Today’s post is courtesy of Julie Morris-Teets, the mother of a toddler who is currently running the asylum. She has a background in School Psychology, which has provided zero help with parenting but has given said toddler a bookshelf full of material to destroy.
If you stay at home long enough with a young kid, you’re going to get sucked into the Community Event scene. It’s nearly impossible not to. It’s kind of like the inevitability of daytime television addiction when you’re at home with a newborn. You can try to resist it, but Judge Judy will find you on your couch and then it’s just a matter of time before you have a garage full of crap from the Home Shopping Network.
So I hear.
Anyway, when I say “Community Events,” I mean those free, week-day activities put on by the city, the public library system, religious cults, etc. They usually take place mid-morning and provide entertainment to a bevy of toddlers while the moms and the occasional weird dad with a beard socialize.
I’m not a fixture at Community Events, per se, but I dabble in the scene enough to appreciate their value. Typically, the crowd consists of like-minded moms: a little unkempt, acutely aware of the absurdity of little children, and focused on one chief mission in life – wearing out a child out so he/she takes a nap.
But there is another group of moms out there who occasionally infiltrate this judgement-free bubble. They are lurking on the fringe of the Community Event scene and they are waiting for you.
Today, they got me.
I woke up feeling homicidal, so it was an ideal day to look on the city website for a Community Event to attend. The first thing that came up was a play group at a park that involved bubbles (!), a ball pit (!), chalk and crayons (!), and snacks (!). Jackpot. The last line of the event’s description noted a “Stroller Strides” demo that would occur for the first 30 minutes. I had no idea what this meant, but I pictured a middle-aged woman performing Cirque du Soleil acts with a Britax.
I packed up the Honda Civic and we were off.
We got to the park and joined a buzzing swarm of moms and strollers. Oh, I thought, looking around at all the strollers, I guess participation is encouraged. All of the other strollers seemed pretty fancy – very sleek-looking, with a single front wheel. One mom was loudly lamenting the lack of amenities on her double stroller: “For $600, I expect a cup holder. I mean, really!”
I looked down at our bargain-bin Toys R Us stroller. I think it was $40, on sale. Something had happened to its covering long ago, probably due to our poor storage habits or tendency to shove it in the trunk, and now the top kind of slanted to one side.
I was busy trying to remember how it broke when the workout began. By “workout,” I mean Olympic trial. There was running. There were lunges. There were jumping jacks – which were particularly absurd for me, being 30 weeks pregnant. My pregnant self had been looking forward to a lady dancing around with a stroller and maybe some sparklers while I sat on my duff and watched. I hadn’t planned to be lapped by fitness-model-moms while the fetus within me yelled, “What the hell is this rapid movement?! And why aren’t we watching Judge Judy?”
I was too proud (and, frankly, too out of shape) to make a run for the parking lot, so I tried my best to participate and pretend like I belonged. I kept my eye on the prize: bubbles and a nap. I pushed past my profuse sweating and the rude commentary streaming from my stroller (“I WANT A SNACK! IS THIS OVER YET? YOU LOOK FUNNY, MOMMY!”).
Against all odds I completed the class. For doing so I kind of expected a diploma or to be awarded a vintage American Gladiator spandex leotard. Instead, I settled for what turned out to be a pretty lame display of Dollar Store bubbles, chalk, and freeze-dried vegetables that my daughter later threw all over our car like stiff, green confetti.
Once home, I looked back at the city website and determined that I had, indeed, been misled. Nowhere did the advertisement mention the prerequisite of physical fitness or the need for anything other than the type of hooptie stroller I owned.
Community Events, my long-time haven, had betrayed me.
See, when you don’t have a traditional job to show up at each day, it can be hard to find a place to belong. Community Events are supposed to be that place – a water cooler for stay-at-home-moms. If you take the judgment-free Community Event scene away from me, I am just an island – an island run by a two-foot-tall dictator. I need a place where I can go at 10am on a Tuesday and feel okay about being frumpy and lazy and perpetually available at 10am on a Tuesday.
In spite of it all, I’ll be back. Oh, I will be back. But the next event I attend will be preceded by several slow drive-bys and perhaps the use of binoculars.