Saturday, December 10, 2011

I'm Pretty Sure June Cleaver Never Dealt with This Kind of Self-Doubt.

It starts with a phone call or a paper invitation sent home in a school backpack.  The birthday party.  Some small child in your own progeny's class has decided that your kid needs to be at their birthday party.

And it's good.  Who doesn't love knowing their kid isn't a social pariah?

I sometimes wonder if maybe I'm a bad parent because I don't immediately wonder if the parents of these children are derelicts or Satan-worshippers or sociopaths.  You want to take my kid for 3-4 hours and feed them sweets and pizza?  Is it bad that I'm totally okay with that?

Whether one is prone to excessive paranoia or not, etiquette and basic safety rules dictate that you meet the adults to whom you will be entrusting the life of your little one.

There is little in the world to make a parent feel more inadequate than the prospect of meeting another child's parents.

I'm lucky in that I have a few close friends who are in similar situations as myself and have kids in my girls' age cohort.  But meeting parents outside of my social circle.. it's harrowing.  You may have been there, yourself.

It starts with a phone call.  An invitation.  A time and an address.

Dropping your child off at the address provided and realizing it's in a rather posh area of town.  These parents, they aren't renting an apartment in that sprawling century home.  They live in, and may even own the whole thing.

As you're invited to come in, suddenly you become hyper aware of your own tiny dwelling, and even though you're not there, you feel a little ashamed of the dust in the corners and the old futon on the front porch and the dirt and gravel driveway, as though each dust bunny, each unmade bed, each fingerprint is written on your face.  Walking into an immaculate kitchen, you think of the unwashed dishes in your own sink.

Was her coat that dirty when we left? you wonder as you try to casually run your fingers through your child's hair, using a seemingly-affectionate gesture to hide the fact that you're really just trying to get it to look neat as suddenly it seems impossibly messy.  And in need of a trim. You find yourself wishing you had some scissors.

You see the fridge with the professional portraits of each child taped neatly to the door and think of your own fridge, with pictures of your kids from five years ago and a number of magnets with off-color jokes and advertisements for fast-food restaurants.

You make idle chit chat with this parent who is the same age as you, looks five years younger, but seems so much older, so much more put together, so much more... grown-up and you take off your hat and realize.. holy shit, I'm standing here talking to this totally-put-together parent who is making fruit smoothies for her kids SNACK  - meanwhile your kids had a handful of goldfish crackers in the car -  and I have pink hair.  Pink fucking hair.  What am I, 15?


Feeling ridiculously uncomfortable, you just thank Gord that your Shut Your Whore Mouth or equally inappropriate T-Shirt was in the laundry today.  Standing there in your coat, you wonder when you should excuse yourself.. too short, and you might appear rude.. overstay and you might appear.. well... still rude, not to mention over-protective.  This is part is especially fun for the socially inept like myself.


You find yourself comforted when you realize that Ms. Other Mom is talking a mile a minute and it dawns on you that perhaps, just maybe, they are just as intimidated meeting you.  After all, you're entrusting your child's well-being to them.

Maybe one day I'll get over the nerve-wracking experience of meeting other parents.   More likely is that I'll be that parent who has a near-coronary when one of the girls wants to introduce me to the parents of their significant other.  Such is life.

12 comments:

  1. It might appear like greener grass, and all the other trimmings of the idea sub urban middle class life. But take a closer look, and you realize something, its all as fake as the marketing display in the front window of the department store.

    This women is probably chewing Meprobamate(Miltown) and Diazepam(Vallum) like candy. (or what ever the current prescription psychotropic drug of choice is)
    This idea middle class life, is brought to you by the same people who brought you the idea womens body after all.

    The only thing real in the shadow of that white picket fence, isn't how green the grass is but the mass grave under the lawn.

    Trying to restrain very long rant, so hitting post now.

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  2. That's kind of what I was getting at in the last paragraph, without making assumptions about people I don't know... I don't know people's backstory, their own insecurities and flaws and foibles.. it's akin to holding yourself up to a fun-house mirror and judging yourself based on the reflection is what I'm kind of getting at. Intellectually I know that I'm a good parent and provider for my kids.. but sometimes it's difficult not to fall into a trap of not feeling good enough.

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  3. Hey, I'm super classy and my daughter's jacket is filthy, there are more fast food magnets on my fridge than I care to think about, and what's the point of making beds? You just have to unmake them again later. I'm with cdu13a, it's a lifestyle sold to us to aspire to but who says it's so great?

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  4. Take it from me, the nicer house and other stuff is all BS. I'm quite sure that they have their issues too. My in-laws have 2 of the battiest daughters ever, but you'd never know by looking at all their family photos.

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  5. You know what? I was terrified about having children and screwing them up (by the way, sounds like you are doing a very good job of raising them, not screwing them up)... but now I am terrified by a whole different level of social interaction.

    I feel your pain.

    Oh gawd, parenthood is so much work. I already feel self conscious!

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  6. I feel you. As a closet social misfit, meeting other parents for me is like going on a blind date. Did I make a good impression? Will they call (to make a playdate)?

    So much stress. When did I become the responsible adult? (I so shouldn't be.) How come my choice of wardrobe or messy hair can become life altering social blunders affecting my children?

    And I laughed at your t-shirt. I have some that I get weird looks in when I pick up my daughter from school.

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  7. I remember going to pick my oldest daughter up when she was still in Kindergarten. I had my youngest with me, it was spring so I had no jacket on, and I was wearing a Three Days Grace shirt that had "Your Shit is Over-rated" on the back. Upon realizing this I quickly encouraged the little one to jump up on my back for a piggy-back ride, if only to hide the back of my shirt!

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  8. Ah, Yandie. I'm glad they're not fooling you, at least not entirely. I was a single mother at 22. We lived in very small places, and I was always keenly aware of how little we had. Now I know, though -- well, now that I clean for and serve the wealthy! -- that most of the time, while they have money, they are unhappy, driven, terribly self-conscious people, aware of how they're seen and they're "place". I much prefer my own life -- although, maybe a couple extra bucks??? Every now and then? :-)

    Pearl

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  9. OhMyShit. I know how you feel. One time, while I had no vehicle (rather I did, but I had taken off the insurance to avoid cancellation) and walked across town with my then 6 y/o's to take them to a tea party. I don't think it was a bday party but my kid insisted that it was REALLYUBERIMPORTANT that she go. I didn't have anywhere else to go, nor means to take me anywhere else, so I stayed. I didn't give a shit, I didn't know the parent from a hole in the ground. It was weird, but she made me feel comfortable, and we got along well. Even with the feeling that she was better than me... lol

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  10. I always worry about falling into the other end of it .. being all "Well.. here's my kid. Bye!" .. it's like 'oh.. should I stay and make small talk for a few minutes.. well, okay.'

    In this case, the kid's mom (and dad for the brief time I met him) were indeed very nice people, but no matter the circumstances I always find it kind of intimidating. Even if (on the rare occasion) the other parents are in a lower.. um.. tax bracket, then I get all worried that I'm coming across snobby or something. I'm just socially inept that way.

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  11. Ooooh, thank you for pulling this out of my head. Because I have DONE the same thing, thought the same thoughts. The running your hands through their hair. YES, DONE THAT. The coat thought. OMG yes. And then it always extends to myself. "Is my deoderant working? I'm suddenly feeling a little greasy."
    There's the teeter totter debate... am I judging them? Or is it that I just have to get over my misconceptions about myself???

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