I remember going on preschool tours for my daughter and watching some parents jotting down notes and asking earnest questions about educational philosophy and why they should choose XYZ Brooklyn Private Preschool over other expensive and coveted XYZ Brooklyn Private Preschool. And the conversation then devolving into this: will there be people helping to wipe their kids’ asses when they go to the bathroom? Will the school provide wipes? Will the wipes be organic?
Meanwhile, my husband and I were cracking up at the three- and four-year-olds picking their boogers and wiping them on each other, and the banter that ensued between the kids as they did so. We kept looking around at all these tightly wound parents wondering why others weren’t smiling or seeming to not find this all a bit absurd and hilarious? How could people even focus on asking their boring and tedious questions while little Ascher was pouring glue all over little Ava’s gluten-free sunbutter sandwich?
I’m not engaged in a traditional mommy war, but sometimes I do feel like I am fighting a (one-sided) war with humorless mommies (and daddies). When it comes to parenting, you just can’t have enough of a sense of humor. There are way too many moments ripe for parody. And, frankly, if you can’t laugh at the ridiculousness of life with kids and the situations you end up finding yourself in, then you’re not someone I want to chat with at the sandbox.
I mean ugh, is there anything worse than trying to converse with a totally humorless parent? One who isn’t merely competitive or boring, but someone who just doesn’t get the banality and absurdity of it all? And, yet, these people are everywhere! I know life is all about context and about trying to give people the benefit of the doubt. And maybe these glum and dour folks are going through a divorce or illness and can’t fake it that day. I realize I should be more compassionate towards them – maybe they just don’t want to share a chuckle with me, the Random Mom Smiling in the Corner. But, honestly, having kids is too hard and too intense not try to find some levity.
Last weekend, a friend of mine organized a music festival with several bands, headlined by a lovely kiddie singer-songwriter who teaches classes around our parts. Rain happened, so the music fest moved indoors. Singer-songwriter sent email to large list of parents announcing venue change, in a lyrical, poetic and sweet verse. It actually rhymed and was as charming as musician’s public persona. Seconds later, singer-songwriter sent another email to same large list of parents, this one intended instead for members of his band, lamenting the change of venue and using the f word and a few other non-kid friendly intonations.
He must have realized instantly his mistake because moments later yet another sheepish email came in apologizing profusely. And then, on cue, email from outraged parent who demands to be taken off the email list. But who happened to REPLY ALL in order to publicly shame poor lovely singer/songwriter/teacher. Does this music teacher use that mouth with his students? How dare he! Do you know who I AM!? TAKE ME OFF THIS LIST! And then, of course, the lovers and protectors of singer-songwriter step in to his defense. People make mistakes! All along, all these people, replying all. Really funny stuff, but mostly because who on earth would be so humorless as to think a grown man who plays music for a living might curse in the presence of his band? How do these people make it though their days?
Life is totally ludicrous and terrifying random. Today I saw a very old friend who told me a bit awkwardly that he had lost his wife to leukemia two years ago. And another old friend got in touch recently and caught me up – he has completely lost his sight due to a rare disease. What do I feel in these moments of hearing of others’ extreme pain and loss? I just feel force of life, so scary, so painful, but also so overwhelmingly wonderful, just tearing at me. And I look at my kids, and all kids, and they are so pure and so alive and so freaking funny. So that’s how I cope and make it through the day. Whenever possible, I laugh.
(Photo: Noel Hendrickson)