For non-moms who may be reading this, the background to this is that the friend-making game changes as soon as you have a kid. Imagine that your neighborhood or town is like a new school you have just entered and your class is everyone who has had a baby within a year of you. And suddenly you are new there with everyone else and no one knows anyone and everyone is generally friendly to everyone because no one knows who their friends will be yet. There’s no escaping because you will see these people constantly at the playground, at the library, in the grocery store, at the baby gym, or whatever yuppie stuff you do with your kid. They’re your cohort and you’ll probably be with them for 18 years if you’re in a public school district together. You hang out with moms you barely know and try them out, like dating, or like in college, just to see if they could maybe be your friend because you really do need mom friends and allies.
I had a mom-date this week. We met through a mutual mom friend several months ago and finally got together because we have identically-aged kids of opposite genders and will soon have a second set of identically-aged kids of opposite genders. In other words, she has a girl and is going to have a boy and I have a boy and am going to have a girl.
So we decided to swap baby clothes while our kids parallel played together. That’s all we knew we had in common at that point and all we had to go on. It was like internet dating (which by the way exists for moms and is called mommeetmom.com. This is serious shit).
I went over to her place after naptime (for playdates at this stage occur either “before nap” or “after nap” and everyone knows what each timeframe means). She had cookies in the oven and I brought something lazy from Trader Joe’s. It was a good setup: an activity, food, kids to talk about and get in the way, etc. Plenty of Inoculations against conversational lulls.
I had been curious about her as a mom-specimen, in a way, because I knew from social media that she followed some intense parenting and lifestyle philosophies and sure enough, she was a pretty hard attachment/montessori/home-school/no-TV/only-wooden-toys/early-potty-training/paleo parent. So she is a person who buys into stuff. I was curious about what that looked like in practice. She’s like the mom all the mom blogs talk about (for better or worse) but I had never met one in real life. She was the real deal as far as I could tell.
(It took me until later that evening to realize that, when she showed my son the picture of him she took with her phone and he put his fingers on the screen and unintentionally zoomed in on his own face and she said “oh you know how to do this!”, she was implying that I regularly let my child experience screen time what a shame which is not true but also doesn’t matter.)
But I actually had a nice time. I often tend to like really extreme people even if I don’t agree with them, as long as we can do our separate things and just be ok with that. I don’t know what kind of friends we will become, if at all, but it was nice to know someone in town a little better. We actually never had a conversational lull. We have a lot in common, with our kids and pregnancies and interest in food and running, despite a mismatched degree of neuroticism and competitiveness.
But she did say at one point that she didn’t get along with a lot of the local moms because she disagreed with their parenting approaches. And I did get the feeling that she was gathering information on me and my ideals, rather than our compatibility, to suss me out as a potential friend. There were moments when I felt a little bit of “tsk tsk” or “hmmm” as she evaluated my decisions and the more I look back on it, the more of those moments I can feel. So, I’m not even sure if I qualify to be her friend because I mentioned that we have one of the same toys and she responded that, oh, she received that particular toy as a gift but she usually doesn’t allow any electronic toys in the house.
The bottom line is that I do actually like her and could imagine being friends as long as she doesn’t reject me in turn because she believes I let my toddler play with an iPhone. Or if, you know, she turns out to be kind of smug.
(Am I being an asshole? I don’t mean to be. This is all observational to me. I say these things with curiosity, attempted objectivity, and a certain degree of affection.)
Art credit: Kelly Puissegur