Monday, May 08, 2006

On a park bench

As I raced through town to get C to preschool at a somewhat respectable hour this morning, I passed by several moms sitting on park benches, alone, staring into Snap-and-Go's with a look I remember all so well. The "Oh my God, what am I supposed to do with you all day," look. I so remember sitting on a similar park bench in a different city with that same look on my face, envying the moms barreling along with a preschooler and baby in tow. "THOSE women have places to go, people to chat with, things to fill their day. I can't wait until I get to THAT stage," I would whine to myself.

I am now one of the parents I envied four years ago. C has three mornings of preschool, one afternoon of swimming, one morning of gymnastics, and one morning of soccer (can you tell we're into sports here at Chez J-E?). And having activities to structure a day around wasn't the cure-all I thought it would be. In fact, I often wonder whether the stress of trying to get the kids to school and various activities looking somewhat presentable and somewhat on time is really worth the trouble. As after spending 45 minutes convincing C that one cannot wear pajamas to preschool and A that swimsuits are only to be worn in the water, and after searching for missing shoes and collecting the various equipment required for the day's activity, I'm exhausted and ready for a nice nap.

But four years ago, as I sat on the park bench, friendless and bored silly staring into the Snap-n Go, I thought that I would meet lots of interesting people and have lots of stimulating conversations at all of the enriching activities in which we would someday be enrolled. Instead, I discovered that everyone is in a rush to get an errand done, grab a moment of silence, or tend to the needs of a younger sibling. So while there is some idle chit chat while waiting for your child to emerge from the pool or classroom, activities are not the instant parent-bonding mecca I once thought they would be when C was a baby.

But although the hustle and bustle of life with a toddler and preschooler is not quite what I imagined while sitting on that park bench, there are many things that I didn't realize four years ago that I wish I had stopped to share with those moms. Like the fact that in just a few short months they will get a smile, then a laugh, then a hug and kiss from the dozing blob they are staring at. I wish I had told them that those smiles and giggles will go a long way towards making the long days seem shorter. And not only because they will spend hours trying to figure out the exact combination of funny faces, funny voices, and silly outfits that might garner that smile, laugh, and kiss.

I wish I had stopped to tell them that really, they should really keep a book or a copy of the New York Times under that Snap-and Go like my friend Karen, who would stop and sit on the nearest object resembling a seat the instant her baby fell asleep and start reading. Because a year from now, they'll never quite be able to find the time to read.

I wish I had pointed out that if they just got up the nerve to walk two benches over and introduce themselves to the other new parent sitting there, they might just find the first of a string of mommy friends. But most of all, I wish I had told them that in four years, they would be racing around looking at the new parents wondering where the time went.