I’m not one of the cool moms. The cool moms gather after school and gossip while their kids run around in dizzying spirals and finally collapse, breathless but grinning, in the grass. (Their kids are cool, too. But then you might have guessed that.) I don’t have the gift of easy conversation, and I never have. I am too serious, too preoccupied, too in my head. In order to compensate for myself, I try too hard, and it shows. What’s more, even if I knew how to be chatty, how to skim the surface of a thing, I would still dress wrong, I would still carry those extra thirty pounds that have beleaguered me ever since my children were born over a decade ago now.
When I was a child I didn’t fit in, so why should I expect anything to be different now?
I don’t, and mostly I’m comfortable with my awkwardness, my oddities. Except lately, once in a while, when my fifth grader has been mentioning “what the other mothers do,” as if I am so far from the realm of normalcy that I am placed in my very own circle, with all the other mothers clustered companionably in another circle, one that fails completely to intersect with mine. My firstborn never has cared what others think, but my lastborn, like his mother, cares too much about what others think. And he notices everything — all the sidelong glances and smirks are catalogued for later scrutiny, when he’s lying in bed at night, tired but not tired enough, and his lip starts quivering. Oh, I’ve seen it.
For my sensitive son I’d like to pass, at least every now and then, for one of those other mothers. But I know I don’t. I hope that the things I am able to offer him — warmth, love, time — and those that I am able to teach him make up for all the rest. I’d guess that most often they do.
But when I come to pick up my kid after school, and he looks from those other mothers to me in his thoughtful, measured, critical way, and I consider my unkempt hair, my ratty t-shirt, and capris years out of style, I cringe a little — both for him and for me.
Still, by the time we arrive at home not five or ten minutes later, I have forgotten all about the other mothers, and so has my son.
So. Not much to do but shrug, and press on. Oh, I suppose I could work to fit in — I’m not stupid, after all. But I must have made the choice not to, at some point down the line. Because I’d rather just shrug, and press on.