First Mom Date

“Gymbo the clown goes Up and Down, Up and Down…”

I looked around the room at the other mothers at the Gymboree class.  I’d decided that it was long since time I got out of the house to do something with Melinda, who was nearing her first birthday.  I’d had no clue where to go to engage her in social situations with other children her age; when Z was this age, he was being cared for by a woman who looked after several children.  He got plenty of socialization there while I went to classes at the university.

But I was a full on stay at home mother now, ten years older than I’d been the first time.   It was my responsibility to make sure Melinda wasn’t spending her days babbling to her toys or taking in a steady diet of Baby Einstein videos.  She was too young for preschool, and we weren’t exactly active in the church we’d finally selected after nine months of living here.  It was still too cold to go to the park, which left me with no other options.  It was time for Gymboree.

Gymboree was like a gym for toddlers and babies, with mats covering the floor and all manner of slides, climbing toys and noise makers to keep the kids curious and active.  Some of the babies in Melinda’s class could walk, all of them could crawl. My daughter squealed with delight as I put her down on the mats, running as fast as her eleven month old legs could take her across the room.   She clambered up the slide, crawled through the flexible tunnel and shook the maracas within an inch of their lives.

I wondered, as I looked around at the other mothers, what their stories were.  Were any of them feeling as alone and isolated as I did?  I knew I was spending too much time on the phone and the computer, trying to make up for the long stretches of solitude that came with taking care of my daughter and not working outside the home.  I tried to guess which women I would find kindred spirits by watching them as they raised the enormous parachute over their heads, creating a tent of sorts around us.  Not the one whose baby already knew the hand motions to “Itsy Bitsy Spider”; she looked too much like a parent overachiever.  But not the one who kept pulling her cell phone out of her pocket to check for missed calls either.  Definitely not the one who’d come here in her business suit and tucked her heels in the cubby next to all of our comfortable sneakers and loafers.

I watched as a little boy crawled away from his mother and ducked under the parachute to escape to the rest of the play gym outside.  The mother reddened, rolled her eyes as if to say ‘There he goes again, sorry…”, and followed him.  Melinda had done the same thing last week’s class.  We could hear her calling after him from inside the chute, and his babbles sounding further and further away.  We finished the parachute game, and the teacher brought out the large, stuffed clown to say goodbye to all of the children.  Tyler ran at full gallop to body slam the toy, half knocking the teacher down in the process. Yep, that was the one.

“Hi,” I said to his mother as we gathered our things.  “How old is your son?”    I felt like a shy girl in high school trying to approach a boy she liked.  A weird dance that opened with talking about your kids but ended the same, with the exchange of phone numbers and the promise of a get together “soon”.

It was a strange new world, this stay at home motherhood thing.

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