The Stalker Mom

No matter how much the kids adore each other, there comes a point when scheduling their time together takes on a desperate, grasping quality for one mom or the other.

I read something scary in a parenting magazine while sitting in the waiting room at the ObGyn. The article said that once you have children you no longer choose your own friends. There I sat, waiting for my 2nd prenatal appointment in a week, 28 weeks into a high-risk pregnancy that followed close on the heels of a 2nd trimester miscarriage and this was the most terrifying thing I'd read about parenthood so far. I was sure that this wasn't going to be true for me. Kids were increasingly a part of my friends’ lives -- Kim had adopted from China, Helena was going through fertility treatments and Lisa had a brand new baby boy. Our children would bring us closer together, and the friends who weren't breeding were so excited for us and looked on the baby girl I was carrying into this world as family.

As I went through my pregnancy and everything associated with it, I was blissfully unaware of the ways that Kim's life had changed since the arrival of her special needs son from China. Once my daughter was born, it became obvious that our schedules were completely incompatible. Behind the scenes in Kim's life things were happening that she couldn't or wouldn't talk about. Our friendship gradually transformed into a relationship of excuses and concealed truths. It soon collapsed under its own weight.

Helena became pregnant with twins. Six months after the delivery of her two beautiful daughters she and her husband had to move half-way across the country. Their family was still here but we wouldn't see each other more than once or twice a year. Thank heavens for free long distance and the internet.

Lisa and her son moved an hour away, not an insurmountable distance but certainly an obstacle to weekly playdates. In fact, it seemed like everyone, including my non-mom friends were moving out of my life. Heather moved 2 1/2 hours away to pursue her PhD. Daria and her wife moved 4 1/2 hours away for work. I spiraled further and further into a depression complicated by postpartum chemistry and feelings of isolation.

When I started making new friends, it went pretty much the way that the article from that parenting magazine described. I met other moms sitting on the sidelines at swim lessons where conversations centered on the kids and their interests. Playdates fostered a slightly stronger connection but often the relationships were of limited duration. Efforts to get your kids on the same soccer teams don't really count as enduring friendship. No matter how much the kids adore each other, there comes a point when scheduling their time together takes on a desperate, grasping quality for one mom or the other.

This past summer, my daughter met a sweet child who had been through a trauma that had changed the course of life for her entire family. Two interstate moves later, her mother, June*, was isolated from her friends and family and desperate for friendship. Her first voicemail message was timestamped less than 20 minutes after the face-to-face conversation where we exchanged numbers to set up a play date. I received eight phone calls and four text messages from her in the first 24 hours. In less than a month, June was looking for a rental property closer to us and making shared travel plans. Things were moving way too fast. And then, as quickly as the friendship had started, it was over.

June used text messages for most communication. Until I met her, most of my monthly text messages were to or from my husband; I prefer more nuanced communication, either phone conversations where I can hear tone of voice or email where I'm not limited to 160 characters. After repeatedly reminding her that we did not have unlimited text messages, I asked her to stop sending chain texts. She stopped contacting me.

Now, my relationships with other mom-friends efforts have all begun to feel a little one-sided. Has it always been this way? Did I cross some ambiguous line setting up the playdates to avoid June? Are they now trying to avoid me? What do I say to my daughter when she asks about her friends? Would it be pushy to drop by and return the toys forgotten at our last playdate? I'm driving right past anyway...

I'm trying to take a few steps back. The key to playdate friendships, as with unrequited romance, is to never appear desperate. Thank heavens that summer is almost over and preschool will occupy some of the time that my daughter would normally spend wishing for playdates with her friends.

How long until she's old enough to manage her social life without me? It's hard enough to manage my own without having hers hanging in the balance.

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