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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Oh, Hey! There's a Person Under Here!

Preschool has been a shiny wonder of amazement in many ways. I'm only going to concentrate on one, and while it is connected to that incredible three-hour stretch of "free" time (ie: time I get to clean the house and work on my projects), it is not wholly that. I mean, having those three childless hours is a given euphoria.

No, what has surprised me the most about my gap of child-filled minutes is...me.

I'm here.

And you wouldn't think this would be a big deal to someone like me. Someone who continually screams to the universe about how important they are and how much they matter.

But it is.

Because I forgot. Even while telling everyone that I didn't forget. I forgot.

I forgot how to interact with people without deferring to my kids. I forgot how to look someone in the eye when they talk because I'm usually making sure no one is running into traffic. I forgot how to listen to all the words the other person is saying because I'm expecting an arm tug and an "excuse me, mama."

Moms wonder about why they have trouble making friends after they have kids, and while I'm sure it's all the other things we all say it is, maybe it's also because we can no longer make meaningful conversation with anyone in real time.

The other day at Starbucks, a woman said to me randomly, "How are you today? Nice day, isn't it?"

It took me a minute to respond. When was the last time someone in public said that to me? Probably four years and three months ago, to be honest. Because when you have kids, the conversation starters are: "Are they twins?" (in my case). "How old are they?" "They're so cute!" "What are they're names?"

The kids become mini us-delegates. And not that I mind being represented by a couple of four year olds, but now that I get to represent myself for a few hours a day, I realize, actually, I kind of do. Because they don't paint an accurate picture of me. And the frustration I feel due to that incomplete glance that someone else gets into my life prohibits me from trying to show them more. Because why bother? It will only end in "excuse me, mama" or worse, tears.

I forgot what being in public was like, when people are looking at you, and not your kids. In a way, having the kids as a buffer is great. No one sees you (mostly), so you don't have to act (if you're the acting sort). They only see your kids.

And there's no resentment there. I didn't even know it had happened until it stopped. It just is. Anytime I have gone out in the last four years, I have not existed. I mean, I was there, and I spoke, and I listened and I nodded, and they nodded. But I wasn't there.

The kids overshadowed me completely. I didn't mind, as I keep saying. It's quite odd now, to not have their little shadows to cling to. It had been kind of nice to deflect any attention we might get onto them. Because while people might judge adults, mostly the kids (if they're being good), garner only oohs and ahhs. I can live with that.

I have to add, getting out once every few weeks for an hour by myself didn't count. I still wasn't me. I may have been by myself, but my mind was on the kids. Missing them, wondering what they were doing, if they needed me, etc. I didn't see anyone else. If I was spoken to, it was just as if the kids were there because they were taking up space in my mind. The space they would have been taking up had they been physically present.

It's so amazing to think that I used to just walk around as a person all the time. As a me. Just, la la la, here I am, with no one to deflect attention onto, just doing my thing, like a me does. La la.

I'm happy to get a little bit of that back.

And you know what?

I'm equally happy not to have to do it all the time.

I'm getting to a good balance of mom and me, and four is a wonderful age.




 

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