I recently had a phone conversation with a good friend of mine. A good friend who is single and has no children. (Which is how she wants it and loves it.) There was a time when I thought we had so much in common. Today, it is as if we are living on two separate planets.
I listened to her talk about her new apartment. She found a fabulous loft in the downtown area. She regaled me with tales of the incredible art pieces that she been able to acquire for the loft. I looked around my humble home and took an inventory of the artwork that adorned it. A finger-painting masterpiece by an as-yet undiscovered 3-year-old genius. A cracked clay sculpture that is either an ashtray (although none of us smoke) or a cat. We’re not sure which it is, so we use it as a centerpiece on the side table. A charcoal sketch (okay, it is actually a pencil drawing) of a dog chasing a ball (or a horse chasing a bird. It’s not really clear.) Hers cost a fortune. Mine are priceless.
She went on to talk about her new glass top tables and beautiful plush white carpet. I began to trace the fading outline of a stick person and his dog that my son had drawn on my old coffee table when he was two years old. It is fading and that actually made me sad. I began to wonder if I could put something on it to preserve it when my friend asked me if I knew of any good over the counter carpet cleaners since she “may need it one day”. I glanced down at my Kool-Aid stained and well worn carpet and replied, “Not one that can get out Kool-Aid and permanent markers.” She laughed in a way that told me she thought I was trying to be funny. I chuckled with her so as to not ruin her illusion of my home with a clean carpet.
Finally, she asked me what was new in my world. I ran through the things that had been big news in our house that week. My youngest used the potty at least once everyday. We are celebrating with dances and candy! And there was a new McDonald’s down the street that had a playplace with both tunnels and video games, so I can take all 3 kids and they are all happy. Oh, and my oldest son has a crush and he thinks she may like him back. My middle boy, the one who wears his heart on his sleeve, finally stood up to the class bully and made a new friend because of it. We were all so proud of him.
“But what about you, Jenn. What is new with you?”
I paused and thought. Then replied, “But don’t you see? That is what is new with me. All of these milestones are milestones for me too. It means they are growing up and becoming their own people. Good people. That means, I am doing a pretty damn good job of this parenting thing right now.”
She got quiet. She thought about my life. She thought about how different we are. How our lives are so foreign to each other.
“I don’t know how you do it,” she said almost sadly.
I smiled to myself and replied, “I don’t know how you don’t.”