I am participating in the March Slice of Life Challenge: A slice a day for all of March. You should do it too! Thank you, Two Writing Teachers! Readers, check out their site, and start slicing!
We walk into the science center party about 5 or 10 minutes late, and I search for the hostess. I have no idea what she looks like, and only two or three guests are familiar to me. All the faces around me look serious, stern, busy. So many strangers.
A 5 year old’s birthday party can be a stressful place to be. We finally find the hostess, or at least I think it must be her. She’s holding a present, and talking to someone else. She introduces herself to me with an “Oh, you must be E’s mom?” I’ll get to hear a lot of that this afternoon. “E’s mom” is a nice label to have, it’s just odd not to know anybody. The entire room is full of so many strangers.
I focus on E, and playing. The science center is a fun place that we don’t get to often. We sit at the magnet block table, and as he builds a house, I tell him I want to make a two story house. A little boy walks over and asks to play. “I want to build a Toy Story house too!” he grins. At least kid strangers are cute. He walks away distracted by a friend, and Evan smiles at me, “A Toy Story house instead of a two story house? He must be too young to know the difference.” We got up and walked to the party room, through so many strangers.
I think, when H was in preschool, I knew everyone. For a year and a half, I was home with baby E, able to volunteer at the school, stop and chat in the parking lot, and attend events. I was a co-chair on the board so I was very involved. I knew the kids, I knew the parents, I knew the siblings. It felt comfortable and friendly. I’m good with comfortable and friendly. I’m not so good with so many strangers.
After we walk into the party room, a mom looks at me and asks, “Are you E’s mom? He’s so sweet. I love him! He plays so nicely with everyone.” I can’t even reciprocate the comment with one about her children, because although I caught her mentioning twins, and I noticed when she pointed them out at the party table… I don’t know what to say about them! They’re cute? Well behaved for the last 3 minutes that I have been aware of them? So I smile and laugh with her as we watch the kids make shark tooth necklaces. I find myself wondering which of these parents would be my friend if I were a staple around the preschool this year? And, I find myself remembering my old preschool mom friends from years past. Some I still keep in contact with on Facebook, or see out and about, but others have moved, or moved on. I miss those familiar faces as I look around at so many strangers.
Most days I am chill about my work schedule. I mean, aside from being busy and crazy. And, aside from never having enough time. . . and most of all aside from missing my kids during the day (and wondering why the people I love the most in the world and I spend most of our days separated.) But, most days, the nitty gritty of the schedule doesn’t bother me. I’m okay that I don’t do school drop offs, or pick ups. I’m okay that Mr. Thought is the one to do field trip chaperoning, and that I have to take personal days if I want to attend special performances. But I feel bad, guilty, and off as I look around at so many strangers.
Some people must be good at this party thing. They must make small talk, and jokes, and not be stuck inside their head, wondering what the other people think of them: the mother who is never at preschool. To them, I’m the stranger!