I met a conservative Christian mom on the playground (and I liked her).
As a mother it’s amazing how quickly and violently you are thrown back into playground politics. “Mom, Susie that we don’t know ripped the doll I couldn’t live without bringing from home out of my hands,” and “Mom, if that kid’s mom lets him take his shoes off in a public place with rust spots and not worry about the presence of hypodermic needles or tetanus WHY CAN’T I?” These are things, in maybe less detail or proper English, that you have to roll with as they come up. Recently my favorite was when a three year old girl ran up to us at the grocery store shouting my two year old’s name. I didn’t know this girl and assumed they had met at the weekly library class my daughter’s aunt takes her to, the one we enrolled her in because she really needs practice being social. I was wrong. They’d met once on the playground and apparently bonded. Their shouts of, “I remember you!” were adorable. That was until the girl asked me if we had a dog at home. “Nope, no puppies,” I said in my mom/teacher voice. “Do you?” I asked, trying to model good conversation skills to my daughter who was on the verge of not having it anymore with this encounter. “No I have two kitties at home,” she said and quickly followed with, “If you don’t have pets why does she smell like a dog?” Hahaha. I laughed. Inside I thought where the hell is your mother? She was standing at the end of the aisle, not able to hear a word of what was being said. She probably would have wanted to hide under a rock after that gem (been there mama, no worries). However, once we were out of sight I definitely bent over and took a long whiff of my kiddo that had been bathed the night before. She smelled like vanilla cupcake lotion, the only one she allows me to put on her, if you’re wondering. Not a hint of slobber smell or eau d’ recently took a poo outside on her.
Remember how I said she needs to work on her social interaction? Totally gets that from me. There have been times I’ve seen a mom start to approach me while my girls play on the playground and I’ve intentionally started to dig in my baby bag or whip out my keys. It’s not them. It’s me. I’m not a talker. I hate answering questions like, “How old is she?” or “Have you tried this great organic nonfat milk substitute? I bet your girls would love it!” Worse is the, “How cute! What are their names?” and the following, “oh those are…unique…” Know what’s not unique? This conversation! Like I haven’t heard that before! And then, before those words are ever out, there’s me mentally reminding myself whoa that escalated quickly. I’m awkward. I know and admit it freely.
But the other day as my kiddos were romping around the playground and being reminded to be careful and take turns I heard another mom gently redirecting her children. We had nothing apparently in common (she had several little ones, was dressed very noticeably modestly, and seemed to have a stress level of zero even though her kids were flopping around like everyone else’s) except that we were both speaking to our children in a non-English language. I was talking to my children in Thai, the language they can easily pick out as mine when in a play group. She was speaking to her children in what I would later find out was Russian.
She asked me about it, the use of this second language. I told her that my dad was an immigrant and a huge influence in my life. Speaking his native language was my way to bridge the generational gap between the life he knew growing up and the life my littles are being raised to. She repeated the same thoughts, saying that she used Russian at home almost exclusively but at church and in public she tried to help them practice their English. Her parents, she said, would always speak Russian as their first and only language.
“Your dad, he seems to mean a lot to you and your girls,” she observed. “Yes,” I said, “he went through a lot to get here.” “I know what that’s like,” she said calmly. “We remember the Soviet Union.” Instant bond.
She went on to tell me, without judgement on either sides, that she and her husband didn’t practice birth control because of their strong faith. They felt blessed to have whatever children were sent their way. Patience, she said, was learned. God never gave her more than she could handle.
I told her that my two girls were the only children that we would ever have, that we were happily complete in the size of our family and in having them and careers both. I told her that I honestly thought I’d never have children because I wanted to travel and to see where my job took me. Even though I had changed my mind about being a mommy, I hadn’t changed my mind about the other things. I want to have it all.
She smiled at me. “Good for you,” she said. I felt like she meant it.
When we left and said goodbye to our interesting new acquaintances I turned to her and said, “I hope we see you guys again.” I meant it, too.