We took our kids to South Bend, Indiana this weekend to see Notre Dame (go Irish!) play Navy. It’s always a good game to take kids–respect! honor! tradition! a flyover!–but it’s also an incredibly intense weekend: we drive out early on Friday from our home here in Pennsylvania, pack in some activities that night, spend most of the day Saturday on the go, and then try to pack in a bit more before we drive home Sunday. We’ve never done it with all three children before. We would be traveling with my mom, and meeting up with my brother and sister-in-law, who were driving in from Wisconsin. People thought we were nuts. I’m not even going to wager a guess as to what my bro and his wife were bracing themselves for. Thank God for sibling love. 10.13.15. Notre Dame. flyover. MOV And even though we knew we were supposed to be nuts, we had absolutely no expectations going into this trip: on one hand, the kids have become really good travelers (well, SK and Quinn have always been, and Cian suddenly has done…
A few years ago, when Saoirse was a baby and David was travelling for work, I wrote something on Facebook to the effect of “Gosh, I have so much respect for the single parents out there, because this is HARD wah wah if-I-try-to-be-funny-you-won’t-judge-me WHINE.” I want to smack myself over the head and erase that post. Because, seriously? Seriously. Who the hell was I to say something like that? Here’s the deal: Some of you are full-time parents. In the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t matter if you chose this path or if it fell into your sweatpant-clad laps, you are with your children all. day. long. It is what it is. Some of you juggle paying jobs and parenting, either by choice because you love your career, or necessity, because hello, that gas bill ain’t paying itself, or a little of both. It is what it is. Some of you are widowed parents, divorced parents, single parents. You may struggle with an emotional burden along with the practical ones, and it is what it is. Some of…
I’m so angry right now. Angry with parents, angry with myself. Just angry, angry. And hurt. And frustrated. And ashamed.
I took Saoirse to her preschool open house today. She was so excited about it she couldn’t sleep last night, woke up talking about decorating her bucket (which the kids use instead of backpacks to lug their stuff to and fro), and was so anxious to go see her new classroom (“What’s a classroom?” she asked) she burst out of her carseat when we got there, yelled “Yay! Preschool!” and ran for the door. We were one of the first people to arrive (when does that happen?), so she had a full view of the room before she immediately headed for a table filled with cars and trucks and started playing alongside another boy. I met her teachers, stood around uncomfortably, and helped Quinn practice her walking while we waited for the room to fill up.
A half an hour later, I was wishing it hadn’t. I met a lot of the other parents, mostly moms, and we filled the time with a lot of that stilted small talk you make with somebody when you know that the person on the other end of the conversation will be someone you most likely will end up seeing a lot, maybe even become friends with. It’s like speed dating, just with less cleavage on display. As I watched SK bounce back and forth between the car table and a Sit n’ Spin, I thought, wow, there are some nice moms in this class. I started to feel a bit more comfortable.
Then the moms saw Saoirse, in her little ponytail with the pink flower, pushing some cars around a table, and the questions started.
“So she likes cars and trucks? I guess [since you have girl toys] there’s not much at your house for her to play with, then?”
“Oh, then she’s a tomboy? Well, with two girls your husband must be so happy there’s at least a little bit of boy in her.”
“Can you believe how into dress-up these girls are at this age? All of the frills and princesses, can you believe it?…Oh, no? Um, huh…” (The mom them moved her little girl to the other side of the room. I’m not making this up. I am not strange looking, nor oddly hairy in places I shouldn’t be, nor combative or loud. I just said she’s not into dress-up).
I am furious. Not so much with the other moms, because for the most part they were very sweet, and their daughters like what they like, just like mine likes what she does. It’s the assumptions that infuriate me, and the generalizations. And me. I’m angry at me, because I didn’t stick up for SK more, or act more proud of her. I am proud of her. I love that she’s so fascinated with how cars work, and asked me to explain chassis and axles and wheels the other day. I get a kick out of how she insists on picking out her own clothes every day, and invariably chooses a dress or a skirt–the frillier the better–only to get them all wrinkled by lying down to zoom Lightning McQueen around the playroom floor. But I couldn’t say that out loud when talking with the other moms. That tomboy comment? SK heard that. And she didn’t hear me say anything to contradict that mom. Because it was small talk. And I was feeling small.