Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Introspection on the Playground

I took my boys to the park this morning. We were not the only ones with the great idea; the park was over run with Mom's Club. Lots of young moms, their preschoolers of varying ages, their steaming cups of Starbucks, and their circles of conversation.

I have many friends who have signed on for such play groups, and they have plugged into a community that suits them. I know many moms who are very happy with this circle of friends; they have an extensive community of depth and support. I know it can be really effective, but somehow I have never felt compelled to join.

Something inside me didn't want them there today. I felt like I don't fit with them. It seems like I should, like I should blend right in with this crowd, since we are all 'self employed' and working toward the same goal: parenting toddlers without losing ourselves in the isolation of it all. But I just don't feel like I fit.

Even as I thought it, I recognize its silliness... and I was convicted by it. I should want these women in my life. I should want to know them; they all live within a three mile radius of my home. This could be a ministry waiting to happen. Why am I resistant?

Here's why:

1. I don't like relationships that are child-centered. I don't like for anything in my life to be child-centered... I adore my children, and I love them beyond words. But I never, ever want them to be the center of my world. I don't want to think that way, I don't want them to perceive it, and I fight against it. So, I am not interested in relationships that center around kids; I know from my degree that toddlers and preschoolers engage mostly in parallel play, so they're not truly playing with one another, investing in each other. That means that while they're playing alongside each other, we moms need to have something to talk about.

Which brings me to my next point...

2. I have found that deep conversation is nearly impossible with little children under foot, especially in a public scene. Sure, it can happen, but when moms are engaged deeply, the children are left to their own devices. And that's just not a good idea. It's not safe, and it's not wise. And as a rule, I try to be both. Hence, deep conversation is hard to come by in that setting.

Which brings me to my next point...

3. I hate small talk. I can do it, but I hate it. If I am anticipating an entire morning, afternoon, or social setting that is about the weather, recipes, or crafts, I would honestly rather poke myself in the eye. I can feel my stomach starting to churn at the very idea of it... I crave authenticity. I want to know people. I want to know them deeply, what they love, who they are. And this often cannot happen on a playground (see point #3). I confess the judgment of the next statement, but it's true; I watched these moms, seemingly settling for empty conversation, tentative hugs, and lip service, all in pursuit of community.

Which leads me to my next point...

4. I am afraid of being suffocated by a person or group of people who are starved for community. I love relationships, and I desire them in a deeply intimate way. But I do not want someone to take over my social calendar just so they can have something on theirs. Call it selfishness, and I confess that it is. Still, it terrifies me. I really like my life; I don't want to adopt someone else into everything I do.

See? I was resistant. To say the least.

Right there, on the playground, as I pushed my boys in the swings and we sang "Twinkle, Twinkle," I prayed. I asked God to soften my heart toward these women, this community, and to somehow give me an interest in playing with their children and knowing their lives. Perhaps there is a reason why we all landed at the park today; maybe I'm supposed to do something.

And then, while I wallowed in my own selfishness, I noticed a dad standing nearby; he was wearing an Ohio State jacket. Casually, I said, "Hey, go bucks."

He smiled. "Are you a buckeye?"

"I am."

And just like that, a conversation ensued. I met his little boy and his wife, a cute and profoundly round girl, pregnant with their second son. They just moved here from Ohio three months ago, and we talked at length of all the things we love about where we live and where we are from. They transferred to Colorado with his work, and she is a former teacher, now stay-at-home mom. Hmmm. Vaguely familiar.

Before I knew it, we had exchanged phone numbers. I wanted to know them, to play with their children, to engage them in my community.

Well, how about that.


Jeni said...

You know, this is just how it happens in the Middle East too. :)

Janet said...

I could not have said it better myself.

my3boys said...

Our God works in wonderful ways, Tricia.