Saturday, August 22, 2009

I'm so glad you shared ... now, what's your name again?

On Thursday mornings I bring Nathan to an Early Intervention playgroup so that he can practice social skills and learn how to interact with other kids in a group setting. While he and the other 1-2-year-olds are in their classrooms, we parents sit in a pseudo-living room for two hours chatting in Parent Group. It's quite an eclectic bunch, most of us having children who have a developmental delay of some sort, but with little else in common ... or so you'd think.

The group is mostly women, but there is one dad who dutifully comes with his wife each week because he loves to see the joy on his namesake's face when he emerges from the classroom at 10:45. Some of us are working-class, barely getting by from paycheck to paycheck, while others are highly-educated professionals with nannies and cleaning ladies who handle all of the messy stuff. Some of us have older children and have a "been there, done that" attitude as the first-timers wonder about potty training and retiring binkies.

But what we all have in common is that we are there, in this time and space each week, for our children. And, since we have to sit together, looking at each other over the veneer coffee table for a couple of hours, we figure we might as well say something to each other.

So we talk. The late-shift supermarket cashier and the ICU nurse and the stay-at-home mom and the museum curator and the PR rep ... all talking to each other, sharing our thoughts and fears, and asking questions of each other. It's a warm and wonderful Twilight Zone.

Some topics that we have discussed: poop (our kids' and, yes, our own ... insert that catchy "Activia" jingle here), periods, paychecks, pregnancy. We share things with each other that are intensely personal, and it isn't uncommon to see someone getting teary-eyed or fired up about some recent frustration. Words like, "IUD," "seedy diarrhea," "nipples," "antidepressants," and "vasectomy" are frequently heard by passersby in the hallway. Parent Group is a place where we can leave our diverse backgrounds and come together to meet and share and be close to one another. And yet ...

The other day, as I sat down next to the sweet couple who always sits on the loveseat to my right, they announced to me that they are expecting their second child. I was really happy for them because I could see that they were thrilled. I leaned over to the mom-to-be and said warmly, "Oh, congratulations, ... you guys!"

I couldn't remember her name. If I ever knew it to begin with.

And it struck me at that moment that I didn't know most of these people's names, although some of them have been in group with me for over a year now. I know their kids' names, of course, and how many words they can say, which Thomas train is their favorite, and when they last took a dump, but the parents' names? Nope.

One woman in the group brought up the idea of starting up a regular meeting outside of Early Intervention, where we'd gather in a coffee shop to talk more with each other, the way we do in Parent Group, only outside and on our own. She's actually mentioned it a few times now, and she even printed up a cute little poster to hang on the bulletin board at Group - and people nod and smile when she brings it up. We're all, "Yeah, that'd be nice. Sure, I'd do that!" But no one has actually emailed her, as the poster directs us to, to get started. Maybe all of this anonymity, combined with "Hey, I'm stuck here for 2 hours while my kid plays," might be just what makes Parent Group such a success.


  1. doh! i hate when that happens! i have no good advice, but i think that the people in this group, nameless or not, are extremely valuable to each other. i'm glad you have this space and these friends.

    ps--great blog! you are a really good writer!

  2. It's funny how as adults we'll share such information and yet not even know the name of the person who slanders us, if it ever came to that.