Oh, dear readers. This one is ugly. Awkward Mom attempts the playgroup again this week, buoyed by her near success, 2 weeks ago. Seriously, if she can handle the Bounce House, she can certainly handle a nice, quiet playgroup at the indoor playground. However, Awkward Mom didn’t bank on the terrible trifecta of super villains that were waiting for her. You see, Perfect Mom (with about a dozen clones) decides to show up with her sidekicks, Jealousy and Insecurity. Oh yes, this one is real ugly.
So, it begins right in the parking lot. Super Toddler complained about being hungry on the ride over, so I gave him some goldfish crackers. No big deal, right? Except, for some reason, I gave him the entire bag, and then he decided that it would be more efficient to dump said entire bag onto his lap. And that was before he located the bag of M&Ms sitting next to the car seat (Thanks, Awkward Dad…). I arrive at the indoor playground in plenty of time, and I arrive at the backseat to find Super Toddler covered in orange fish heads, sporting a chocolate Clark Gable mustache. I rout around the backseat floor; finding 3 pencils, Awkward Dad’s id badge, a sock, 14 mummified fruit snacks, 6 Sesame Street stickers, a post-it with an affirmation on it, and the camera. I do NOT find the wipes I was looking for; those I finally locate in the glove box. I wipe Super Toddler’s face and gingerly lift him out of the car seat, trying not to dislodge his lap of fish into the aforementioned (disgusting) backseat floor. I am shaking his fish bounty onto the ground, assuring him that the birds love crackers, when Perfect Mom pulls up next to me. The sheer beauty of her brand-new, recently washed Mini-Van somehow causes my Baby on Board sign to fall off the rear window. I assume it will join the host of debris on the backseat floor, peek out of the window, and shudder in shame once it sees Perfect Mom’s M.O.M. (Master of Multitasking) bumper sticker.
She waves at me, so I wave Super Toddler back at her. She gives me that pitying look I know so well, as she herds her 3 children out of the back seat; all under 4 and all in matching outfits. The baby is already walking, imagine that. I finished shaking off Super Toddler and grab Super Baby out of the car. Then I slip on the goldfish crackers I have littered the ground with and nearly fall. Perfect Mom offers to carry the baby for me. I decline (nicely, I swear), and we sheepishly follow her into the indoor playground.
This place is a wonderland; flanked on all sides by numerous stations of child euphoria, and in the middle, an enclosed baby play mat, with every educational baby toy you can imagine. Super Toddler grabs a shopping cart and takes off for the play market, shouting something about tomatoes, so I place Super Baby in the baby enclosure, perch on the edge, and try to look really engrossed in his complete and utter inactivity. This does not work and Perfect Mom sits right next to me. She laughs indulgently and corrects her baby, who has just counted 5 before 4, while stacking meticulously perfect rows of blocks. I jokingly say, “I bet she will be juggling them next.” Perfect Mom tells me that it took Perfect Preschooler until 3 ½ to learn to juggle, but maybe Perfect Baby will be precocious. “She is in everything else, you know.” I sigh and look over at Super Baby, who is now showing signs of life; happily stealing from Perfect Baby’s neatly stacked blocks. He shoves a purple block in his mouth, only to have Perfect Mom pluck it out and place it in the dirty-toy bin. While she is busy rubbing hand sanitizer all over herself, I give Super Baby a plastic triangle to chew on. When she turns back, I assure her it is ours and mentally remind myself to stick it in the dirty-toy bin before we leave.
She moves on to something about her homeschooling curriculum, but I am not listening. I am mesmerized by her teeth. She has the whitest teeth I have ever seen. Like Hollywood white. Like toothpaste commercial white. Seriously, you could guide planes in with her teeth. This, of course, makes me carry on the rest of our conversation through barely opened lips, suddenly very aware of my less than movie-star-white teeth. I end up nodding a lot. Perfect Mom doesn’t seem to mind though.
Miraculously, one of Perfect Mom’s many clones arrives, and I am able to discreetly slip away to check on Super Toddler. I find him playing house with one of the Perfect Kids. Due to the fabulous design of this place, I can see Super Baby from any of the play areas, so I further avoid Perfect Mom by watching the toddlers for awhile. Their play is all-consuming and hilarious. Currently, they are baking brownies in the pretend oven, while they set the table with no less than 14 forks, a rubber duck, some Monopoly money, 2 cups, a baby bottle, some chalk, and a washcloth. I could watch this all day, but I see that Super Baby is upsetting Perfect Baby’s perfect tower of blocks, so I hightail it over to the baby area.
I crawl over the Super Moms, who are suddenly everywhere, and reclaim Perfect Baby’s blocks for her. Super Baby is indignant for a moment, but once he is given my bracelet to chew on, he is in seventh heaven. Never, ever let me say that this child isn’t easy to please. I sit down amid the enemy and try to stay calm. In the course of the next 14 minutes, I experience this: Lysol, I carry it everywhere. I can’t believe I gained 5 pounds with this pregnancy. Of course, I made her costume myself; you can’t be sure where those store bought ones come from. Yes, she is potty trained, and yes, she is one and a half. Oh no, sweetie, that is just not normal. Of course, she isn’t getting a cake for her birthday, all that sugar. Peter’s head is in the 95th percentile. I won’t even let that stuff in my kitchen. It was only my 4th marathon, but it went really well, I thought. What do you mean, he can’t read yet? You simply must try…
I gaze longingly at the children thundering past me. I am starting to feel like this baby enclosure is more like a Roman arena filled with my most villainous foes, and let me tell you, Jealousy and Insecurity are rapidly winning this tournament of torment. Just before I am ready to run screaming back to my car, a rather hassled looking mom with 2 little girls sits next to me. I glance at her stained shirt and she takes in the goldfish crumbs on my jeans. We then spend a blissful 4 minutes talking about hair, Mexican food, and Dancing with the Stars. I think she might be an angel.
I am brought back to reality by the scream that I know so well. I vault over the baby enclosure to find Super Toddler engaged in a serious tug-a-war over a train. I say something about sharing that I hope sounds mature to the other kid’s mom because Super Toddler is deep in his tantrum and way past listening to anyone. I pry the train out of his clenched fist and hand it over. I pull Super Toddler into a hug, which immediately alerts me to another emergency. I pick him up and head for the bathroom, grabbing the diaper bag on the way.
In the bathroom, Super Toddler calms down at an amazing rate; this startles me every time. Are toddlers just little teenagers? Whatever the reason, thankfully, it enables me to change him in record time and send him on his way. He doesn’t seem interested in vying for the train, so he heads toward the art area. I breathe a sigh of relief and hurry back to find Super Baby curled up in Perfect Mom’s lap. Should’ve waited for the sigh, I guess. I steel myself and climb over to her. “Oh, Erin, you are so brave. I would never have been able to leave my baby at this age.” I deflect her passive-aggressive laser deftly, as I thank her (sincerely) for watching Super Baby. I haul Super Baby into my lap and he immediately crawls back into hers. She giggles. I don’t.
I catch a glimpse of Super Toddler fighting with a little girl over a piece of chalk. I snatch an unsuspecting Super Baby out of his lap of lies and try not to let his crying break my heart. I wave off Perfect Mom’s offers to watch him, as I, once again, vault over the baby enclosure. According to a watching mom, Super Toddler was merely offering the little girl the chalk, but I decide that I better stick around, just in case. The little girl does take the chalk, and then she sticks it in her mouth quite contently. Watching Mom does not appear to be this little girl’s mom and, as no mom seems forthcoming, I ask the little girl to please spit out the chalk. She does so, right into my hand.
I am starting to think this couldn’t get much worse, which is, of course, exactly what it does. With absolutely no warning, Super Toddler just loses it, and I mean, nuclear annihilation loses it. He throws some chalk at the chalkboard, where it explodes, so much louder than chalk should explode. Heads start to turn. There doesn’t seem to be any cause for this meltdown, other than his toddlerhood and perhaps the need of a nap. I stash Super Baby near Watching Mom and try to get a hold of Super Toddler. But hugs and diaper changes aren’t gonna cut it this time. Sometimes a superhero mom just has to know when a retreat is in order. I quickly grab Super Toddler and run him over to the shoe cubbies. In the time it takes me to race to the art area and unstash Super Baby, Super Toddler has thrown himself on the floor, which he is beating with every appendage available to him. Perfect Mom is cooing at him and brushing his hair off his face. I am afraid I completely ignore her, as I shove shoes on every member of the Awkward family, while really hoping they are even our shoes. So many heads are turning now that it is like the Exorcist in here. I am faintly aware of Perfect Mom’s voice, but I have no idea what she is saying, as I fling jackets on my children. Super Baby decides that Super Toddler needs some support in the screaming department and we now have the entire, undivided attention of the playgroup. I somehow hoist both of them up and into my arms, and then, laden like a pack mule, I begrudgingly allow Perfect Mom to hold the door open for me. I might even thank her, not quite sure. But I am sure of one thing. After I stumble to the car and place my screaming kids inside. After I remember to run back inside to grab my diaper bag. After I put the bag in the car and promptly slip on the 167 crushed goldfish lying on the side of the car. After I fall. After that, while I am sitting there staring up at Perfect Mom’s M.O.M. bumper sticker. Yes, there. Right there is when I swear off playgroups forever. Well, that or feeding Super Toddler goldfish crackers in the car. It is kinda a tossup right now.
Fear not, my good readers! Awkward Mom, while bruised surely, is not broken. She will live to playgroup (and be incredibly awkward) again! Same awkward time, same awkward blog!