, and I think everyone does at some point or another.

I'm a SAH mom, and I still feel that way around other SAH moms, so I don't really think it's about that whole working or non-working drama.

We are all different in our own ways and have our own insecurities. We just forget that everyone else has them too.

Backpacking Dad said...

zeekster: I shall endeavor to perservere.

aunt becky: totally. move in next door.

FADKOG: Just act like a cheerleader and they won't know the difference. Use those mad drama skillz, yo.

Scientist Mother: I hope you're right.

Mandy: I never never believe anything you say :}

Kittenpie: the nanny groups are a whole 'nuther story. They definitely don't even try to make room for me, so I don't even try anymore.

Stacie: Maybe AMM will let her know about it. Then I can add another person to the long list of people I have trouble looking in the eye.

SciFi Dad: Well, they are. But in an awesome, kinky way. No. I lie. That never happens.

Mumma Boo: I can't wait for the 37th birthday party in a row. $5 presents for everyone!

jonmcp: too true.

mom101: Next time, that's what it's going to be! Damn, why didn't I think of it?

HeadlessMom: I hate being left out because of the other thing. :}

Stefanie: You're not allowed to make me want to cry on my blog. Only on yours. I'm a tough dude, dammit.

KJTD: Oh, come one. What are you insecure about? Your awesome husband and cute kid? Your fabulous photos? :} Yeah. I know.

BookMomma said...

This is the most thoughful post I have read in a long time. I am SO coming back and exploring your archives right now.

No pressure.

Backpacking Dad said...

BookMama: thanks very much.

Anonymous said...

It's really interesting to look at the ways people connect--or, rather, don't--with each other, and how that makes us feel. When I feel left out of a group because I'm "different" for some reason (most likely the chemistry's just not there, you know?), I'm slammed right back into high school. Reading this, it's only juuuust hitting me that other people feel that too. Thanks.

Gerbil said...

It occurs to me that I have never, not once, taken part in a play group. They really didn't have play groups when the older two were little and I'm one of those working moms... plus? I'm weird. And completely off-kilter in the

I think everyone's got their fringe moments about something. At least you SAID something in response and not just stared at her silently for exactly three seconds so she had time to feel like an idiot.

ilana (Helen) Pengelly said...

Your very presence in this group may be what gave her the courage to speak her mind. After all the group accepts you (& your dangly bits). Perhaps the statement of your fitting in was all the 'statement' she needed?

Paigeye said...

Wish there were more of you to go around. I've never related well to those of the female persuasion and am more distraught when I feel like the mommy groups I manage to drag myself to are sales pitches in disguise.

You are awesome! Give those dangly bits some air and give yourself a pat on the back...then get to work on cloning yourself.