My five year-old daughter is an extremely social person, and some of her first peers to become actual, definable, friends, have generalizable, inner-suburban parents. And while I have always been plagued by a feeling of not fitting in, of being a fish-out-of-water, of being completely disassociated from society altogether, or even invisible (at my unmedicated worst, I feel like a Doors song) there are many real commonalities among my daughter’s friends’ parents (DFPs). This is not just one of my depression-induced delusions.
The most obvious one is that 100% of my DFPs are five to ten (or even more than ten) years older than I am. I never considered 28 to be young to have your first child, but apparently in this age of Aquarius, it is the equivalent of having a child before graduating high school. Age differences are supposed to matter less as you get older, but I actually don’t find this to be true at all. Five to ten years is actually a large enough difference to have caused my DFPs to pick up some of the horrifying qualities of professional adults living in the pre-crash society of the early 2000’s (while I was busy prolonging my adolescence by attending graduate school). For example, the need to appear completely put-together and organized at all times. Giving my DFPs the benefit of the doubt, a lot of the other horrible societal traits of the early 2000’s have become less severe, such as the intense material competitiveness (i.e., my ____ is bigger than your ____, etc.); however, the need to appear completely put-together and organized persists.
There are other prevalent commonalities, which likely can just be attributed to my neighborhood, city, and maybe even country (I’m telling you, those über-polite politically correct Canadians are secretly emotionally-repressed passive-aggressive wrecks). But the need to appear put-together is the trait that I am most affected by. If there is one thing I can’t stand is when people act like everything is great and fine and wonderful all of the time AND IT OF COURSE ISN’T. 95% of my DFPs have households containing two parents that work 40-60 hour per week white-collar jobs and have more than one child that participates in more than one extra-curricular activity. One does not have to be a sociologist/anthropologist/psychologist or whatever to realize that by default, these people are not completely put-together at all. Nor do they have their lives organized. Their lives are chaotic and busy, and their insane schedules are sucking any time for enjoying their lives right out of their lives.
My daughter, who is in kindergarten, has a best friend (S—) who happens to be in first grade (or Grade 1, if you are Canadian). They have fairies, jewels, Barbies, diaries, and make-up in common. My daughter has had numerous reciprocated play dates and birthday parties with S—, and S—‘s family even came over for a BBQ this past summer (!), as a part of my vain attempt to make friends with other overbooked parents in my neighborhood. I figured maybe S—‘s parents would have things in common with my husband and I because S—‘s mom (P—) has a nose ring and her dad is a high school media arts teacher with a moustache (I am very superficial, admittedly). However, P— is a lawyer, is five years older than I am, and speaks very logically and calmly all of the time. She also always appears extremely organized and put-together. She rarely talks about herself in terms of her emotions. There is a bit of a projection on a wall kind of aspect to her, but no one is allowed to know what is on the other side of the wall.
Since this past summer, I have sort of come to terms with the fact that P— will likely never invite us over to dinner, and our relationship will continue to consist of short small-talkish conversations at the elementary drop-off area of our local public school that occur on most mornings. Oh well, I think, at least I tried; and I will just continue to obsessively practice yoga, check Facebook, read fantasy novels, play Nintendo, and whatever else I do instead of having a social life.
Breakthroughs always occur when you least expect them to though. Like this morning.
P— and I’s small-talkish school drop-off conversation began normally.
Me: “I couldn’t remember if it was red, green, and white day today. I forgot to look at the calendar.”
P—: “It must have been a kindergarten thing because it wasn’t on S—‘s calendar.”
Me: “Yeah, oh well.”
P—: “Actually nothing is on S—‘s calendar. Just what number day it is.”
Me: “I know, our calendar is blank too, though Mrs. ____ did give us something that said what the kids have on each number day. But that of course requires looking at two different pieces of paper at the same time.”
P—: “I try my best to remember to put S— in leggings and proper footwear when it is gym day, and to return books on library day, but I am having problems with the way S—‘s teacher communicates things this year.”
Me: “Really? I guess all teachers are different.”
P—: “I actually wrote a note to Ms. ____ about it, and considered calling the principal, because I feel like all classrooms need to send home that kind of information. I don’t mean to complain, Ms. ____ is great and everything.” [Note typical example of Canadian passive-aggressiveness].
Me: “No it’s OK, you can complain. That is kind of annoying.”
P—: “And the homework! Oh my God. The math assignments—double digit addition and stuff that takes hours for me to do with S— each night! I don’t have time for this, with work and little J— and the house and dinner and everything. It’s only first grade. And I mean, why don’t the Grade 1’s get agendas, like the older primary kids, it would help them organize everything so much better. S— is really organized, she has a Type A personality, but she is organized about things like her nail polish. It is up to me to remember everything, like, oh my God, she has this project due next week, which I don’t know how they are evaluated on, and S— lost the paper that had the project assignment on it, and I am totally freaking out!”
Me: “Wow, that seems like a lot for Grade 1…”
P—: “Oh my God, you probably don’t want to hear me whining. I am sorry for taking all of your time up and you have had to stand here and listen to me whine. I must sound really negative about everything. I don’t know why I feel the need to take all of S—‘s stuff onto myself.”
Me: “No…It’s OK! You can whine.”
P—: “It is just that all of this is too much, you know? I’m sorry for whining at you.”
Me: “No I know, it’s OK.”
I suddenly realized how relieved I was that P— was whining to me. Excited, actually. Happy, for her whining. To me! Maybe this means she will eventually go from being a DFP to an actual friend.
Isn’t that what people need to do? Especially during parenthood, where no one feels like they are ever doing a good job? Isn’t it comforting to whine to each other sometimes? I listen to you whine, you listen to me whine, misery loves company, and you and I both feel better? Why do all of my DFPs feel the need to act like everything is OK all of the time? Everything is not OK. Especially not all of the time. Don’t stop whining, please.