I was in the grocery store this morning and noticed a woman staring at me from the next check-out line. I think she was trying to place me, but I recognized her immediately. Our daughters attended the same school. These people were new to the area and their daughter had joined the class only three months before the end of school. She also had a small baby, so she was always in a hurry. I never really had a chance to get to know her. Our daughters played a lot and, by the time school ended, they had become fast friends. My daughter kept asking to have her new friend over to play, but I could never catch the mom to ask. It was not until the end of school that I actually met the girl’s mom, and I am not sure that I made the best impression. This is what happened.
It was now the last day of school and all of the parents were invited for a little ceremony and class parties. I was in front of the school when I saw the new mom, smiled, and waved. It was the first week of June and the temperature was 95 degrees. It was obscenely hot and I commented on the weather. She walked toward me and her husband, who I had never before seen, followed. I then said that my daughter has loved having their child in the class and we would love to have a play date this summer. She looks at me and then back at her husband and tells him, “This is Gia’s new friend; the one that I told you about.” She then looks back at me and says, “I finally got to meet your daughter this morning”. That was all she said, and then she looked down like she was trying to think of something to say. The lady was not smiling; she just stared at the ground.
I was concerned that my child had been rude to the woman, because her behavior was a little odd. I tried to throw in an excuse just in case my child had done or said something inappropriate. I then said, “I have wanted to introduce myself, but we keep missing you in the mornings. Very often, we are the first ones here. Like today, my daughter woke up at 4:45 am, to use the bathroom. She never went back to sleep, so we got here bright and early. She usually wakes around 6:00, which is early enough, but she has woken around 5:00am every day this week. She does not seem to sleep well after busy family visits. ” The story was true. My daughter was seriously sleep deprived and I hoped it would explain any bad behavior.
At this point, the schools’ director came out and called for us to move inside for the start the ceremony. I did not feel like this woman was interested in making a new friend or even speaking to me further, so I said, “I better go find a seat. See you later!” and walked away. I found a seat across the room from the couple and sat there wondering what my daughter said or did to cause this reaction. My child is pretty shy, and is not known for being rude to people, so I did not think that she would say anything to offend the woman. I then wondered, was it what my daughter was wearing? My child was in a weird headband phase at the time. She insisted on wearing two or three headbands at once; none of which matched each other, or her outfits. But, their school was full of gardens, creeks, pools of colored water, and mud piles which got the children absolutely filthy. The children could not wear nice clothes because they came home stained with food coloring, paint, dirt, sand and mud. The clothes that she wore to school were a complete loss, so I never cared what she put on or whether it matched. But, all of the children wore stained play clothes so I doubted that my child’s festive headbands (although they did bring her much attention) would be enough to cause such a negative reaction.
I then wondered if it was me. I was a little different from many of the women at the school. I wore trendier clothes and did not wear, or own, Birkenstocks, crocs, or velcro sandals. I am sure they are comfortable and I think they are great for other people, but they are just not for me. I also knew that many of the people at the school were vegetarians, and made sure to compost leftover food. I ate some meat, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t love and support animals. I recycled and tried to respect mother earth. Is this why my daughter was being judged? Was it because we didn’t seem “hippie” enough? I looked around the room, at the other women, and wondered how many of them judged me. I often saw them gathering outside the school talking about their jobs and “educational outings” with their kids. They would just look at me, and although they did not smile, I always smiled and said “Hello”. I was starting to feel more like I was being judged and disliked. I started to feel like the women probably didn’t like me (even though they knew nothing about me), and my daughter was suffering because of it.
The program ends and we go to her class, where many of the families bring food for everyone to share. I always bring a lot of food because my daughter will not eat anything that the other mom’s bring. So, we are late getting in to the class and the only open seats are at the table with Gia and her parents. I am friends with one mom at the school and she is at the next table over. My daughter and I were talking quietly, when Gia’s mom says, “So you mentioned that your daughter was visiting with family.” I smiled and nodded. I did not want to say too much, so I replied with, “Yes, last weekend”. We ate for a while, and watched as the class gradually emptied. Things were now very quiet.
Suddenly, Gia’s mom says, “So, this morning when I was talking to your daughter, I asked her how she was doing and she said, “Well I am OK. I am just really tired from all of the work that woman makes me do!” Gia’s mom then says that she asked my child what work she had been doing and my daughter replies, “I had to vacuum, mop, dust, and scrub everything! That stepmother of mine is so mean! She makes me clean and scrub, and I am not ever allowed to play! It is very hard for a little girl!” My daughter hung her head for a minute, and then said, “Come on Gia, let’s go play!” and they ran off together.
I looked at the woman and said, “My child does not have a stepmother. Her father and I are still married. I do not know what she is talking about!” My friend from the other table walks over and sits down beside me, and our little girls walk across the room together. I looked at my friend and repeated what Gia’s mom just said to me. I said to the table, “It’s true that no one ever see’s my husband, but we are happily married, and there is no stepmother! Nor are there any child labor laws being broken in my home!”
I then looked at my friend and it hit me! I said, “OH, NO. My mom brought Sissy her first Disney movie this weekend; they sat upstairs and watched it together. The movie was Cinderella! That is where she got the mean stepmother, and all the scrubbing the floors stuff! Little miss imagination!” My friend leaned back and started laughing very hard and said, “That is priceless! Only your child!” I started laughing too, but Gia’s mom still looked horrified! I don’t know if she did not believe me about the movie, which was TOTALLY true. Or maybe she just still did not think we were her kind of people, but the playdate never happened! I also did not think this was going to help my image with the other women at the school. My family, once again was making a good impression!
Oh Well! My life may be a little different from some of the other women’s lives, but it is my life and it works for me! After all, nobody ever said that my life would be a fairy tale! But if I could relate to any fairy tale princess, it would be Cinderella (in her pre-Prince Charming days only). Many days it feels like I am up to my elbows in cranky people, dirty dishes, and dirty diapers; I often feel like I can’t keep everyone happy and the work is never done! I also think it is funny how all of the fairy tales end, before the children are born. The stories end before the sleepless nights, the colic, and the weird poopy diapers! Yep! My Life is not exactly a fairy tale, but more like a badly written comedy. I guess it is a good thing that love to laugh!