We had lived in Houston about two months when Claire and I really started getting sick of each other. The craziness from the holidays and unpacking was over, and we needed things to do. Because I didn’t feel comfortable driving into Houston yet, we ventured into a safer part of town – the Sugar Land library.
The library has a great children’s area, with blocks and Lego’s and a doll house for kids to play with. I settled myself into one of the couches with a book, and watched Claire interact with the other children. Or I should say, not interact. She spent a lot of time looking at everything, studying what the other kids did. She would watch someone line up the blocks, then after they moved to something else, she would do the same thing. Every few minutes, she would run up to me and hug my legs, as if to prove to herself that I was still there.
Mothers and fathers were watching everyone closely, interrupting playful screams with a hushed “Shh” or diverting attention from a possible fight with the promise of a better toy. The kids where playing nicely, for the most part. Except one little girl. She couldn’t have been older than 2, judging by her limited vocabulary, but she was bigger than a lot of the other kids. Her mother followed her around; giving back stolen books, apologizing to pushed children, trying to reign in the brat she brought.
There was no question who was in charge in this relationship. Even though I still had some misconceptions about “Sugar Land Mothers,” this one was right on the money. She wore gold earrings, high heels and at least a 3 caret diamond on her left hand. Her clothes were apologetically expensive, and her hair was styled perfectly. I couldn’t imagine she spent much time with her daughter, judging by the girl’s reaction to her.
“Madison, you have to share.”
“Madison, please don’t run.”
“Madison, stop gnawing on that little boy’s arm.”
Madison had no bias, picking on everyone equally, regardless of age or gender. Except for Claire. For reasons unknown to me (or Claire, I’m sure), she was especially nice to Claire. She would steal a toy from some poor little boy and hand it to Claire. Or, she would push a little girl off a chair and practically shove Claire into it. After ten minutes or so of this, Claire got fed up of being the favorite one and joined me on the couch. We read a book, and pointed out colors and animals. The whole time, Madison’s mom tryed to involve me in conversation.
“Oh, she knows the sign for a lot of words! How wonderful.”
“What a beautiful dress she’s wearing. She’s just precious. And so well behaved.”
“Oh look, Madion brought her a doll! How sweet! THANK YOU MADISON! THANK YOU!”
I tried to brush off her comments, not wanting to have anything to do with her, or her mean daughter, and when they started packing up their things we all breathed a sigh of relief.
“Madison, say good-bye to your friend! Maybe we can get her number and play with her again! Would you like that? WOULD YOU LIKE TO PLAY WITH THAT LITTLE GIRL, MADISON?!?!”
I froze. Surely she couldn’t be serious. Her daughter was a demon, and she was terribly annoying. I didn’t give her any indication that I would ever want to see her again. I hadn’t even given her my NAME, why would she think I would want to give her my NUMBER?!
Needless to say, I made up some excuse as to why I couldn’t (“I don’t have a Houston phone number. In fact, I don’t have a phone. I’m Amish. I was dead at the time.”) and forgot about it. Until yesterday.
Yesterday Claire took a nap later than usual, and when she woke up it was already 3. We usually go to a playground at a mall in the afternoons, but it takes a good 20 minutes to get there, and we were inching dangerously close to rush hour traffic. But, we were both bored and hot, so I decided we’d go to an indoor playground in Sugar Land that we haven’t been to in a while. You have to pay to get in, and Homeslice doesn’t like playing by herself (I have to climb up with her or she’ll spend the whole time in my lap), so we stopped going. But, it was close and had been about 4 months since the last time we were there. Maybe she would play now.
I got settled at a table, and Claire ran off to play. She only spent about 10 minutes on the Big Kid’s side before the banchee-like screams of one feminate little boy scared her off. We walked over to the “2 and under” side, and I sat down on a bench. There were three other women with their kids there, and they all looked to be my age. Two of them were friends, and their sons were playing together. The other one had a daughter who would not play by herself. She spent most of the time on her mom’s lap, watching the other kids.
I could tell the mom was getting frustrated. I knew exactly how she felt; it was just a few weeks ago that Claire would go play by herself, and only at the playground in the mall. I couldn’t figure out how to make her more confident, or social. I said to the other mom, “Claire is the exact same way. We’ve tried almost every playground in the city. But, she just wants to spend the whole time on my lap. That’s why we haven’t been here in a while; I don’t want to pay $5 for her to sit with me.”
The other mom looked a little relieved. We talked a little bit about her kid’s school, and made small talk with the other two women there. After about 30 minutes, everyone started packing up to leave. We said good-bye to each other, and everyone left.
It wasn’t until I looked around and noticed that I was alone in the little kid’s section, that I really felt…well, alone. These women were my age, something that I’d been having a hard time finding. It’s probably all in my head, but I feel like in every social situation, I’m the youngest mom there. I never wanted my life to revolve around my kid, but that’s all I have to talk about with other moms.
Suddenly, I understood why Madison’s mom was so interested in getting my number. Hell, I had almost written my contact information on the back of my receipt and shoved it in the face of those women. It’s almost impossible to make friends when you stay home with a kid. Finding someone that you like, who’s kid is around the same age as yours is hard. The places I meet women are at Gymboree, or dance class, or the playground. It seems like everyone already HAS friends; like everyone in Sugar Land knows everyone else. Except for me.
I spend my days with a two year old. Sometimes one of JR’s friends will come over, but it’s not to see me. It’s to drink with JR. My conversations are made up of jingles I make up to get Claire to clean up or eat her food or take a bath.
In January, this all hit me. I had never felt so alone, or useless, in my life. I didn’t have anything to look forward to, and everyday was worse than the one before. Weekends weren’t better, because I knew that Monday would come around and I’d be alone with a kid again. I shut off; living life in auto-pilot. I don’t remember much about February, or March or April. I would take Claire to dance class, gymnastics, Gymboree, then come home and cry. Anything would set me off. I remember a few times just lying on the couch next to Claire, looking at her and wondering if she would remember this. Worried that she would remember how much I screwed up in those 3 months. Every time she looked at me, I imagined that she was thinking about how she totally got hosed in the mother department.
Nothing held my interest. I would get through the day by counting down the minutes until JR got home from work (god help him if he was late). I would go to sleep at 8pm, right after Claire, get up at 7 and be tired all day. I smoked too much and cried too much and was the most unhappy I’ve ever been.
I remember driving over the flyover toward Sugar Land on numerous occasions, thinking “If I just turn my wheel to the left, the car will go over the side.” I remember watching an episode of House, when the main character sits in his running car in the garage, and being surprised at the fact that he put blankets at the bottom of the garage door. I hadn’t thought about that. I looked at every bottle of Advil and Benadryl and Theraflu with new eyes; gauging how much was in each bottle and how much I would have to take to just fall asleep. I wrote my suicide note in my head every time I took a shower, and wondered if I should take Claire with me, or if it would be better to leave her with JR.
It’s hard to write that here, out in the open. It’s even harder to admit that it’s all true. I knew I was in trouble, but I didn’t know how to fix it.
Then one day, JR and I got in a huge fight. I can’t remember what it was about, but I remember sobbing in his arms. That day I called a psychiatrist. A few days later, I was on medicine. I went back every month for 3 months, and she upped the dosage of my meds each time. By my last appointment in June, I was finally feeling better. Not great, but not bad. I started asking for help from JR more, and being honest with myself more.
And now I can laugh with Claire. I didn’t realize it until a few weeks ago that she’s hilarious. I couldn’t see that before; I never laughed before. I’m still not 100%; in fact I think I need to see the doctor more often then every 6 weeks, but I’m better. I have a lot that I still need to work out, but now I can laugh.
The last time I wrote anything here was the end of January. I missed 6 months of letters to her. That’s 6 months I won’t remember. But the only thing I can do now is start again. I can start fresh and try again.
That’s all I can do.