Friday, March 13, 2009

Playgrounds and Playdates

It was sixty degrees a couple weeks back, a record high this blistery cold winter. Everyone came out to don their latest hoochie outfit or new toy. Cars, skateboards, strollers roamed the streets while pedestrians leisurely walked in the midday sun.

Adelle was in a fairly good mood (i.e. not-screaming-her-head-off) and we decided to venture outside. Most of the time, we cloister ourselves in our 600 sq ft apt so we protect her from the elements, or more accurately, protect others from her incessant fussiness.

We could see the hoards of kids with their look-alike parents swarming the playground. Alex steered the stroller to the benches where other parents with babies were hanging out. There was an immediate 'checking out' when we approached our designated bench. Parents were scoping us out as we plopped ourselves down on an empty bench. The playground, I realize, is just as much a place for parents to socialize as their kids.

I felt like I was on a first date. As Alex undressed Adelle from her Siberian outfit, a woman with reddish colored hair smiled at me. It almost made me blush. She picked up her baby's arm and waved it at me. I felt vulnerable without any chubby arm to grab so I feebly waved back. Her husband also smiled but his was far less charming.

As I walked around with Adelle, I noticed that parents were checking us out. Call me paranoid, but I am certain that they were sizing us up as possible companions. The red head finally came our way and introduced herself. 'I'm Donna. This is Seth,' she says as she forces her kid to say hello. The kid is a cutie. Red haired like his mother, he dashes a smile toward Adelle. She looks back at him with disinterest and looks the other way. It's already begun...our little heartbreaker.

The little baby boy keeps looking at her, vying for her attention by moving his arms around, trying to touch Adelle. She just holds onto me tighter. Perhaps she's intimidated by his bib, 'Let's do lunch. It's on me.'

Meanwhile, Donna coos at Claire. 'Oooooh, you're so cute. Yes you are. Sooo cute.' Then in human speak, she addresses me, 'Yes, your daughter really is beautiful.' This is not the first time someone has said this to me. Of course, I'm biased; she has my DNA and every parent thinks their child is da shiiiiit. How else would you explain the Jean Bonnets of this world? To her credit, Adelle is stunning. She has almond shaped blue-gray eyes, dark hair, and pouty lips. She draws more attention than anything I have ever made or done in my entire life. out!

I know Donna is waiting for a reciprocal comment, but I've always been a very bad liar. (Lying to my mother about eating donuts with powdered sugar on my nose, circa 1985) Her baby looked disproportionately huge. He looked like the baby version of the MAD comic book kid, except ginormous. He was charming, but not a stud by any means. Looking for my response, I spew out the first thing that comes to mind, 'You baby has long eyelashes.'

Donna doesn't seem too pleased, but she continues the conversation. She gives us advice on preschools and toys ('Oh, you must get the exersaucer!) and shudders when we mention that we bought a walker for Adelle. 'Oh, you should return that. They're terrible. I read they delay walking and besides, they're really dangerous.' She might as well have pointed her fingers and said, 'Baaad parents' while slapping our wrists.

Yes, I've read that they're not the safest, but considering that we live in a small apartment, the size of some people's closets, Adelle has little room to bump into anything. Besides we're on her like hawks, monitoring her every move with our peripheral first-child-paranoia vision.

As for her other concern....Adelle is going to walk sooner than later. The girl could lift up her head at birth and bear her weight on her legs by three months. She's like her papa. I, on the other hand, didn't walk till I was almost a year and a half. According to my mom, I was afraid and lazy, like my dad who didn't run till he was five. The first male grandchild to a family with five girls, he was pampered beyond belief.

Adelle looks around, staring at the other babies and burrows her head into my chest. Meanwhile Harry, Donna's husband, suggests that we met up again in the park. Alex looks at me in our unique couples' speak and I know that we are NEVER meeting up with them. Harry looks like my dad and his techie job doesn't score huge interest points with Alex.

I had better luck with Adelle at her first playdate. My friends Nina and Emma had two babies around the same time. Actually, they were born two weeks of each other. I decided that it was time they meet. We live in Woodside which is in Queens, which feels like it is about a million miles from Manhattan. Raining that day, we decided to rent a Zipcar and drive into the city. Our nearest Zipcar location is a couple train stops away so it is not as convenient as it sounds. The trains were messed up, (when are they not?) and we ended arriving late. With a baby, this is more often than not.

Adelle loves the car. I wish we had a car just to put her to sleep. When we finally arrive, she looks at the new babies and mothers with curiosity. She hasn't quite gotten to the point where she understands that there are other tiny human beings out there.

These babies are about twice the size of 'dainty' Adelle. They are supercute, with rolls and creases, dimples where babies should have dimples. Adelle looks like a lanky version of these healthy kids. She gets it from her daddy.

I need to take off my jacket so I hand her over to my friend. Adelle immediately looks at me with anxiety, but doesn't start screaming until I pick up Harry. My goodness! The girl can belt. I was perversely touched that she cried, a sign that she knows who her mama is.

She looked at her fellow babies and kept looking back at me as if to ask, 'What universe is this? There are other babylings out there like me?' Perhaps it was too much to take in for one week. She suddenly went from a world with giants to a world where there are others out there like her. She was good for the most part. She only cried at the end when she was hungry and tired, something she would have done at home anyway.

I should take her out more. It's hard when you feel it's too cold, or when you need to rent a car to see friends. Maybe I should just hold her in front of the mirror in different outfits and pretend that she's seeing her friends; babies that smile when she smiles, that laugh when she laughs. Or better yet, maybe I need to overcome my extreme paranoia about germs on the subway, my laziness at getting her dressed and out the door, and fear that she will scream the entire time we're out.

Adelle taught me an important lesson this week. I don't need to protect her in bubble wrap and wipe every surface that she touches. Babies are bound to get exposed and contaminated. They are expected to puke, pee, poop on themselves and their parents. I guess the hardest thing about being a parent, even at this age, is learning how to let go.

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