Moms Who Need Friends

It's beautiful here today, sunny and unseasonably warm. I took the boys to the park.

Another mom and her two boys were there. We said hi, then performed the requisite exchange of our boys' ages and names. Hers were 3 years and 16 months. As soon as I told her Simon was also three, she said, "Has he started with the backtalk and the terrible sassy mouth?"

This is my all-time, number-one pet peeve exhibited by parents: talking shit about your kids in front of your kids, as if they aren't standing right there.

One of Simon's preschool classmates has a mother who does this chronically. I only see her and her son for about 5 minutes every Tuesday and Thursday, yet here are the things I know about her kid: he's a bad sleeper, he refuses to participate in school activities, and he is picky about the clothes he will wear. She says all of this right in front of him, to anyone in earshot who will uncomfortably pretend to listen to her. It drives me crazy.

When I realized she was divorced, I decided I should cut her some slack. A single mom, no partner to talk to, possibly no time to spend with friends. These are the situations in which you bitch about your kids. With your partner after they are in bed, with your girlfriends when the kids are watching a loud TV in the next room. When a kid is around, the only things you should be saying about them are glowingly positive, nothing that could be construed as even bordering on criticism.

I'm a pretty live-and-let-live kind of person and parent. You won't often hear me say that someone's parenting tactics are wrong, but about this I will say it: Letting your kids hear you put them down in front of other people is THE WRONG THING TO DO. It's sloppy and irresponsible parenting, it's absolutely emotionally damaging to children. If there were classes required to become a parent, this would be up there on the course outline, right after "Feed, Bathe, Clothe," it would say, "Emotionally protect your children: don't talk bad about them while they're around. Refusal to comply will result in the swift revocation of your license." I'm certainly not saying that parents don't have a right to complain about their children's less-than-charming qualities. You need talk about it, definitely. I'm just saying, proper time, proper place. Come on, people. Find a confidant for this kind of stuff, otherwise you end up blurting it out to strangers at the playground.

Clearly, my interaction with this woman started off on a bad note. The first thing I thought about her was, "Good god, she must not have any friends. She's so desperately eager to talk about the problems she's having with her kid." We kept talking, as we were the only ones at the small park. I told her we've just moved and that it's a big change from Chicago. She said they moved about a year ago, from Colorado. She didn't like it at first, but now the mall is much better than it used to be. Also, Champaign's mall is really good, so that helps.

Okay, so, I don't know if you caught that. She made a direct connection between the quality of life in a certain town and the quality of said town's MALL. Strike 2 against this lady.

Before we left she asked if we could exchange names and numbers. She also invited me to ---What else?--- the mother's group at her evangelical megachurch. Goody.

Yesterday I read a post on Cassie's blog complete with pictures of people hanging out at Colin and Brian's new apartment, which I think is right around the corner from our old place. I saw our friends sitting on a couch and I cried for 10 minutes. I miss having friends. Additionally, I feel enormous regret for not having spent enough time with our friends when they were nearby. At the time, it felt impossibly hard to make time for potlucks, dinners, trips across town. We were happy to see friends once in a while, but in retrospect, and in a friend-less town, I feel it wasn't nearly often enough.

Here's the detailed skinny on the friend situation here. We have a couple of friends in Peoria, which is about a 40 minute drive from here. With two kids to get back home by bedtime, that seems pretty far. Still, I have hope that we'll make an effort to see these people sometime. Soon, please. Here in Bloomington, we have no friends and no leads so far. Neither Nate nor I excel at the art of acquiring friends. Both a little shy, both struggling with bouts of awkwardness, it doesn't come easy. With a few exceptions, all our friends in Chicago were friends from high school or college, places I now see were teeming with potential friends, compared to the barren wasteland of friendships-forged that is adult life.

This lady at the park today was offering friendship, or least a trial period before official friendship. She extended herself to me, offering me personal information and phone number. Will I accept her offer? Let's just say, I'm not imagining many happy hours of playdates. In fact, I'm racking my brain for how to turn her down when she calls to invite me to her megachurch. Am I being too picky? Too judgemental? In my situation, shouldn't I be more open to the friendly advances of another woman?

I don't know. Maybe I'm missing a golden opportunity here. But, seriously, malls and moms' groups? Doesn't sound one bit like my scene.

What I need to know is how to meet some young, hip individuals who are smart, politically aware, up on their celebrity gossip, quick with some witty banter, enjoy a good potluck or picnic, and are up for Trivial Pursuit or Scrabble, or an arty movie. Some should be married, some single, most should not have kids (so they can babysit for us), but a few should have kids close in age to ours (so we can feel some camaraderie). So, basically, I want an exact clone of the group of friends we left. You know, the ones I miss terribly and didn't spend enough time with while I had the chance.

Fuck it. I don't want clones. I want the real deal. I want to go home. I want to see all my friends tonight.


Oliver said...

Oh Laura, I feel your pain.

We're planning a trip your direction in Feb, I believe. If you'll have us, we'd love to visit. We can play Scrabble, indulge in some witty celebrity-based banter, big up that politician guy from IL whose namesounds like a terrorist and dictator in one, and then fall asleep in front of an arty movie.

Megan said...

Man, I can relate. I had a similar reaction to Cassie's post. I miss having a Group, too. Also, when I worked odd hours and far away from the city I felt like hangouts were a hassle. Now I'd spend 7 hours on the plane just to hang out for one night.

I don't think you're being too picky with that mom. An empty friendship makes you feel worse than none at all. That being said, sometimes you find friendships in off beat places. Perhaps not with the megachurch mamma, but someone outside of your current interests or age group.

The Tricyclist said...

Oli, we'll be looking for you in February, or whenever you are able to make it. Our door is ALWAYS open to you guys.

I know you are right about finding friends in unexpected places, Megan. Already I have become friendly with a mom down the street who is Mexican and almost 20 years my senior. She is not the kind of friend who would ever hang out at our place on an evening, but, still, she is a friend who I actually like. I'm going to keep your comment about empty friendships in mind from here on out.

Angela said...

Laura - Everyone loves your blog because you present real feelings and thoughts. I'm sorry you feel lonely, but I think you're doing the best you can and I hope you know how much your blog-ring of friends appreciates that you share your ponderings and developments with them. It may not be a night on the couch together, but for now, it's what we gots. Looking forward to future travels in your direction....

Colin Hughes Taylor said...

I miss you guys too. Like, so much, much more than I thought I would. I don't know if it's the fact that we're closer than we woulda been to where you woulda been, or just that our few hours in Urbana made me realize how much I think I've missed out on my two little pseudo-nephews, but I miss your family so, so much.
Is it the Christmas season that makes it so much clearer? Could be. But regardless, when the Seeleys come down, I'm right there with 'em.
Because what matters in life except the folks you love, yeah?

The Tricyclist said...

February is suddenly shining very brightly in my future. Can't wait to see you all.

MJ Watson said...

I can entirely relate. Not because of the massive group of friends I have, but because the majority of those I do have live abroad. And being a parent can be isolating in and of itself, even when friends live right next door--it is even harder when they're hours away. Just know you are not alone, and you are very much loved no matter how far away your friends are. (Oh, and just be ready--me and my brood are headed your direction just as soon as this craziness dies down!)