Saturday, August 25, 2007

The Usketeers (part 1)

I was holding Briar on my hip, Sean was two paces behind me with Avery. It was hot, the kind of hot that creates a hateful, halo of frizz around my face and makes me feel ever so slightly as if I have wet my pants. They breezed past us, all purses and grins. They moved in classic friendship formation, shoulders touching, eyes dancing in shared merriment, heads tilted toward one another, the better to whisper and titter.

I looked away and buckled the girls in the cart. I tried to shake off the sensation that I should be there with them, that if I were more normal, more something, than they'd ask me to join. A part of me clung inexplicably to the notion that my inclusion in that mama-gang would somehow make for a better experience for our girls.

"Mama? Can we go and find the thing for the big room?" Briar asked expectantly.

I looked down, her bare shoulder, creamy and delicate, poked out from her dress. Her hair was pulled back with matching pony tail holders, while her feet were outfitted in de rigueur toddler Crocs, complete with little jeweled accessories. She was the picture of normal, girl-next-door, girliness.

"Of course we can." And I pushed the cart toward the electronics section and our quest for a dvd player.

"Weg. Weg. Weg!" Avery shouted, each time her feet kicking out in an exclamation point. She too, wore little, hot pink Crocs, and a single purple band in her dark hair. Her indigo eyes twinkled.

"Do you see the red? Are you looking at the red circles?" I asked smiling at her.

"Weg. Uh-weg cucles!" She grinned back at me. I kissed her face and then hugged Briar.

Sean was looking at me quizzically, he hadn't seen the women. I smiled and shook my head, universal spousal code for forget it, let's just go, and I meant it. We rolled our squeaky cart through the diapers and wipes, then the car seats and baby bottle aisles. Eventually we made it to the electronics section. We picked a dvd player and some movies for the girls, then made a quick pass of the coloring book section to replenish our supply and we were done.

The girls sat in the cart, Briar holding a book, while Avery flipped through the pages. They took turns regaling one another with the spectacle on each page. The back and forth of their throaty voices, combined with the saucy flips of their heads made me smile, a deep, down in my soul, glad to have two daughters, kind of smile. I pushed the cart faster hoping to slip out of Target before the girls turned on us, their sweet, sibling chemistry soured by one minute too long spent browsing.

We rounded a corner and I was once again face-to-face with my failure. The team-shopping, motherhood brigade. They walked toward us like a Target-ad-come-to-life, beaming and moving at almost a skip, tra-la-la-la-la-aren't-we-having-fun? I don't think I imagined making an audible gasp.

Briar's head whipped, seeing Heather and Catherine's mom is like seeing a movie star for her. She was riveted, eyes glued to Tina and the inherent magic she possesses just by being Heather and Catherine's mom.

They paused as our little pack met theirs.

"Oooh, what are you getting?" They asked, charging our cart as one, peering inside and examining the contents as if rubbernecking at the scene of an accident. They clucked and chortled over the things in our cart, exclaiming about "treats for mom and dad."

And then, it was over.

They whooshed away in a gust of you-don't-belong-gaiety, the tinkling of their chatter dancing through the aisles as we moved further away. I was nauseous. Disgust for buying a dvd player, guilt for not working harder to be invited into their gang, and despondence for the play date with all the other daughters-of-shopping-moms that our girls were not invited to.

We walked to the check out and quietly waited to pay for our things. Briar and Avery were good as gold, even when the checker began what would be a ten minute endeavor to scan the dvd player. Sean eventually took the girls to the car while I waited, deeply mortified at the rapidly growing line behind me as three, and then four different Target clerks tried to find a working bar code.

Walking to the car I felt wistful. How can I raise the girls to be strong and confident if I fall to pieces in a store at the thought of being excluded from something? Something I don't even really want? And if I don't want it, then what the hell is my problem? How do I ever find the balance between demonstrating that fitting in isn't everything and that sometimes you have to do little things, make small compromises to get what you want?

I want them to belong, not because I fear them being different or unique, but because I fear them having to experience one moment more than necessary of not belonging, of not being wanted. You can say that it builds character or spew any number of platitudes, but the reality is being excluded hurts. My job is to keep these girls safe, teach them to make the decisions that will keep them from harm, and make decisions of my own with that same end in mind. Standing in that parking lot I truly felt as if I'd lost my way.

The problem is, I don't know if finding my way means accepting that I, and we, don't belong, or clawing tooth and nail until we do belong.

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slouching mom said...

A., there's a house for sale next door to me. Come live there. We can go to Target together and giggle at the mean mommies and their mean daughters.

You, girl, need to find a kindred spirit in your neighborhood. And when you do, everything will change. Promise.

jen said...

oh sister. that doesn't even sound like a crowd i'd want to join. just because things look shiny on the outside doesn't mean it's the same everywhere else.

you on the other hand, i'd be all over that. you are shiny through and through.

flutter said...

You don't belong?

You don't?

Thank GOD, who needs another vapid judgeomatic store trotter? Nope, we need you. So do your girls.

chelle said...

I so so understand how you feel. I try to make sure we are out and about and that Becca has playmates, yet I just want to have my own friends.

Never mind the snooty ones ... there are a lot of super nice moms out there, it just takes a little time to find them :) (plus those women probably do not even know what a blog is!)

Danielle said...

Ugh! I know exactly what you mean. My sister-in-law is one of these moms. But you know, like someone else said, she's all shiny and bright on the outside, but she and her children (I deeply regret to say because they are my beloved nieces) are a mess on the inside. Who cares what kind of mommy you are on the outside. It's how YOU make your children feel about themselves that counts. And you're obviously doing a wonderful job! You'll find other moms out there who agree and feel the same. We are not all part of the "mommy brigade". Some of us have better things to do with our raise our kids to have character.

BetteJo said...

I was never a 'joiner' Mom, never did coffee or shopping or even walked my kids to school with other Moms. That's just not me.
But my kids - especially my daughter - always fit in and always had friends and had no problems making her way.

Giving your girls what they need is more about the hugs and kisses and camping and singing and all the stuff you do with them. They will grow up awesome - whether you are a 'joiner' Mom or not.

Colleen said...

If you don't belong... well then I have no hope. I think we all need to move closer together so we can make up our own little group.

Oh... and we were at Target today.

Crystal said...

Your girls will learn from you that you don't have to be one of the "coolest" kids to be great. You and the girls aren't missing anything. They will make wonderful friends when they are in school. Don't worry.
Look at all the mom friends that you have on-line. I look at it like the difference between high school and college. Your town is high school and the pickings are slim. Blog land is like college and you can pick people who are the most like you.
You are a smart, kind, thoughtful, loving, expressive, strong momma. Briar and Avery can get that from you. That is what kind of kids they will be when they are in school and the other kids will love them.
Chin up.

Janet said...

A friend of mine lives in a mean girl neighbourhood and she hates it with the white hot fury of a thousand suns.

We live on a street where the average age of homeowners is probably 83: give or take. It really takes takes the pressure off of me to fit in, but it's lonely for the kids with no spontaneous playmates.

You know, there was likely a woman or two shopping that day, enviously watching your family move through the store, your beautiful children sharing books with one another, and thinking that they would sell their girlfriends to the lowest bidder to have what you have.

I don't mean that in a "snap out of it" sort of way; I mean it in a "you are lovely" way.

Mrs. Chicken said...

I don't belong either, and I know how it feels. It has always been that way for me. Always.

I fantasize about a world where you and I can sit in Adirondack chairs in your backyard. watching our girls play together for hours, and we can talk about everything under the sun.

Screw those mommies.

Pgoodness said...

Me? Not a belonger at all (see, I even make up words!). I have 3 actual mama friends - one whose kids are teens, one is our neighbor (lucky, truly), and one who has kids near my kids ages, but when we get together it's for girls nights out. So, I feel the lack of belonging, too. Sometimes I wonder, but then I think of how much energy it takes to be one of those shiny moms and I would really rather be one of the tarnished ones, hanging with my boys.

Your girls? Lucky.

So Blessed To Be Matthews Mom said...


I (for the first time in months) have time to read other blogs tonight and your blog is always an inspiration to me. You are the most wonderful mother. You have the most wonderful insight, depth, character and everything a woman wants to be but normally (for me anyway) don't know how to open and bare your soul. You do it every time and you always have me wishing you lived closer to MA.

I along with I guess a million other Moms, also have social exclusions but everyday is a new day and I keep saying today will be different or today will be the day. I recently met a new mom who has more of the same values and morals and is becoming more of a friend than I've had in years. It is just one of those things that women crave and that is something we will be doing for the rest of our lives. Those women don't deserve your friendship and your girls are better off seeing you with moms who are more like you - than not.

Cate said...

Oh Amanda, you are so much better than them. It reminds of those popular-girl cliques from highschool!

You know, being in Canada sans Target, I've always wanted to go to one. So when I do, I will go to your Target. We can walk through the store together, have a blast...and hopefully run into *those* moms and whisper and titter and exclude them from our super-fun real-mom outing! Ha!

Oh, I just want to give you a big ol' bear hug!

Christine said...

i was browsing through your blog (via slouchy) and am amazed at its beauty. and this post. wow. it tugged at my heart. written beautifully it was so evocative of that left out feeling, th at weird "why don't i belong" sensation.