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  • He Speaks

    December 9, 2010

    AD and I think it is important for Sean to learn how to stand up and speak in front of others with confidence so that he might grow into a man who can influence others for good, so that he will have the tools to articulate his ideas, dreams and visions with clarity and confidence.  No matter where his life’s journey leads, we think this is a valuable life skill that requires practice more than anything else, and that it’s never too soon to start.

    Since Sean was about three, we have had what we call Family Fun Night or what non-geek families would likely term as misery.  We start off by reading a Bible story, then we talk about it a little bit and then we take about 15 minutes for each person to draw a picture of what they got out of the story, what they thought the story was about or whatever they found in the story that inspired their artistic spirit in some way.  Then each person has to present their work to the others.  And by presenting, I mean you are required to stand up in front of the group, identify yourself and then talk about your work.  (You should know, being a guest in our home requires you to participate in FFN.)  I have gathered these tiny works of art into a collection and it has been fun to look back upon them and see Sean’s artistic and conceptual growth.  And I have to say, when I look at his art, I am awed; I have a glimmer of clarity about what Jesus meant when he said that we are to be like little children.

    Having said all that, we are always looking for opportunities for Sean to practice speaking in front of groups larger than our small tribe or other friendly folk who might be at our house.  So the other day I arranged for him to read Snowmen at Night to the kindergarten class at his former school.  We had him practice a few times, coached him to make eye contact and to speak slowly, loudly and with expression.  And he did a great job. So if you are looking for a speaker, contact me and I’ll put you in touch with his agent.

    As we were driving to take him back to his school, we passed a nursing home.  On a whim, AD whipped into the parking lot.  “Let’s go in here and see if they need a reader!” he said.  “I’ll bet they would love to have a little boy read to them!”  So we did and they did and Sean did.  The activities director was delighted to see us and gathered up a few of the residents in the dining hall to hear Sean read.  He stood in front of the small group, told them his name, the book he was going to read and who wrote it.  Then he sat down and began reading the book with joyful expression, taking care to show the pictures.  And those who were not borderline comatose were thrilled.  And those who were comatose, well, I know they were thrilled in their hearts even though they could not express it.

    At one point, one gentleman got into a coughing fit and I became slightly alarmed and concerned that he was going to code out right there in the dining room and what a bummer it would be if on your first public speaking engagement someone DIED.  But Sean did not miss a beat and kept reading.  When he finished he thanked them for their attention.  They clapped and said what a good boy he was and my heart swelled with humility that God would bless stupid old me with such a marvelous little boy.  Grace is the only explanation for that.

    When we left the nursing home, Sean was enjoying the speaker’s high.  He had done well and people liked him and he was energized by the experience. “I’d like to do that again!” he said.

    We returned Sean to school about two hours beyond tardy so I checked him into the office.  The office lady asked me if he had a doctor’s appointment and for a split second I was tempted to lie and say yes so that I wouldn’t have to deal with the impending disapproval, but Sean was standing right there, so I told her the truth:  He had a speaking engagement.  “Well, you know he’ll be marked tardy, don’t you?” she said.  And I said, “Oh. I see. You think I care.”  No I didn’t say that because how snotty would that be?  No, I said I did not really care about tardy marks, I only care that he is learning and that we felt what he was doing today in the community was important.  In retrospect, ‘yes ma’am’ would have been sufficient.

    I understand the school’s view that punctual attendance is important, but important things are also learned outside of the classroom.


    Flailing Not Failing

    December 23, 2009

    Sean was born six weeks early and spent the first week of his life in the NICU.  He was teeny tiny, but was never in any danger, other than being sent home to live with two clueless people.

    Before we left the hospital, the nurse showed me the proper way to wrap my baby in a blanket. She stressed the importance of keeping his arms tucked in tight at all times. She said he was used to be being curled up in the confines of my womb and he would prefer being swaddled.  She said that if he were allowed to flail his arms freely, he would feel insecure thusly destroying his sense of well-being and possibly leading to a life of crime.  Only the worst kind of mother would allow flailing.

    Perhaps all that was implied, I don’t really remember.  In those days, uneven hormones along with the dauting task of caring for an infant made everything seem reallllly critical.

    I felt a measure of confidence as I watched the nurse swaddle my tiny new baby because I had made burritos before and I recognized that she was merely making a yummy baby burrito. Nothing hard about that.  Having passed swaddling 101, they released us to take our baby home.

    When we got home, the first order of business was to change his diaper and then wrap him up in the prescribed manner at which I was an expert.

    I laid him ever so gently diagonally across the blanket.  Just like the nurse, I folded the bottom of the blanket into a triangle and pulled it up and over his feet.  I then pulled the right side of the blanket tautly over him, rolled him forward a little, tucked it under and then repeated left to right.

    Voila!  I stood back and admired my work. All that was missing was a bow!  But then, like Houdini, he began to twist and squiggle until he had freed his right arm which he began waving over his head like a flag.  And then he pulled out his left arm.  And then he began flailing both arms with all his might.  He seemed to be saying, “Look at me! I’m flailing! And you can’t stop me!”

    “Stop it baby!” I cried, “Stop flailing! Do you want to end up in jai!?” At which point he wadded up the blanket and threw it across the room.

    I retrieved the blanket and rolled him up in it again and again.  No matter how tightly and expertly I swaddled him, he pulled his arms out in record time.  When visions of duct tape began to dance in my head I conceded.

    On my very first day of motherhood, I learned this very important lesson:  You can swaddle a baby but you can’t make them keep their arms in. Without duct tape.  I also realized that when it comes to babies, expert advice is really only a suggestion.

    Six years later, nothing in that regard has changed – I swaddle, he unswaddles, I tuck, he untucks, I wrap, he unwraps, I do, he undoes.  It’s the pattern of our lives.

    Nearly every night I peek in on Sean just before turning out the lights to find him sleeping with his arms outside the covers.  I lean over him and kiss his forehead and then like a good mother, I pull the covers up under his chin and tuck his arms securely under the blanket.

    And when I turn to take one last look before leaving the room, he pulls his arms out and flops them on top of the blanket.


    You can tell from the look on his face that he is plotting how to get out of the swaddle.

    The New Bed

    November 19, 2009

    Recently I acquired a twin bed for Sean.  Heretofore, the poor giraffe-legged child had been sleeping in a toddler bed.  Toddler bed, we all know, is code for “crib on the ground”.

    I know what you are thinking. “What is wrong with y’all? Can you not even manage to get your six-year-old child a decent bed?”

    And the answer to that is apparently not, at least not in a timely manner.

    Several times when we’ve had other children at the house, I have overheard them laughing at Sean’s itty bitty bed. And although it didn’t bother him, it made me realize that it was probably time to get him out of the toddler bed.

    But finding a new bed wasn’t as easy as I imagined it would be.

    It took me a while to find the bed I wanted. For one thing, I wanted an old-fashioned 1950s Beaver Cleaver kind of twin bed.  For months, I searched Craig’s List and eBay and garage sales to no avail.

    As it turns out, the Catholic grade school that I attended closed a year or so back and they sold off all the furniture in the convent and my mother bought one of the twin beds. When she found out we were looking for an old fashioned twin bed, she offered it to us.  There is great irony to think that my son is now sleeping in the bed of a now-dead nun who used to routinely whack the holy snot out of me.

    At any rate it is a really nice bed, solid maple and just as old-fashioned as it can be.  And the best part – free!

    So when my parents came to visit recently, they brought the bed with them and joyful sounds were heard throughout the kingdom upon its arrival.

    The next day when AD left for work, I dropped Sean off at school and then my parents and I high tailed it to Sam’s and bought a mattress and box springs.  When we got home, I quickly disassembled the crib-on-the-floor and hauled it up to the attic while my dad set up the “new” bed.

    Mom and I put on the brand new sheets, fluffed the pillows and then stood back to gaze upon the marvelous new bed.  And we felt much happiness and no sadness. None.   We did however feel tiredness.  We had been working at a feverish pace because we knew we had to get the job done before AD got home and put the skids to our merry making.

    AD does not like change. AD would not want to take the toddler bed down.  AD would have to rend his garments and cry into the crib sheets. He would have to kneel by the tiny bed and hang his head in sorrow. He would have to weep as he tenderly ran his fingers over the rough patches on the frame where tiny teeth once gnawed.  He would have a goodbye ceremony. He would write the bed a little letter and tape it to the bed frame. And this could take weeks, maybe even months.   All while I stood quietly and respectfully off to the side tapping my foot and looking at my watch. All while Sean asked over and over and over when he was going to get to sleep in his new bed.

    When Sean got home from school, he took a flying leap into his new bed and declared it awesome. He loved it.

    When AD got home from work, he did not declare the new bed awesome, but rather said, “Oh. A new bed.”

    And I could see what he was thinking:   “I didn’t know that last night was the last night I would get to tuck him in the little bed.”  And while I have sympathies for his sentimentalities… no wait, I really don’t.

    So later that day AD asked me, he said, “Do you not even feel a little bit of sadness that the old bed is gone?”


    “Not even a little? Not just a teeny tiny tinge of sadness?”



    “No. I feel glee.”

    He half smiled at me.

    I half smiled back.

    AD weeps at what he leaves behind.

    I look forward to what lies ahead.

    It all works out, for at long last, our six-year-old sleeps in a proper bed.

    Growth Spurts, Money Jars, The Circle Of Life And Other Things

    November 2, 2009

    About a year ago, Sean’s grandmother gave him a money jar which sits on top of his dresser. It is a big plastic jar that looks like a pickle jar, only it has a slot on the top which shows a digital reading of how much money has been deposited.  The digital reading is about as accurate as taking a wild guess, or basically the same formula we are using to determine the actual cost of national healthcare.

    Be that as it may…

    Like his father, Sean likes to hold on to his money, so after a year of saving, the jar was half full with about $40, mostly in change.  Some of the money he earned from his towel folding business but most was given to him with impunity from recalcitrant grandparents, aunts, uncles and other nice people.

    Last week my favorite five-year-old was in a growth spurt or something was up because we had some attitude and obedience issues.  Normally he is a pretty compliant and polite little guy and doesn’t delight in giving me too much trouble. Which works out well for him since I don’t abide much nonsense.

    But, last week there was an incident involving the carpet in his bedroom.  I won’t say what the offense was because I don’t think anyone deserves to have their misdeeds recorded for all the internets to analyze and comment upon forever amen.  But it wasn’t an accident; it was premeditated, willful and on purpose. An accident I can easily forgive because who among us hasn’t knocked over a perfume display in Sanger Harris? Accidents happen. But this was no accident.

    I was in a quandary as to what to do about the incident because it was so far out of character for this child. I was really interested in getting to the bottom of why he would do such a thing more so than issuing a swift punishment.

    I was baffled.  I took a day or so to figure out how to proceed.  The side benefit of this delay was that it allowed him to stew just a little and meditate upon his actions.

    Finally, I recalled that one time my brother shot out the neighbor’s picture window with his BB gun and I believe my parents made him pay to replace it.  My brother is not now, nor has he ever been in jail, so I decided to go the personal responsibility route.  Rather than punishment, I decided that the appropriate thing to do was to have him take responsibility for his actions and make him pay to have the carpet cleaned. And that meant I would have to confiscate his money.

    He cried when I told him I would have to take his money to pay for the carpet cleaning.  “I was saving that money for an iPhone!” he wailed.  I told him that was really sad with as much sympathy as I could muster. And then I took away his money.

    The rest of the week passed with no further incident.  And although I never got to the bottom of why he did what he did, I did see in him a contrite heart. He was sorry.  So Saturday, I took all the silver coins and the dollars to pay for the carpet cleaning, but I let him have his pennies back for seed money for his iPhone.

    AD and I talk to Sean a lot about spending and saving so that he might grow into a financially responsible man. But we have some concern that because he lives a privileged life, that he doesn’t know what it is to want and to wait and to do without — which in our view are not bad things.

    So sometimes, in an effort to remind Sean of how good he has it, AD will tell him that when he was growing up, he just wanted to have enough money to be able to get a snack out of the vending machine at school. That was his idea of being rich.  But you know, these kinds of stories tend to fall on deaf ears.  All they hear is “Iwalkedtoschooluphillbothwaysthreefeetofsnowblahblah”.

    We are genetically programmed to say these things.  We cannot stop ourselves.

    This morning, for the first time in 11 years, AD’s work took him out of the house to work on a project.  All Sean has ever known is AD working in his office upstairs.  So this morning, as AD was heading for the door, dressed and carrying his brief case, it shocked us all just a little.  Sean stopped him and asked him to wait.  He disappeared into his room and when he came back, he handed AD a fistful of pennies. “Here you go dad, in case you want to buy a snack out of the vending machine.”

    So, maybe he was listening after all.

    I’m not really sure what in the heck happened here this past week.  I think we might all be going to through a growth spurt.

    Note: Sean is not getting an iPhone until he can buy me one too.

    When Leaves Fall Moose Mate

    October 19, 2009

    So then, Sean’s homework assignment for tonight was to draw a picture representing fall.

    I was excited about that project because of the many creative possibilities.  I envisioned that he would draw a field of pumpkins or falling leaves. Or maybe pumpkins or falling leaves. Or something like that.

    So I gave him a piece of paper and read to him the task as stated on the assignment sheet.

    Side Bar:  I learned early on in college that if you can figure out what the professor wants and give it to them on time, you can raise your letter grade by at least a factor of one.  And the way you figure out what the professor wants is by reading the syllabus. The professor often explicitly states what is expected of you on the syllabus.  That’s just a little trick I learned.  So if you are in school right now and you are reading this, here’s a little golden nugget of advice:   Read the dadgum syllabus. Read it twice.

    Then I gave him some art supplies and said, “Go to town Picasso!” And he did.

    When he handed me his masterpiece for inspection, I was a little bit surprised. There were no falling leaves or pumpkins. There was what appeared to be a moose staring at a tree.

    So I asked him, I said, “Sean how does this represent fall?”

    And he said with a bit of exasperation as one might have when speaking with someone as unlearned as I, “Mom. Moose look for a mate in the fall.”

    So I said what anyone in my situation might say. I said,  “Oh.”

    And then I scratched my head and wondered if maybe we might be watching a little too much Animal Planet.

    And now, I  want to take this opportunity to apologize to the parents whose children might come home from school tomorrow with a little too much information regarding the mating habits of moose.


    Mr. Moose looking for a Mrs. Moose.   Clearly.

    Who Knew Tally Marks To Be Such A Comprehensive Subject?

    September 20, 2009

    AD and I are both creative types, so it is not so surprising that Sean is creatively bent as well.  AD is creative in a money-making, problem-solving, making-the-world-more-functional kind of way.  Whereas I don’t know how to do any of that; I just seem to need to swim upstream.

    Having been upstream a time or two, I know that insisting upon doing everything your own creative way can make life harder than it has to be.  And I don’t want that for Sean.  I want him to understand that sometimes, in certain matters, it’s better to just go along — even if you do know of a prettier way to do things.

    Recently, I wrote about how I tried to teach Sean how to make tally marks and how I was met with some resistance.  The resistance wasn’t willful disobedience; it was just that he knew deep down in his heart that his way was better.

    The next day, we had another tally mark homework assignment, and again, he wanted to make tally marks in his own way, in groups of six.

    And once again I tried to explain to him that where we are located in the time and space continuum it is universally accepted that tally marks are made in groups of five; four vertical lines with one diagonal line cutting cross the group of four.

    On another planet, I told him, it could work differently, but here on Earth, someone, somewhere, long, long ago, maybe even God, decided that this is how tally marks should be made.  Enough people agreed and thus it became a convention, meaning that’s just how we do it.

    I could tell from his glazed over expression that my dissertation on tally mark norms and conventions had fatigued his spirit.  And that as a creative person he did not much esteem norms and conventions.

    He twisted his mouth and looked up to the left, as though he was giving the matter thoughtful consideration. He tapped his pencil on the counter.  Then he shook his head.  I had failed to persuade him.  No, he said, he was going to go with groups of six.  He said that six was a nicer number than five.

    I told him that would be fine, but that IT WAS WRONG! And then I pulled all my hair out in one clump.

    No not really.

    I smiled and gave no indication I cared one whit. I just told him that he probably wouldn’t find that many people who would be willing to change over to his system.

    “That’s okay,” he said, “I like it better this way.”

    Whatever dude. Jump in and swim upstream.

    Sometimes in life, you need to be creative and other times you just need to follow the rules.  And the wisdom is in knowing the difference.

    How to teach that? I have no idea.  Maybe he’ll figure it out on his journey upstream.

    The Swimming Pool

    June 18, 2009

    Recently Sean and I were at our neighborhood pool making the most of a late summer afternoon.  Sean is still not a confident swimmer.  Swimming is just one of those things that he is going to have to come to terms with at his own pace.  I have come to accept that.  I have learned and backed off.  The most I do now is  encourage him to experiment more, to be more adventurous.  To this he firmly says, “No danks!”  No. Way. And we leave it at that.

    After we had been at the pool for awhile, another family showed up with a little boy who is a full year younger than Sean, but a better swimmer.  He has a beefier build.  He’s more boisterous and aggressive; he’s one of those little guys who love to rough house and punch and karate kick and that kind of thing.  That’s all well and good, but it’s not our style.  Sean and his daddy rough house, but our policy is that you don’t put your hands on other people.

    The other boy wanted to play with Sean, and at first Sean was interested, but it wasn’t long before he grew weary of being punched.  A couple of times I saw Sean stiff arm him and say “Stop it!” but I figured it was a good opportunity for Sean to work it out for himself so I stayed out of it.  Although honestly?  I really wanted to go over and kick some four-year-old butt.  I’m not proud of that, but it’s true.

    At one point, I looked over at Sean and we locked eyes.  I could see he was looking for a rescue.  “Dude! Come here for a minute,” I called.  It gave him a dignified out and he came over to splash around with me on the steps of the big pool. For 38 seconds.

    Then the little guy followed.  He did cannon balls within inches of Sean.  He shoved Sean off the steps.  He continued to try to agitate him.  Sean tried to politely ignore him to no avail. Finally he resorted to going underwater to get some peace.  At this point, the little boy grabs Sean around the waist and holds him under water. Right in front of me.

    Big. Mistake.

    Sean thrashes and panics.

    I look over at the mother and she is reading a magazine and talking on her phone. She is oblivious.

    At that moment, the ire of every mother bear that ever existed rose in my chest and filled my throat.  It’s a feeling that I can’t really describe. I wasn’t mad so much as stirred by something primal. And frankly, that kind of scared me.

    I bent over and pulled the boy off of Sean, and as I am setting him on the edge of the pool, I whisper a warning in his ear — but the voice that rumbles out of my throat is not mine but Darth Vader’s.  “Keep. Your. Hands. Off. My. Boy.”

    “Or I will hurt you.” No, I didn’t say that part, but I was surely thinking it.

    I give him a look that makes it clear that I mean business.  He stares back at me with eyes as big as pancakes.  I narrow my eyes like Clint Eastwood to punctuate my point. He gets up and wanders over to his mother.

    And I wish I could say that was that. But that was not that.

    He continued to come back and pester us.  So we called it a day and went home.

    So then, no tidy moral of the story other than don’t mess with my kid and no happy ending other than I am not writing this from jail.

    And Then I Bought Myself A Rubber Snake

    March 27, 2009

    Before I could put the car in park, he was unbuckling his seat belt. We were at Sonic where he is allowed to climb into the front seat with me and eat his burger.   If it’s nice, I open the sunroof and it’s our own version of a picnic.  We’ve been picnicking at Sonic since he was two and it’s kind of our thing that we do together, a time when we talk.

    Going to Sonic with Sean is special for me because I went there every Tuesday for lunch when I was pregnant.  I hosted a small Bible study at my house with four older ladies.  Afterward we’d all pile into one car and go to Sonic and have lunch.  They would fuss over me and give me advice.  It was like having four moms which I really needed at the time since my own mother was three states away.  Even at my advanced maternal age, I needed and craved mothering.

    Later, when Sean was two and started a mother’s day out program, we’d go to Sonic after I picked him up.  With just the two of us in the car, I’d discreetly reach over and turn on my little voice recorder while he chattered away.  When I go back and listen to those conversations and hear that sweet baby voice it turns me into a big gloppy mess.

    As we sat in the car waiting for our burgers, we watched the car hops whiz by on roller skates.  I looked at him standing up on the passenger’s side, peering out the front window.  Tall and skinny, his head almost touches the roof. But in my mind’s eye, I saw a little boy with long blond curly hair who couldn’t see over the dashboard.

    I asked Sean if he remembered the time he spilled the blue coconut slush in my car.  He said he did.

    “Do you remember that I yelled at you?” I asked, wincing and hoping he didn’t.

    “Yeah.  I remember,” he stated as a matter of fact with no trace of lingering ill will.  “I bumped it over on the seat.”

    “Well, I know I’ve said it before, but I’m really sorry.  I wish I hadn’t yelled at you.”

    “That’s okay,” he said. “You’re getting to be a better mom and I’m getting better at being more careful.”

    “Well, just the same, I’m sorry,” I said again, not so much because he needed to hear it but because I needed to say it.  Not a day goes by that I don’t think how I’d like to do it all over again, start over right from the day I found out I was pregnant.  I’d do it better this time. I wouldn’t yell.

    After our picnic, I took him to Target to let him pick out a toy for no particular reason other than he’s been a really good and helpful boy lately.  We’ve done some stringent expense cutting at our house since before Christmas and he has not once complained.

    When we arrived in the toy department, a bin of rubber snakes caught his eye.  For twenty minutes or more, he went through the entire nest of snakes, examining each one like a jeweler with a loop, looking for the most perfect and flawless of rubber snakes.

    ‘Which one do you like best?” he asks holding up a baby blue cobra and a lime green rattler.

    “I like the green one,” I say.

    “Oh,” he says flatly.  He looks from snake to snake and I can see on his face that he can’t make a decision. He wants them both.  But he doesn’t ask.

    A minute passes.

    “You need to pick one; we can’t get both,” I say sounding like a bonafide grown up.

    “I just can’t decide,” he says and sighs heavily to convey that the decision is causing him a great deal of angst and pain.

    Even though it’s only a $3 snake, to give in and let him have both would be a mistake. It would be a violation of our family’s new financial philosophy.  And I had already clearly stated that he could only have one.  I had to stick to it. And I hated that.

    “Well, if you don’t mind,” I said, “I think I’ll buy the green one for myself.  I’ve been wanting a rubber snake.”

    “Really?” he asks, bewildered.

    “Yup. Always wanted one.”

    I grab the green rattler from him.

    “I didn’t know that,” he says narrowing his eyes in disbelief, waiting for the punch line.

    We lock eyes. He searches my face to see if I’m yanking his chain. He cracks a little half smile, not quite sure about his wacko mother.

    “Let’s go pay for these,” I say.

    He reaches for my hand and we turn and head towards the front of the store towards the cashiers, each clutching our very own rubber snake.

    Lessons In Life And Coloring

    February 12, 2009

    “I’m not good at coloring!” he sighs.  A gust of exasperation escapes his lower lip making his copper hair fly straight up off his forehead.  For a second, I get lost in his face and forget that he is frustrated and about to cry.

    “I’m never going to be a good colorer!” His eyes become shiny with tears.

    I  look at his paper. It looks pretty much like everything else I’ve seen him color lately, which to me, is artistic perfection.

    I look back at him, not sure what really is needed here. I consider my responses:

    Tough love:  “Snap out of it dude – you’re five. You color just fine.”

    Encouragement:  “Sean, persistence is the key to life. You just keep trying and someday, in 44 years, you’ll be able to color as well as me!”

    Validation:  “I love it! I think it’s fantastic!”

    Commiseration: “Yup. You stink at coloring.”

    Advice: “Have you tried holding your crayon properly?”

    I say nothing and wait for more information.

    “Everyone else at school colors better than me.”

    He puts his forehead down on the counter. Silence hangs between us for a full minute.

    I decide to go with a multi-pronged approach.

    “Yup! You stink at coloring!” I say.

    He pops his head up off the counter and stares at me with big eyes.

    “Really?” he asks in disbelief.


    “Dude, you’re only five. You’ll get better and better at coloring the more you do it, and some day, if you’re lucky? You’ll be as good as me!”

    This makes him roll his eyes. His mother is so lame.

    “Besides! I love it!” I enthuse. I do. I love his artistic expressions, the way he draws people with no necks and big crooked smiles.

    And then, because I couldn’t stop myself:   “Have you tried holding your crayon properly?”

    I’m A Play Date Drop Out

    February 9, 2009

    On the few occasions when Sean and I have gone to McDonald’s for lunch, I can’t help but to notice the tables of young moms happily chatting and visiting while their children are off playing.

    Everyone at the table is leaning in and engaged in a lively conversation. While their children are off playing.  How do they do it? How?

    I have been invited to a handful of these kinds of play dates in my short tenure as a mother, and I have to be honest with you — I do not enjoy it. I find it to be very stressful.

    In order to be a play date pro, you have to be able to carry on a conversation and remain oblivious to the fact that small children may or may not be setting the place on fire.

    You know who would do great at play dates?  Those guys in the pits on Wall Street, the “yellers”. Those guys would be fabulous, because to me that is the equivalent of a play date – a maelstrom of noise and activity and incomplete conversations and littering.

    I was told that after I became a mother, I would learn to filter out the noise.  Still waiting.

    And it’s not really the noise so much, it’s that I’m fully aware that where two or more children are gathered, one of them will dream up something ridiculous to try. And at least one grown up should be paying attention.  And if I’m involved in an in-depth conversation about Capri pants, I can’t know if/when some kid decides to see how far a soda straw will go in someone’s ear.

    So what usually happens at the play date is I try in earnest to focus on and participate in the conversation with the other moms.  I do.  But out of the corner of my eye or ear, I’m painfully aware that my child, or someone’s child, is running with scissors. Towards a busy street.  With an open prescription bottle. And some matches. And that I should probably try to stop them as opposed to listening to a fascinating story about the Capri pants that are on sale at Target.

    And the urge to turn around and find out what is sending a signal to my momtennae is unbearable.  So I end up cutting the conversation off awkwardly and abruptly to tend to unattended children.

    Of course, when you are in the habit of turning on your heel and running away in the middle of an adult conversation, you don’t get a lot of invitations.