Friday, August 07, 2009


I was at a party a few weeks ago where I didn't know many people. A lot of the guests were my age and kids were welcome. Queen Bee was there as my party partner and we kept to ourselves but made polite overtures when we could, meeting some lovely people of all ages.

As we sat down to eat on the deck a harried woman with wild eyes asked if she could sit with us. She dropped her plate on the table and whipped a suspicious glare over each shoulder before sitting down. She introduced herself, explained that she was starving and making sure that her kids were OK before she sat down. Without pausing for breath she asked if we had kids. I conveniently had my mouth full and let Queen Bee answer since she has kids and I could tell that was the answer Harried was looking for. They talked a bit, I chimed in, we moved on to how we knew the hosts and where we lived. Turns out Harried and Mr. Harried used to live in NYC (Upper West Side). I made the bonehead move of asking what prompted them to leave. Usually that's a segue into what she and/or the husband do for a living smooths over the potential awkward moment where they try to see if you're anti-SAHM but this time it backfired. I could be forgiven since the Upper West is a well-known haven for the family-oriented.

"Oh," she replied, "we wanted to have kids and raising kids in the city..." I admit, I raised my eyebrows just a touch, "I mean, I didn't know where anything was for kids, not even a playground." And then she just whacked the last coffin nail home with vigor, "You just don't notice that stuff if you don't have kids." I'd like to think that the weight of my interested stare made her voice waver the tiniest bit at the end but that was probably my imagination.

I think you'll all be proud of me that I didn't swallow the bait and her judgemental face all in one enormous gulp. I saw Queen Bee's eyes widen a little, wondering if she should bring the car around to make our getaway more clean. I could have named Harried at least three playgrounds on the Upper West Side of Manhattan and more in my own neighborhood. I could probably also name her a good kid-friendly breakfast joint, a music school, a museum, an ice cream shop and a gymboree within seven blocks of her old abode. I'm not special. I'm barely holding my own at slightly above average. I'm not saying that I'd be the world's best parent just because I know where the swings and the strawberry butter and the dinosaur skeletons are. Those things do not make or break the parent or no one would ever make any money on kid-friendly [insert name of city, town or region] guides. I'm just saying that shooting a human being out of your whangdoodle doesn't improve your eyesight. Or your manners, apparently.

Fortunately at this point her youngest picked up a lego and she had to intervene. She hoisted him up by the armpits, trying not to touch him with her BBQ-sauced hands, and plopped him down by some more age-appropriate toys, all while disparaging the nearby parents for allowing the toys at all, even for the properly lego-aged among us. Hearing that we realized we were finished with dinner and with our conversation so made our excuses to go help clean up.

I watched Harried off and on all night. Her husband was around and they were both helping all three of their boys make s'mores. She didn't seem to be enjoying herself, though. I don't know her well enough to say for sure so maybe she was having a bad night, maybe she can't take having her routine upset, maybe she would have done better with two kids or with girls or a different husband who helped differently, maybe she banged her funny bone really hard that morning and it set her whole day off track, I'll never know. From the little I saw, though, she was one of those parents who does it where, how and because you're supposed to, not because it's something she really wants to be doing. There is, however, no polite way to tell a stranger that unlike real estate parenting isn't location, location, location.


  1. One of my favorite posts ever.
    in the history of ever.

    Lugging around child gear while parka'd up and loaded up from Christmas shopping is JUST as much of a pain in the ass in the city as it is in OKC coming out of Penn Square Mall. It's not a significant reason to have or not have one. . . nor is the obligation or feeling like it's what one is supposed to do.

    Coming from the perspective of NOT having any, but would take about a handful if given the choice, I can say that geography, while to a point is a key element,(surrounding family or support, education system, etc.) it isn't the hinge pin.

    I'm proud of you for not eating her spleen. It would have tasted funny anyway.

    and whangdoodle made me hork coffee out my nose. I love you.

  2. That is high praise, thank you. The whangdoodle was just for you!

    You make a good point. I expected her to say that they'd moved for a job or money reasons and family or support system would have made so much sense to me. However, you're moving 'cause you don't know where any of the kids stuff is so you go someplace where you don't know where any of the adult stuff is either? That seems counterintuitive to me.

    Love you back.

  3. So, kids in NYC don't all grow up to be like the kids on NYC Prep? I have some rethinking to do. ;)

  4. Glad I could help, Gypsy. :)