February 20, 2010

Multiple Personalities Disordered

I'll tell you what's bewildering. The prospect of The Playdate.

The girls and I had an impromptu lunch date with a young mother from the homeschooling group today. We met by chance. We're probably a good 10+ years apart in age, but it was a good match, because we both have 7-year-old daughters.

It was fun. But I admit, a part of me needed to pat the ground beneath me every now and then to assure myself I was alive and awake and not trapped in some weird dream or perhaps reliving a day I'd forgotten in my early adulthood.

Sitting there chatting and munching on waffle fries, I suddenly had the impulse to ask questions I might've asked when I was pregnant with Kid #1, before I knew what being a parent was like. before I actually took on the responsibility of a baby and all I had to go on were speculations and information I got from books and other experienced moms. I longed to ask this young mother for advice. And that stunned me.

I don't consciously feel uneducated or uninitiated about parenting young children. I have memories of what it was like. Like riding a bike. (?)

But still. A very important aspect of my personality has forgotten myself in that role.

At risk of coming across as too self-congratulatory...my circle of confidantes and touchstones have been older moms who have long grown out of predominantly "discovery" parenting and have been enjoying "exploratory" parenting, "revision" parenting, and "hands-off guidance" parenting for kids who have one foot in adulthood. Topics of conversation have been college admissions and work permits and matters of adolescent maturation. Not baby care or early childhood enrichment or teething or...playdates.

For the first time since I was a teenager, I felt like a Poseur. A wanna-be. Someone who postures herself as seasoned and knowledgeable about a scene, but is clueless and useless for all practical purposes. Why? Because I've forgotten.

But forgetting is not gonna fly. I'm going to talk to more young moms and go on more playdates, because it will not only be relevant, but encompassing -- like a social Venn Diagram. And therein lies the conflict.

'Ailina is picking up a hat she shelved years ago, and she's scared to death it doesn't fit her anymore. But even if it doesn't -- even if it looks ridiculous or doesn't match with anything in her closet, or even if it gives her a headache sometimes because the band is too tight -- she's going to wear it, under the hat she already wears every day, or over it. Whichever won't get her arrested by the Loony Police.

So this adds yet another layer to this identity of mine I so struggle to define. Not that I need a square hole or round hole or whatever to fit in. What I need is orientation. I need self-awareness. I need a sense of proportion.

I don't foresee any danger in the unknown here. I know whatever doubts I may assume or whatever false steps I may take along the way, they're purely par for the course of experience. Old tricks and new tricks all rolled into one. It's okay. I'll be okay.

I'm just making a mental note of the psychological and social adjustments I'm going to have to make along this leg of the journey. I know it's not going to be easy. I know my questions will multiply and turn in on me. I know I'm going to have to beat back the adversaries of my own mind. I know I can do it.

I just really, really wonder what I'll look and feel like when the transition is made, what kind of person I'll be then. Who will I be next year?

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