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I Gotta Get Out More Often

We went to a friend’s birthday party
over the weekend, which served as a stark reminder that I have
crossed that line and am now and will always be a Mommy. It also
pointed out to me that I spend waaaaaaaaaaaaay too much time with
other mommies with kids, and need to get out into the
“other” world a little more often.

My friend is childless, as are pretty much all of her friends, but
she loves my kids and the girls wanted desperately to go to her
party, so we brought them along for a quick drop-in since the party
was in the evening and we have the whole toddler bedtime thing.
Since it was a surprise party, we were there ahead of my friend and
thus spent a good twenty minutes surrounded by strangers politely
staring and trying to figure out who would bring a one-year-old to
a twenty-something’s birthday party.

The host was a single guy with that
disposable income we parents can only dimly remember, and when
Maddie got a gander at his ginormous big-screen HDTV her eyes got
big as saucers. The house was clearly not baby-proofed, which
seemed to worry no one except me. Everywhere I looked these alien
creatures – people who only need to take care of themselves,
not themselves plus two other little beings hell-bent on personal
injury 24/7 – were standing around, NOT SCANNING THE ROOM.
That’s right, they seemed unconcerned that the all-brick
fireplace was a future head laceration waiting to happen, or that
the big-screen TV might not be firmly anchored to the wall (but no
worries – Cora will soon find out for you.)

And look at how carelessly they careened through their own lives! I
saw a woman place her plastic drink cup casually on a side table
next to her, completely oblivious to the fact that this is a
toddler magnet, guaranteed to draw a backhand within sixty seconds.
Another woman climbed up on a side table IN HEELS to hang a
birthday banner, never once looking around and thinking, “Is
my kid observing this bad behavior I am modeling, or am I
OK?” Friends laughed and chatted and sank onto couches,
curled up cosily for long chats or easy laughs, not ever saying to
each other, “It’s been too quiet in that room for a few
minutes – I need to go make sure they’re not playing
with matches.”

Observing a room full of people beholden to no one but their own
self made me realize how long it’s been since I’ve felt
that way. I think that even when moms get out for a
“girls’ night out” there’s a running time
clock in the back of our heads, giving us a simultaneous
play-by-play of what we know is going on at home in our absence.
Walk through a mall with a girlfriend who also has kids, and
you’ll see the difference in the behavior: a stranger’s
discarded drink is absentmindedly picked up and thrown in the trash
in anticipation of your child trying to gulp it down. The baby in
front of you throws a stuffed animal out of the stroller
unbeknownst to its mom, and your friend automatically picks it up
and returns it to the other mom without even interrupting her train
of thought. We’re constantly on the alert for the next fire
to put out, the next tragedy to narrowly avoid, the next lovey that
almost gets left behind, and we simply can’t turn off that
Mommy/Boss/Life Guard/Teacher thing. Ever. A friend of mine had a
child-free dinner party one evening in a desperate attempt to
pretend she has a life outside of Elmo, and after the meal turned
to a guest and said, “Would you like some coffee?”
“No,” the guest replied, to which my friend
automatically said, “You mean, ‘No, THANK
YOU’!” She was, of course, mortified and apologized,
and my favorite part of that story is that it didn’t happen
to me.

So back to this birthday party -and believe me, I’m not
ragging on these people – they were all incredibly nice, and
played balloon toss with the girls and admired Maddie’s
unselfconscious ballet performance to the Heisman Trophy theme
music greatly, never once saying “Get out of the $#@
way!!” The host even offered to share his extensive
collection of Christmas claymation DVDs with Maddie. So I stood
there and watched all these really nice people simply relaxing and
enjoying each other’s presence, purely in the moment, no
worries, no strategic forward-planning, and realized that I need to
get back into that world a bit. I need to stop always being the
point at which the buck stops, if you know what I mean. I wanna
hang with these exotic creatures who live on the edge –
exposed brick, drinks without lids, and all.

At the same time, I’ve crossed the Mommyhood Rubicon and know
I can never really go back. And I guess that’s why I end up
hanging (during my nonexistent free time) with other moms –
we’re all looking to re-capture our carefree childless days,
but know our girlfriends won’t penalize us for stopping in
the middle of a mean hand of Uno to jot down a reminder to confirm
the pediatrician’s appointment.

I can’t turn off the Mommy Brain. I can only put it on hold
while I slap that Uno nine. And even then I've got one ear on the
baby monitor.


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