Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Awkward Mom vs. The Comic Con

Now, you would think with Awkward Mom's superhero-ness, or at least sidekick-ness, she would rock this battle. You would think wrong.

Nerds scare me. Technically, I fall in this category, given my interests, hobbies, and general lack of social appropriateness, but I have never specialized my nerdness and this leaves me at a distinct disadvantage. Now, nerd is a pretty broad term and what we are really dealing with here are comic nerds. The comic world has always housed many variations of nerds, plus, given the recent Marvel movie explosion, massive increase in cosplay, Joss Whedon's existence, and much easier access to anime, that world is now even bigger and more varied. I am what you might call an equal-opportunity-comic-nerd; I like it all. I think it's all kinda neat. I'm well versed in many fandoms (another new addition to the comic nerd world lexicon), but I do not exclusively identify with any particular one. This makes me the exception rather than the rule at a Comic Convention. That and the fact that I am wearing pants, but we'll get to that.

The last time I was at one of these, I was pregnant with Super Oldest. So, 8 years ago. Awkward Dad and I bought a lot of comics, went to a lot of talks about comics, and sat in the hall and watched all the cosplayers stroll by. This time, I am just watching the cosplayers stroll by; somethings never change. Awkward Dad, Super Preschooler, and Super Oldest are attending a talk about the new Super Girl TV show. Super Toddler just screamed when we tried to enter the room (He prefers Gotham and is not pleased with CBS's decision to air Supergirl in direct competition. Or he needs a nap.) He and Super Kindergartener are pushing the stroller up and down the plush hallways of the Rosemont Convention Center, pretending the chandeliers are spaceships that they are avoiding in a complicated and daring space race. I am trailing behind, feeling left out.

Look, I love comics. I love reading them. I love the movies they make from them. I love the people involved. OK, I mostly love the people involved, but I also fear the people involved. Most comic nerds are very passionate about what they write, read, dress-up as, and live, and I'm just not. I like it all, but I don't know it all. And believe me, they know that I don't know. It's as intimidating as the Perfect Moms at the park, but because I know that it shouldn't be, I get frustrated by the pervasive sense of not belonging that is coursing through me. I do too belong here! I just don't want to wear a steampunk corset and pocket watch necklace. Or a Wookie head. Or whatever that blue thing is over there. Or an ace bandage, red paint, a snorkel, and a thong (Yes, seriously. And no, I did not take a picture.) Or really anything other than this Muppets t-shirt and my comfy jeans.

I want to read it all. Watch it all. Be friends with it all. The things about comics, or any interest really, is the way it makes you feel. Curious and happy and moved and interested and much like the Supers, who are racing up and down the hallway in an imaginary battle with crystal chandeliers and a carpet with giant circles printed on it. (According to Super Kindergartener, those are the droids.) And I have a funny feeling that is what all of these people feel when they read or watch or think about their particular fandom, but actually talking to them about that? Oh hell no! I'd have to talk to them and then they would make fun of me because I would pronounce Ryuk wrong and I would be right back in middle school again. No, thank you!

Of course, that's when I realize we are being followed. Sure, there are tons of people wandering down the hallway; it's on the way to the bathroom, it's near a string of panel discussions, and it's next to the arcade. Most cosplayers are treating it like a catwalk. But we are winding a very specific path that Super Kindergartener is weaving to avoid some asteroids that his copilot just spotted, and a little girl is following us, exactly. And she is being followed by her mom, exactly. A little girl of about 2, dressed to look like Zoe from Firefly in an adorable green top and red vest, is being followed by her model-stunning mother, dressed head to top in prefect cosplay herself. They look, exactly, like they belong here, and they are getting closer. Crap.

Her daughter approaches Super Toddler and touches his hair. He has great hair; it's a standard greeting in the toddler world. He smiles up at her and she smiles down at him and then they start to hug. I am gonna have to interact with her mom, that hug did it. So, I take a deep breath, remind myself that rejection says more about the rejecter than the rejected, and look up at the mom. (Did I mention she is model-tall? She's model-tall. I'm looking way up.)

Me: So, um, that's a great Mal. You really got the suspenders right.

Cosplay Mom: Oh, really? Do you like it? I was a little nervous, you know, because it's my first con and I really could never pull that off. (She gestures toward a woman in a Leia slave girl outfit.)

Me: No, it's great! I've seen a lot of Mals today and you are definitely the best. Plus, that outfit (also gesturing to the Leia) is not safe when carting children around.

Cosplay Mom: Totally. I love your shirt;Gonzo is my favorite Muppet.

Me: Mine too! It's pretty awesome, isn't it? My husband made it for me.

Cosplay Mom: So fun! Is he in a panel discussion?

Me: Yeah, the one on Supergirl.

Cosplay Mom: Meh, I'll DVR it. I'm not missing Gotham.

Me: I know that's right. Who's this little Zoe? She's adorable.

Cosplay Mom: You don't think it's too much?

Me: Oh no, she looks great! Are you going to the children's costume contest tomorrow?

Cosplay Mom: There's a children's costume contest?!

Me: Yeah, ours are going in Star Wars. Bought costumes, like from Halloween. Nothing amazing.

Cosplay Mom: That is so the way to go. This is the absolutely last time I make a vest out of red vinyl. It was a nightmare.

Me: I bet!

(Awkward silence that the children fill by attempting to shoot down a chandelier.)

Cosplay Mom: Hey, um, thanks for being so nice.

Me: Um, OK, sure. It's nothing. I mean, you seem nice, plus you are wearing cap guns. I wouldn't want to be on your bad side.

Cosplay Mom: No, I mean it. No one had talked to me all day. And I was really nervous about bringing the kids and, you know, fitting in and whatever. I'm babbling, sorry.

Me: No, you make perfect sense! And believe me, you totally fit in. You should parade up and down the hallway with the rest of the cosplayers. You are like a professional.

Cosplay Mom: There are professional cosplayers?

Me: Supposedly. It's OK; you can think it's weird. I think it's weird.

Cosplay Mom: Oh, thank goodness. That is really weird. By the way, I'm Susan. And that's Zoe.

Me: For reals? That's adorable. And I'm Erin.

Cosplay Mom: Yes, for reals. That's why the costumes. That's not weird, right?

Me: Nope. It's not professional cosplay weird, I'll tell you that much.

Cosplay Mom: You are so funny! Can I hang out with you all day?

Me: If you don't mind shooting down spaceships in the hallway, sure thing!

For reals. I really think that God is using all these experiences to make me understand that there is nothing wrong with me. There is nothing about me that I have to hide or hone. Life is not middle school and I truly do fit in. Or maybe I don't fit in. Maybe I wasn't meant to fit in. Maybe I was meant to stand out. And, maybe, when we have the courage to stand out, someone else will stand out with us, and, maybe, that is when we will truly, finally, fit in. Or something deep and profound. Maybe. Check out these Comic Con pictures, while I figure it out!

For your casual Sith Lord. 

There were millions of toy booths,
Super Preschooler wanted them all. 

Because when you are too small to play in the arcade, 
you have to improvise. 

Adorable, she is. 

Super Toddler's initial costume was a little too hardcore. 

Celebrating their costume wins, 
All the kids won, but if I had to pick a winner, 
The Tick there was totally amazing.

Super Toddler laughs in the face of danger. 

I am totally dorking them up for life,
aren't I? 

Comic Cons make me tired too.
See you guys later!

Same awkward time, 
Same awkward channel! 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Awkward Mom vs. The State Fair

I'm a planner.

No, that's not true. I wish I was a planner.

No, that's also not true. I wish I wished I was a planner.

No, even that's not true. I think I should wish that I wished I was a planner.

Here's the thing; there are lots of things I think I should want to do. I should want to clean my house, and not just throw stuff around randomly 10 minutes before someone is due over and then blame the kids. I should want to learn to garden, and not just gaze sadly at the weeds, while laying in my hammock, before happily going back to my book. I should want to volunteer for the PTA, and not just donate snacks when they tell me to. I should want to have a detailed and organizing household planner, and not just a giant post-it on the kitchen wall that just says "Dishes and Laundry and don't watch Netflix all day." I should want to have regular family meetings and well-thought-out house rules that I got out of a book that I carefully researched and analyzed, and not just another giant post-it that says "don't kill each other" and semi-regular family movie nights where someone sticks Dots to the back of the couch. And I should want to meticulously plan our family trip to the State Fair, months in advance, buying the tickets and the ride passes and the food vouchers ahead of time so they are discounted, carefully loading everyone in the van at dawn, complete with snacks, itineraries, and car activities, or, better yet, staying the night in the city where the fair is so we can get to the fair grounds early to get a parking space, and not just last minute throw everyone in the van with some hats and the request to "pipe down, this is my favorite song!" before driving 2 and a half hours so everyone can get slight sunburns and full-on stomach aches and have a freaking wonderful time. I should want to......

But you shouldn't should on yourself, right? So, instead, State Fair pictures!

Super 1st and his lemonade.

We love lemonade.

Did I mention that we love lemonade?

Really, really, love....
oh you get it. We drank lemonade. 

Because chocolate covered desserts 
are a great idea when it's 90 degrees.

Me and my high-flying adventurer ride the Sky Glider.

We had a great view of the fair from our perch. 

Super Kindergartener doesn't like heights or most rides,
but he'll happily drive a train. 

Some butter carvers. 
I didn't get any photos of the large butter sculptures,
yet another should to should. 

Requisite funnel cake. 

Requisite melt-down. 
That's how you know it's been a successful outing.
And that it is time to go home.

When we got home, our neighbor actually asked me if we were "Freaking crazy?!?!" And I said, "Yes, we are crazy." 

Crazy Fun! 

P.S. Yes, we did see Donald Trump. And no, we did not get to ride in his helicopter. We did, however, park by his helicopter because that is the kind of stuff that happens when you are not a planner and arrive late to the State Fair. Crazy weird slightly awkward adventure! 

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Awkward Mom vs. Mom Dating

Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.....

I really thought I was done with this stuff. I mean, so, maybe, it has taken seven years and four kids, but I am finally comfortable with my unique kind of parenting. Finally. And lord knows I am happily ensconced in a familiar circle of friends, most with similar mom approaches and a few with different ones, just to be interesting. And all is respectful, but not too respectful; plenty of laughter and teasing and that comfort that comes from years of carefully moving back the trust lines until the person is solidly in your heart and way up in your business. I am not mom-single. I am paired off (tripled off? quadrupled off? whatever-5-times-is off?). Point is, I have mom friends. I am established in a mom circle. I am NOT mom-dating anymore. Thank the Lord.

And then we moved. And as much as I would like to turn into a mom-hermit and only communicate with my mom friends via Facebook and email, the four energy-balls I live with are not going to tolerate that. So, back into the fray I go. And this is where I find myself yesterday evening; terrified, rusty, tongue-tied, and half-naked. Because, of course, my first Davenport mom-dating happens at the pool. THE POOL. Nothing like jumping in the deep end, eh?

And it is not-crowded-pool, on top of things. This is not the drunken college bar dating scene that a crowded park can be, where you can hide your quirks and flaws because there is sure to be a mom less socially appropriate than you are. Someone else will be drunker than you. (Of course, I am speaking metaphorically, but hey, no judging if you need a drink or two to get you through the mom-dating scene.) Someone else will bring fruit snacks or, god forbid, candy. Someone else will use the spray sunscreen right out there by the swings. Someone else will violate whatever parenting rule is popular this week and everyone will stare at her, rendering whatever awkward stunt you just pulled or spilled on yourself irrelevant and you can just blend into the background. Crowded park is the perfect place for early mom-dating. You can just watch for awhile before you decide to talk to someone.

Not-crowded-pool is like a snobby wine bar. Everything is on display and there is no where to hide. It involves everything you can be mom-judged for; snack choice, sunscreen choice, water bottle choice, pool bag choice (that old plastic Target bag? You just showed up at the snobby wine bar wearing yoga pants and that t-shirt you painted the living room in.) What you dress your children in will be judged. Are they wearing goggles? Are they wearing rash guards? Do they all have matching sandals? Matching towels? Did you remember towels? There's nowhere to hide when everyone is half-naked, and don't forget, you are probably half-naked too. Snobby-wine-bars/Not-crowded-pools are not where you can use a drappy top and those jeans with stretch material built in to skim and hide stuff. Nope, it's all hanging out there for all to see.

Basically, your ability to monitor your children around water is major. Are you a helicopter mom? Are you a trust-the-lifeguards mom? Are you a sun-yourself-on-this-deck-chair-and-read mom? Are you a drop-them-off-and-go-home-to-take-a-nap mom? Whatever you are, it is going to appeal to some moms and make other moms want to call Child Services on you. There appears to be no middle ground here; it's the toilet paper roll under or over question of mom-dating. And you won't know which mom is which until it is too late and they are glaring at you across the pool. Because the pool isn't crowed. There is no one else to look at and watching children frolic in the water becomes really boring, really fast.

She's beautiful. Of course, she's beautiful. That effortless natural beauty that may come from a lovely soul full of benevolent light radiating from within or it may be expertly applied Maybelline. I can't quite tell because I don't wear my glasses at the pool and she's mostly just a tan, tall blur right now. She's made considerably taller by the fact that she is standing on the edge of the pool and I am sitting on the steps leading into the shallow end, desperately trying to keep Super Baby from smacking his head on the metal guard rail, while watching the other three flail around, because, due to the move, swim lessons didn't happen this summer. (Don't ask me what my excuse was the past 7 summers, I can't be bothered to remember that long ago.) She looks so calm, and she should. She has achieved that sought after milestone of moms the world over: her child can swim and she no longer has to get in the pool. She looks jaunty; sunglasses perched on her head, fitted tee from her latest 5K, tiny little shorts that somehow manage to not look trashy, pedicured toes peeking out of nice sandals. No plastic bargain bin flip flops here. She's tanned and toned and terrible. I hate her and she won't go away.

And I doubt she's going anywhere soon. My children haven't seen other children in a month; they swoop onto her son the second he cannonballs into the pool. And he appears delighted by the attention. Age-wise, he's somewhere between the oldest two Supers, and, because Tan Mom won't stop talking, I know that he is an only child and has been lonely this summer because they just moved here as well. I also know that he loves sports, is highly advanced in math, walked early, and has a bit of an anger problem but they are working on this through a variety of behavior plans and charts that I immediately forget.

I am trying to be nice and I am trying to watch my kids at a new pool and I am trying to get the lay of the land here in a new city and I am trying to adjust to the fact that I am mom-dating again after 4 blissful years of not having to. I am trying, but I am not doing very well because suddenly, everything happens at once. While she is telling me about their summer reading plan,  Super 1st has the audacity to say that he is going into 2nd grade and Tan Child is going into 1st grade but that must be a lie because Super 1st is way smaller than Tan Child so Tan Child splashes Super 1st in the face while yelling that he is a liar. This is also the moment when Super Preschooler sprays his water gun straight into the women's aerobics class that is going on across the pool and hits the instructor, straight in the back. This is also the moment when Super Toddler decides she is hungry so she drags over the snacks I brought, a box of chocolate chip granola bars and a box of strawberries (someone has taken a bite out of each one), in a plastic Target bag that she promptly leaves in the water. And this is also the moment that Super Baby decides to pull down my swim suit, flashing my unfettered mammaries right at Tan Mom and momentarily blinding her.

Time stops. For exactly 2 seconds. For exactly 2 seconds, I want to cry. I want to scream. I want to throw a tantrum of epic proportions. I don't want to mom-date anymore. I don't want to be in new place. I don't want to feel like I don't know what I am dong. I don't want to be the fat pale one talking to the thin tan one. I don't want this. Why is it always like this? Why am I always so god damn awkward? Could I just not be awkward for 2 seconds? Is that too much to ask?! Could I just know what I am doing for once?! It's exactly 2 seconds, and then a little voice in the back of my head whispers, "you do know. You are fine and you are awkward. Just own it."

So, I do. I own it. I laugh and say "whoops," while hauling up my top. I scoop the plastic bag out of the pool and toss it toward our stuff, while opening a granola bar with my teeth and telling Super Toddler to eat over there. I snap my fingers at Super Preschool and hold out my hand for the water gun, while shouting an apology to the aerobics instructor, who waves at me and smiles back at her giggling class. I turn to deal with Super 1st, to find that he has calmly explained that people grow at different rates, it happens all the time that people think he is young, it's no big deal, and would Tan Child like to dive for rings with him? I turn to Tan Mom to find her slumped on the side of the pool, looking horrified. I guess she is still scarred from the blinding white of my naked chest, so I start to apologize again when she turns to me, looking helpless, with tears brimming up in her eyes.

"I just don't know what to do when he acts like that."

"Oh, it's OK. They figured it out. Look; they are diving together over there!"

"I am so sorry. Sometimes I think if he had siblings, he'd act better, but I can't seem to have any more and I really want to, but I guess it's not to be."

Super Baby crawls over the lip of the pool right into her lap and she pulls him to her, drenching her adorable outfit and knocking her sunglasses off her head. She snuggles him to her and peeks up at me over his hair. And I suddenly see that all the perfection I stuffed her with was made out of my own insecurity and jealousy. She's just like me. She's lonely and scared and new to town and awkward. Holy Cats. She's awkward! Oh, and now that she is down here closer to me, I can see that Maybelline has nothing to do with her; her beauty is all her own. So, I take a deep breath and dive in.

"Don't even worry about it. Kids are figuring it out, you know; all those new feelings in those little bodies, it's a wonder they aren't throwing fits and acting up all the time. Did you see Super Preschooler shoot that teacher with the water gun?! I thought I was gonna die of embarrassment! By the way, my name is Erin, and it looks like our sons are getting along great. We should totally hang out sometime."

"Really? I'd love that! My name is Ann. I honestly don't know what I am doing and you seem so amazing. I couldn't imagine taking 4 children to the pool by myself. Can I ask you like a million questions?"

"Sure. You want a granola bar? Or a half-eaten strawberry?"

"Totally. Thanks!"

Well, alright, fine. I suppose I can mom-date if food's involved. As long as we can jump past the point where we are just ordering salads to impress each other, to the point we eat a whole cheesecake together. With our hands. 

Super Toddler knows that the best way to mom-date 
at the pool is to make a dramatic entrance.