I realized this morning that I haven’t actually been to a lot of baby showers. Most of our friends that have kids either had them before we became close, or they live too far away for us to conveniently attend these momentous gatherings. This thought dawned on me today as I was driving to a baby shower. I looked down at my clothing and wondered if I was dressed appropriately. I was wearing khaki cargo shorts and a striped green and blue polo shirt. I looked in the mirror and noticed I had neglected to shave. I looked down at my shorts and saw three tiny purple splotches, fall out from my morning smoothie that had escaped my attention until now. I quickly texted one of the parents-to-be and received a gracious response:
Me: I’m not supposed to be dressed up for your shower today am I?
Me again: I guess I haven’t been to a lot of baby showers I’m realizing!
No immediate response from this woman who is getting ready to attend her own baby shower. So I self-consciously offer a follow up: I already left the house and I’m wearing shorts…are people going to think I’m a stupid man?
A few minutes later I receive a kind response: Whatever you have on is good! You’re gay; you’re not going to look bad!
My Immediate Response: Well after I left I did notice a few tiny purple splotches of my smoothie from this morning on my shorts. I must’ve spilled and not noticed it while helping get the kids ready for soccer! Such is the life of a parent!
Her Response: These are things we have to look forward to!
Saturday is soccer day, and as I’ve blogged about before, it’s true that I tend to make sure I’m presentable before leaving the house. Today though, my husband would be flying solo since I was heading to the shower. There is only 30 minutes of free time between our son’s game and our daughter’s, and usually one of us takes the latter home during the last portion of the former’s game in order to start lunch. Today, I had to help my husband pack a lunch so they could picnic between games, I had to run to the store because it was our turn to bring Popsicles to our daughter’s game, and we had a babysitter interview right in the midst of all of this. It was a hectic morning, and my smoothie took it out on my shorts.
When I arrived at the baby shower, I found that while I was definitely on the casual side of the clothing spectrum, I wasn’t out of place. I poured myself a mimosa and someone suggested I pluck a pineapple off the edible flower arrangement to use as a garnish for my morning cocktail. I thought this was a fabulous idea, so I did, and then I sat down in a comfy chair to enjoy some conversation with the other shower-goers. As I nibbled on the pineapple slice, a huge chunk fell off, splashed in my mimosa and I was quickly doused in champagne and orange juice. My clothing immediately went from casual to casualty.
The other guests were polite and kind in helping me clean myself up, and I just resigned myself to being a complete mess. Thankfully there were several other parents at the party who could empathize with feeling like you are barely hanging on by a thread, and I started to bond with some of them over that feeling of helplessness. I even shared an embarrassing story of how last week I had accidentally texted the mother-to-be we were all honoring a message meant for my husband: Our son is being an a**hole. (There were no asterisks in my text.) I had reached the point of bonding with these parents where we could admit that loving our children didn’t necessarily mean that we always liked them. Several of these parents were lesbian couples, including the couple who would soon be opening up gifts from all of us, and there were a few heterosexual moms with adopted children. We all commiserated over the fact that we had jumped through some tremendous hoops to have our children that it simply exaggerates the guilt we have at those moments where we know our children are being unbelievably awful and we think, “I really can’t stand you right now.”
When I first discovered that I had sent that text to my friend, I was horrified. I never would have sent those words to anyone but my husband because I thought only he could truly understand how much we love our children and how frustrating we can find their behavior at times. When our kids stop acting up, we try to always have a calm discussion with them about their choices and we need to manage our feelings. For example, something I often tell them is that I want a million dollars, but I don’t throw myself on the ground screaming when I don’t get it. (Sometimes, when our kids say they want something, I have also been known to say, “Wanting things is good. It gives you ambition.”)
So as I sat there today in my causal outfit, smelling vaguely of a mimosa smoothie, I felt thankful for being part of a parenting community that understands that love doesn’t mean putting blinders on to the reality of our children’s behavior. These parents understood and agreed that we should try to use age-appropriate vocabulary to essentially say, “You are acting like an a**hole.” And isn’t that really a parent’s primary job?