I’m always fascinated by seeing myself from the outside. I don’t much care what other people think of me, but I’d love to know how they’d describe me. I’ve asked my husband a few times, “How would you describe me to someone who’d never met me?” (He’s always responded with a helpless “I don’t know!”) Last night, I suddenly gained the tiniest glimpse into how other people see me.
We were at a church activity. There was a girl there that I’ve always thought seemed really nice, if a little shy. Although I knew just about everyone there, and we all live in the same neighborhood, none of my “regular” friends were there, so I couldn’t slip into my comfort zone. I decided to approach this girl, since she and her husband were sitting alone and I was alone as Hayden and Ryan ran off to play with the other kids in the park.
Luckily, we had a very obvious conversation starter—she is 8 1/2 months pregnant. Aside from the fact that she is a very cute and nice girl, being a mom, I feel drawn to soon-to-be mothers. (It’s a good thing this wasn’t happening about this time last year, when I would have probably hissed something like, “RUN WHILE YOU STILL CAN!” or said something more sage like, “Make every night a date night while you still can.”)
So I plopped myself down on the table next to them and struck up a conversation. My favorite way to do this is to verify their names, even though with my position at my church I already know everyone’s names—well, all of the ladies’ names, at least. It never hurts to double check, and it makes it easy for me to introduce myself and reduce their discomfort at not knowing my name.
What do you say to someone so close to the beginning? I’m sure she realizes this is only the beginning, even though it feels like it should be the end.
I didn’t impart any sage words to her. I just chatted with her. I asked about the name they’d picked out and where they found it, how they met, what she did, what he did. While her pregnancy and impending parenthood was a large part of the conversation, I realize now that I did focus on her quite a bit (her husband soon wandered off to play with the kids)—which might be nice. Might be the last time in a long time.
Oh, that glimpse thing, right. As we started talking, she commented on how cute Hayden was. He had been running around the pavilion, enjoying everything immensely, emphatically intoning his jibberish (which he would direct to my new friend a few times during our conversation, and even slap her knee for emphasis), squealing at other children or dogs in the park, riding in a neighbor’s wagon, and playing with all of the teenage boys of babysitting age.
She asked how old he was. As I told her, for a split second, I could see our scene as if from far away. I was one of those people I’d always thought had it all together—a young mom who was pretty, active in church, outgoing (or at least friendly), but not so uptight that she had to hover over her toddler every minute. She was a good mom and she was still her own person—but being a mother defined in large part who she was. Even though you knew her as a person, you often (or always) thought of her in conjunction with her child(ren). To me, these were the women with six month olds who brought me sumptuous dinners that lasted two, three or four nights after Hayden was born and was flat on my back for a week.
I suddenly understand why my neighbors thought I was taking motherhood in stride when Hayden was born (while I was dying!).
I think everyone, at some point, sees another woman while she’s out in public—dressed, well-coifed, at peace with the world, social and with child in tow—and thinks, “Man, she’s really got it all together.”
Guess what, my new friend? I don’t. But I’m slowly getting my act together.