Twice a week, I get two hours without Ursa Major. One baby is much easier to handle than two. I have been trying to use my time wisely and efficiently, recognizing that preschool time is a golden and short period. Thursday has become grocery store day. Ursa Minor loves pointing out items that he recognizes, I like labeling the items that I put in the cart, and I like humming along to the music that is playing and getting “you are totally crazy, lady” looks from everyone else in the store. It is a bit of a squeeze because I am super picky about where I shop so I drive a few towns over to get to the store–so by the time I get there, shop, load up the car, unload everything and put away at least the cold stuff, it’s time to turn around and get Ursa Major.
But I’m only going grocery shopping one day a week… so that leaves Tuesdays with nothing to fill the time. For the last few weeks, I’ve been trying to fill it with email or chores. No go–Ursa Minor is very distracting. I found myself managing him and not accomplishing anything. This week, I decided that I needed to find something to enrich him during that time, too. Why should Ursa Major be the one learning during that time period?
I decided that we’d have a little adventure yesterday. I thought we’d drop in for story time at the local Barefoot Books after going to the park to run around a little bit. First, we visited the local slow-rise bakery.I wanted some breakfast and coffee and I’ve heard all of these amazing things about it. It was certainly a cozy and the service was very warm and helpful, but I found the food to be a bit over-hyped. My pumpkin-spiced latte gave me the jolt that I needed, though, and I was excited about sipping it and eating my breakfast sandwich while Ursa Minor went off to play.
When we pulled up to the park, there was only one other family on the playground. It was pretty early, so I wasn’t surprised. I was, however, elated, because I am really starting to hate going to the playground and giving insincere smiles to the other moms and exchanging empty pleasantries. I figured that this would be perfect–Ursa Minor would sit in the sandbox and play, I would sit at a picnic table with my breakfast and my journal, we’d hang out for an hour and then head off to storytime.
Now, I had assumed that Ursa Minor would absolutely love having a little bit of time to himself. No big brother to steal his toys. No other kids running him over on their way to other things. He never gets to play independently, and here was his chance! He tentatively went to the sandbox and moved around a truck while the other family packed up and left. Even better! I munched on my under-cooked and under-seasoned homefries and broke out my journal. Next thing I know, I hear Ursa Minor crying.
What’s the problem? What could possibly be the problem??
He comes walking up to me with the truck he was playing with, demanding up. Augh, really? I’m eating, I’m writing. Be cool.
Up! He demands.
Fine. I picked him up and put him in my lap. He had no interest in my food, he just wanted to be near me. Fine, but now I can’t really compose, so I’m sitting there bouncing him on my knee, listening to the birds sing, enjoying the mid-morning sun, and munching on my also under-seasoned breakfast sandwich.
About 5 minutes later, a woman and a 3 year-old come to the playground. We adults exchange waves and the little boy looks at me like I have three heads. Suddenly, Ursa Minor is wriggling to get free. Down! Down! He commands of me. I release him, confused.
Ursa Minor first approaches the woman, who has by now sat down at the edge of the sandbox, ready to take out her smartphone.
The little boy who came with her doesn’t like that. He also approaches the woman in a defensive way. The woman smiles, “He won’t take me away from you, I promise.”
Ursa Minor picks up an acorn and offers it to her. She accepts and labels it. He’s very pleased. He then finds another one, picks it up, and offers it to the boy. The boy looks at my son as if he has four heads.
Undaunted, Ursa Minor tries to play with the older toddler over and over again, with little success. A few other children show up to the playground, and he approaches each one of them to play as well. He doesn’t have much success, but he is so happy with these little interactions. As other children settle in for their various forms of play, he tries to join in. Most of them are unhappy with his presence/interference, others completely ignore him. Yet he is tenacious. He is a kid who likes to play with others.
I am having such a hard time adjusting here. I haven’t found my place and I don’t even feel like I have leads for finding a place here. I know that it hasn’t been that long and I know that I’ve been distracted, but the fact of the matter is that I feel isolated and I don’t know how to fix it. I thought that meeting other moms at school would make me feel better, but while I’m having a great time with Ursa Major’s teachers and getting sincere “good morning” greetings from other moms dropping off their kids, I’m not feeling much of a connection. I think that this place is breathtaking. I think that this place is special. I know that this is the perfect place to raise my sons. But I don’t know if it’s the perfect place for me.
But Ursa Minor just keeps trying. Ursa Minor knows, at least, that he wants to play with others. Ursa Minor didn’t have a place yesterday, but he wasn’t going to stop until he found one.
It would be easy for me to withdraw. It would be so easy to just drop Ursa Major off and pick him up with little conversation with other moms. It would be easy to just be lonely. I am trying to embrace the challenge of finding a place. First, by being patient and understand that I can’t be queen of town in a day (not that I want that…) and second by continuing to try.
So when I ran into one of the other moms after picking up Ursa Minor, I decided to try harder. We watched the kids play in the fallen beautiful leaves while we talked about gyms and cycling classes. I have less than no interest in gyms and cycling classes. But at least it was 20 minutes of back and forth. A little less shallow than it has been.
Do I feel significantly better? No, not really. Did I take a step forward? Yes. That’s what really matters. I’m the only person who can prevent me from slipping into a lonely state of mind. I’m the only person who can make myself some friends. I’m the only person who can establish myself in town. If I want to get, i have to give. Giving, though, is hard. It isn’t something I do easily. Actually, it is something I rarely do at all (this blog being a notable exception, though there is still quite a lot I don’t share here).
Watching my son learn how to make friends reminds me that making friends is work. It isn’t so natural as one would think. Relationships aren’t something that you easily sink into, and when you start them, you must nourish and maintain them–something I’m also very bad at. The more I think about this and type, the more I’m wondering if I’m just weird and obtuse. I, actually, might just suck. That’s totally possible, actually. Maybe I’m overthinking this? I’ve been known to do that, too… Either way, I have to ask myself: Am I brave enough to keep giving and trying? Am I brave enough to be rejected/ignored, learn, grow, and eventually make a connection? Am I as tenacious as my youngest son?
There are other things to write about–like the house. Actually, not really. House Purgatory is an endless abyss full of anxiety. There are, at this point, way too many cooks in this kitchen. Emails volley between myself, my husband, my realtor, my banker, my lawyer and my contractor like cannonballs between armadas. We’re now learning that we may not have to replace the windows, but the solution for bringing the windows up to code is still expensive. So expensive that I won’t be able to create a particularly functional kitchen for a while. We’d originally planned on knocking down a wall and creating a massive and functional island in the kitchen. It was going to be fabulous–big enough for prep space but also big enough that the boys could someday do homework there while I cooked dinner, and eat there for informal meals. It was going to be the heart of my home. There were going to be so many other things about the house that were going to be less than ideal, but at least functional…but my kitchen…that kitchen, was going to be the strong and finished hearth. My sanctuary. And now it’s gone, a pipe dream…
There is a whole-school parent meeting tonight. Another opportunity to try to make meaningful connections. While I’ve been up since 5:30 and I’m nervous, I’m committed to putting my best foot forward. Tomorrow, I’m parent-helper again, so I get a little bit of extra special time with Ursa Major. Friday, I’m celebrating a wedding anniversary. I found a perfect gift. I’ll share more next post.