Thursday, June 26, 2014

Dear Mom at the Bookstore

Dear fellow mom at Carmichael's Bookstore today,

First off, I've never done one of these open letters before. Many of them tend to be passive aggressive attacks on someone's parenting. Others are a bit on the cheesy, kumbaya side. I'm aiming for neither.

But I just wanted to take a moment to reach out to you. I walked in the store on this hot afternoon, my ten month old son bobbing around in my Maya Wrap, my six year old daughter walking beside me. We came in to pick out a couple of gifts for the back-to-back birthday parties she has this Sunday. Ah, the life of a kid.

You were already in the kids section with your adorable baby son.You snickered when I rejected an activity book that Stella proposed because I said, "It looks like it'll be more work for that girl's mommy than for her."

I liked you instantly, because I, too, tend to eavesdrop on others' conversations and laugh when I hear something funny. And I really, really, really like it when people laugh at me when I think I'm funny.

I smiled at you. You told me my kids were cute. I told you yours was, too. Your boy was crawling around on the floor, picking up and putting down some board books. You said, "Yeah, I'm letting him crawl around on this dirty floor." Something in the way you said that made me realize that you might think I was judging you. I hated that thought. I really, really hated it.

So, I took Sam out of the wrap and put him on the floor, too. I told you that he's my second, so I've been anything but neurotic about letting him ingest dirt. We laughed.

You asked if I recommended any board books and I did - anything by Sandra Boynton. We watched as our sons totally wrecked the children's book section and my daughter very carefully searched for gifts.

At some point, you went to your stroller to get the bottle for your son. Maybe I'm wrong, but it seems you were looking at me out of the corner of your eye. Were you? I hope I'm wrong, but I'm a pretty intuitive person, and my feeling was you thought I, again, might be judging you.

And then it dawned on me. I have a look these days. I don't wear makeup (mostly because it melts off my face in the summer), my son tends to spend these hot days only in a t-shirt and his cloth diaper, and I'm carrying around my son in a carrier rather than a stroller. In this day and age of Mommy Wars when it seems nearly everyone has their team, I guess it seemed that I belonged to a team. A team that might just judge another mom for using a stroller and disposable diapers and a bottle.

This thought made me so sad. Maybe you thought none of this, but the fact that I thought you might think it also made me sad. What's happened to mothers these days? Why are we so quick to find a style and plead an allegiance to it and suspect anyone who does things differently?

I took out a pouch of baby food and gave some to Sam. True, he was hungry, but I also wanted you to see that I don't fit any type, because if I were truly the type I seemed, I'd have made my own baby food. But I'm too damned lazy for that.

This is my second baby, so I worked through a lot of my self-consciousness with Stella. But I still feel twinges of insecurity. For example, I wonder if you could tell how pretty I thought you were, how envious I was that your baby belly had melted away into a flatter stomach. I'm not proud of that thought because, as a feminist, I know how important it is to accept my body as it is. But for a second I felt like an awkward, lumbering elephant next to you.

Regardless, it was nice spending some time with you today. Our encounter was brief, but it made me think about the forced separations we moms impose on ourselves daily. How we have our "type" and seek out other mothers who also are in that "type."

Well, I am not in a type. I carry my son in a carrier because I hate lugging a stroller around, not because I think strollers are bad for babies. In fact, Sam wouldn't let me put him in a carrier for months, not until I tried the ring sling, so he was a stroller baby for exactly nine months, and still is about half the time. I remember reading a post on the local mother's board from a woman who felt sorry for the babies in their car seat carriers rather than a body carrier at the doctor's office. I kindly let that woman know that my baby didn't need her pity.

Anyway, maybe next time I can get your number. Making new friends as an adult is tough. And not very likely through an open letter on a minimally-read blog.

Your fellow mom,

Randi

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