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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

when your child is "that child"

the process of locating friends for my child is something i've avoided far too long. we moved across the country when my daughter was only one and was still too young for "friends." in my graduate program there are very, very few students with children, and none with children her age- so meeting people "at work" has been an impossibility. since andrew works from home, he's even less likely to meet parents of preschoolers than i am. we live in a childless bubble, minus our own children of course. consequently, ruby's three years old and friendless.

till now.

two weeks ago, ruby and i took the baby out in the stroller. it was a sunday, but since we had missed the mail the day before we headed to the mailbox. another mommy with a stroller and a preschooler was there, too (a testament, i guess, to the fact that mommies of small children have no time for menial tasks like checking the mail on time). we stopped and chatted for a bit-- her daughter and mine are only two weeks apart in age. eureka! a friend for ruby! and she only lived a building away. the two girls played while we mommies chatted, feeling each other out to see if our children would be a match. we exchanged numbers and tentatively planned to meet up again for a playdate-- after all, our children seemed to be hitting it off.

but as soon as we told our children it was time to head home for dinner, the unthinkable happened: ruby had a meltdown. apparently she was having a bit too much fun playing, and didn't want to go home--- so she did the logical thing and threw herself on the grass, screaming. i just stood there in shock. sure, ruby isn't perfect, but didn't she KNOW she was supposed to impress this new friend's mommy with her good behavior so they'd want to play again? i was dumbstruck. to make matters worse, her new friend spied her bad behavior and decided to follow suit, throwing herself down in a mock fit as well. dumbstruck turned to mortified-- i sputtered something about "i swear she's a good kid..." and we parted ways.

i didn't expect a call for a playdate. obviously, my daughter is that kid, the one other parents avoid for fear of contaminating their own little ones. but the next day i got a text from my new mommy friend, and eventually we were able to coordinate and set up a playdate at my apartment. and happily, the playdate went great. the girls had a great time playing and the mommy was easy-going and friendly. i was hopeful for a second date. but just before parting time, the mommy went into the dining room where the girls had been playing and i heard a small, surprised "gasp!"

ink. on the walls. big, loopy circles and one small, smug happy face drawn in black over white paint. two nervous, startled three year old girls with pens in hand, looking up from their crime. and two nervous, startled moms not sure what to do next. this time we were both apologizing, swearing our children had never done anything like that before, not sure if we should laugh or yell or cry. after profuse apologies on both sides, they hurried off, and i just stood there. i took a picture. then i put ruby in timeout and wondered if i'd ever hear from them again.

that was just a few days ago, so who knows if there will be a second date. who knows which child started it-- ruby says it was the other girl, but wouldn't you say that if you were ruby? and ruby really hasn't ever done anything like that before, but she's also never been left alone with another three year old- so who knows what she might do if given the chance. now i'm left wondering if my child really is that child. maybe i should have gotten started on the friend thing sooner. for both of our sakes.

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