The first time I went to a playground as a mother, I thought it would be a community parenting effort.
I believed that I would have a place where people were like me – watching out for all of the kids in the park, making sure that we were all safe and taken care of, preventing accidents with my watchful eye – and that my child would be on the radar of the other moms as well.
The idea of shared responsibility made me feel safe. Because I knew there were seconds in some minutes of the hours in a day when I was tired, overwhelmed, needing the support of that brief break from being vigilant.
I knew how easily things slip through in those moments.
It took me a while to understand why I assumed it would be this way.
I was the first of my close friends to have children. I had not experienced first hand what it was like to be a mother.
When I went to the park for the first time, I was sad and disappointed.
The space, which was designed to entice young couple first time homeowners looking to eventually have kids, was dirty.
There was a used condom in the sand.
I almost stepped on sharps, which I then had to pick up without pricking myself and put in the garbage.
Grateful that we had just gone to swing in the baby swing, I had no fear in taking the sole risk of getting cut by glass or a needle. Of having the sole responsibility of staying away from the used condom.
There were other kids there. I kept a hawk eye watch on all of them, believing that this would be a way to prove my trustworthiness and dedication to the other moms.
No mom at that park had a problem with my help. No mom at that park found it offensive that I gave out energy in keeping their child safe.
My gentle and loving, “hey, careful”s and encouraging “you’re doing a good job”s were appreciated.
Some moms wanted the space to breathe and check messages. Some just wanted to look at the back covers of a book long enough to imagine what it would be like to read again. Others were busy with siblings.
But no mom offered the same type of support to me. No mom reflected my vibe.
The closest I came to finding a mom at that park who understood me was a mom who wanted to be friends.
She wanted to cut through the loneliness and sometime isolation of being a mom.
This woman approached with a tenderness that disarmed me. And in that moment, after months of drought in the trenches alone, I almost fell to my knees in gratitude.
But I quickly righted my buckling knees to keep my stance.
She wanted to exchange cupcake recipes.
I don’t bake.
The idea of baking terrified me. It brought up these unsettling dental tool pricks in my heart that I didn’t understand.
The fact that I didn’t understand these odd terrors made me feel almost more uncomfortable than the sensation of hooked steel tugging on the walls of my aorta.
I backed away slowly with excuses of needing to be somewhere extra momly.
I collected the stuffies and sippy cups and teething rings. I double checked my child’s stroller straps, tucked a blanket around her, and then headed back to my EconoPracticala model tract house.