It's no surprise to anyone that I've struggled with my identity ever since Andrew died.
I knew that I was a wife, daughter, and friend above all things. His death didn't define who I was, though it sure changed how I felt about existing in the world. The world didn't see me as a mom. Hell, I didn't see myself as a mom all that much either. I definitely was/am, but it was pretty hard to confirm those facts when you are still only caring for yourself, even after buying all that baby crap and gestating for nearly 39 weeks. I wanted everyone in the grocery store or passing by me on the street to know. But they didn't.
We visit parks everyday. Some days, we even make it to 4 parks! Benjamin just thrives around other children. No joke, if I see kids at the park across the street, I make a b-line for it. I don't know how to explain it to other people because they often see him in public settings that provide gobs of stimulation, but this boy is a full-fledged tantrum-throwing toddler. He was having one continuous meltdown this morning until I opened that car door. He basically sprinted, jumped into his carseat and off we were to a (faraway) park.
He's a whole different child when being fully engaged. And to most parents, he's pretty freaking pleasant. They don't know home-bound Benjamin. I fear winter.
We usually see an independent mom or two with their kiddos at our local parks. There are about 7 parks we visit within walking distance from our house on a regular basis. He's even well known by other kids and their parents. Ray was riding his bike with Benjamin through the "big red park" the other day and passed a family. Ray heard them say, "Hey, there goes Benjamin!" The kid is a little bit famous in our 'burb.
I don't mind talking with the others parents at the park. We usually get on about preschools and various other activities their kids are involved in-- almost always with parents whose kids are quite a bit older than Benjamin. It's fine with him that the kids are older, because he seems to have little interest in kids his age. But the big kids who will talk to him and faun all over him? Baby crack. Where these parents of 1.5 year olds are, I have no idea. Benjamin has to be out and about.
Despite feeling like a different kind of parent always, I still manage to be honest about our story and engage with the other adults. It's when we're at parks with mommy groups that I can't handle. I find a corner bench to sit on and practice breathing exercises. I have no desire to engage, introduce myself, make new friends... or any of that. Maybe if the mommy group was for parents of just one kid, but they never are. They're always toting around their double strollers, toddlers and babies.
And it makes me uneasy. This happened yesterday and I hermit-crabbed my way into a hole and only approached the scene when Benjamin was getting himself into a predicament. My subdivision even has a mommy group. They advertise in the monthly bulletin (yes, it's pretty much perfect little suburbia) about the mommy group on facebook. Perfect excuse to avoid-- I don't do facebook.
There's a fine line between avoiding those groups because they're a grief trigger for me and knowing what's best for my son. Even before Andrew died, I never pictured myself involved in these mommy groups. They didn't seem like my style. I'm more rogue and less rule-driven, or at least that's how I've always viewed my outlook. Tantrums aside, little brother's growing up pretty well... mommy group attendee or not.
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