I know, I know, you shouldn’t compare yourself to others. You should be self-actualized enough to be fine with who and what you are. But there are times, perhaps when one is feeling more vulnerable – physically, emotionally or, in my case, both – that you can’t help but feel like you are doing a really shitty job of keeping up with not only the Joneses, but even the person in the mirror.
Saturday I took my son to a birthday party – this was the first time he’s ever been at another kid’s party, and it was my friend’s child who D hasn’t even met yet, so I knew it could be sticky. The Mom and I believed the kids would get along, being the same age, and I guess they sort of did, but since D didn’t know the guest of honor or any of the other kids, they played sort of parallel but not really together. Which is fine. But the Mom, who I know doesn’t have a ton of money, had this elaborate party set up. My kid’s party in June is just not going to be like this at ALL. I have neither the means nor the creativity to do anything like that. The party was at an enclosed, building you can rent in the metroparks ($$$). There was a “fishing” game with a baby pool and fishing rods with magnets on them and cardboard fish with paper clips on them to pick up. There was a “coloring station,” with crayons, paper, colored pencils, markers, stencils, various stamps and ink pads. Each child was given a matchbox car and a goodie bag as a favor (like the shitty Mom I am, I forgot the fucking goodie bag completely when we left, though we do have the car). We have the car because the kids were to open them to play this awesome racing game with a big rubber track you stick on to a window and then race the cars down it like a big ramp. There were balls of every kind and a volleyball net set up. Horseshoes. A bubble stuff station with a bunch of different kinds of wands. KITES. And of course a ton of food. My only “win” I felt that whole time was when I told D because it was a special occasion, we could split a pop if he wanted and he DIDN’T KNOW WHAT I MEANT. He had a little sprite once when we were somewhere where there wasn’t anything else but pop and I had forgotten his water cup, but we don’t buy it or order it when we go out so he really didn’t know what I meant. I told him it was like “bubble water,” which is the sparkling water we occasionally buy to use as drink mixers (La Croix). Ha. Then he had a complete meltdown when we left because he wanted to stay and it was like 20 minutes from his bedtime so no way, plus he was already getting super cranky that the birthday kid was getting all these presents as he wanted to PLAY with them. I had to drag him out of there with him whining and crying the whole way, and then he threw a complete meltdown tantrum after we started away, because I didn’t get his hat from the other side of the back seat. I completely lost it and pulled over into an empty parking lot and got out, got the hat, threw it on his lap and screamed at him. I am not a screamer. I don’t think it accomplishes anything and other than one time when he bit me really, really hard when he was a nursing baby, I’ve never ever screamed at him. Part of my tirade included my mother’s voice coming out of my mouth: “I don’t want to hear ANYTHING ELSE out of you the REST OF THE WAY HOME unless it’s ‘I’m sorry, mama!'” D was shocked into stunned silence, no surprise, and then I felt like a guilty shitty asshole for the next 10 minutes. I eventually apologized and said it had just been a very long day and we were both tired, but that wasn’t an excuse to yell at him and I asked if he accepted my apology and he said yes. I reached my hand back and he reached up and put his little hand in mine and we held hands the rest of the way home.
Yesterday, another friend of mine closed on a house almost as expensive as the one I lived in in Beverly Hills, so you can sort of guess what price range I’m talking about. Also yesterday, we went to a girl’s house that I know from my local mom’s board for yet another charity visit. I am beyond grateful for people’s generosity but it is very embarrassing taking people’s handouts. My son got two huge grocery bags full of like-new (sometimes brand new, still with tags), much-needed clothes, just in time for school pictures this Thursday too since he has run out of things to wear that fit him that would be in the “school picture outfit” category. And they threw in a little Lightning McQueen bike with training wheels on it that her son has outgrown. D was so excited, he really tried to make it go when we got home, but it’s going to take some more practice. I cried as I folded and put away the clothes, feeling so conflicted. Thrilled to have all this new stuff for D that he’s so excited about (he wore a new pirate T-shirt to school today!), humbled and grateful that I have a resource where people can get together like this and help each other, and also wishing my Mother had not been too proud to look for/accept proper help from a source other than the government for cheese and rice and butter, so we wouldn’t have had such a hard time when I was a kid. There are only so many broken toys from the Goodwill with missing pieces you can pretend to be happy about, you know? But also of course the guilt. The heavy, ever-pervasive guilt because I promised myself my kid would not grow up poor like I did, and do without everything all the time. While I’m sort of preventing that as best I can now being dependent upon the kindness of strangers, how long will I be able to keep that up? Kindnesses like these don’t last forever. It’s cute to give a little boy a bike and some clothes, it’s not as cute when they’re 13. And how long will I be able to keep it up emotionally?
And the person in the mirror continues to disintegrate. The latest doctor has put in for 16 PT sessions. Hopefully these will be of more help than the 10 I went to last year at a different facility. Somebody needs to do something about my fucking knees. I can’t just be done moving around completely at only 44.