My Second Child, The First Playdate

This 'first' is beautiful... and hard.

This was our very first official playdate. Mine and Miriam’s. This was huge in my world of “never got to do’s.” Miriam is my second child. My two-year-old son, Noah, died in a swimming pool accident in 2010. Miriam was born the day after Christmas in 2012.

It was a heavyweight battle in the fertility world to win her. We came out holding that gaudy golden belt high over our heads. We may have even shouted a la Rocky Balboa “MIRIAM! WE DID IT, MIRIAM!” as she was pulled out of my belly. (And if we didn’t, we should have.) 

And today we were going on our first playdate to her preschool classmate Gracie’s house. A very regular moment in my irregular motherhood. 

I’ve always felt out of place at preschool. Almost like I’ve had this secret I’ve needed to hide. I’ve always felt like I was seen as “that mom who lost her son in that accident.” I’ve lived the worst fear of the parents I see daily at drop-off and pick-up. But gradually, through the transitions of nursery, waddler, toddler, young Pre-K, and now Pre-K, I’ve gotten to know many of these moms I see every day. And they have been nothing but awesome and welcoming.

Whether my discomfort was real or imagined, one thing I’ve learned is that mothers are amazing. And the best ones are REAL. And Gracie’s mom is wonderfully REAL, too.

Aside from the stigma (again, real or imagined) of losing a child, I’ve always been a little afraid of finding out if I was “doing it right." Am I doing okay in the meals department? Is our little apartment good enough? Is it the kind of home she’ll remember with great fondness when she’s older? 

We text each other often, preparing for our big event. Miriam wants to make slime. Gracie does too. Gracie’s mom, Allison, is totally down with that. Audible sigh of relief from me. Allison gets the slime ingredients. What do you and your husband like to drink? Beer!? Awesome! IPAs and wheat beers?! So cool!

I’ll pick up a mixed six-pack hostess gift when I finish work the night before. 

Miriam wakes up at 6:30 on Sunday morning because “We are going to Gracie’s house!!” I tell her to go back to bed because Gracie is still sleeping. But the anticipation is almost too much for her to handle. And it is for me, too. But the reasons are more complicated. 

This is what normal moms and kids do. They get to know each other. They have play dates. They commiserate and laugh together. They help each other carry all the accoutrement we carry every day. They hold babies when the bigger kids aren’t cooperating. They chat while keeping both eyes on their kids, grabbing hands and unwrapping snacks for the car ride home, and ooh-ing and ahh-ing over that day’s artwork being shoved in our faces. This is the part I’ve been waiting for. 

Aside from the stigma (again, real or imagined) of losing a child, I’ve always been a little afraid of finding out if I was “doing it right." Am I doing okay in the meals department? Is our little apartment good enough? Is it the kind of home she’ll remember with great fondness when she’s older? Am I good enough

We pull up to the green house with the storm door open and waiting for us. Up the lawn, Miriam runs. And the shrieking begins. Ear piercing and incredible. 

“Miriam!!”

“Gracie!!!”

“Wanna see my room?!”

“Okay!!” 

And I find myself standing there with my new friend Allison. The living room is a wonderful disaster. I am beyond relieved. There are kitschy paintings on the wall. There’s a giant, well-loved brown couch. And there is a dresser in the middle of the living room because “it just hasn’t gotten moved yet to where it’s going.” I am in love with this whole situation. The house is small and lived in and imperfectly perfect. 

The kitchen table has wrapping paper covering it, prepared for playdoh and crayons and slime making. We’ve got the same Ikea kids plastic bowls and forks and spoons. We laugh as we try to follow a YouTube video on Allison’s phone explaining slime. She’s cool. I’m having fun. Oh yeah, so are Miriam and Gracie. 

She makes boxed, store-brand Macaroni and Cheese for the girls. Again, relief. I brought Trader Joe’s Chicken Taquitos (Miriam’s newest food group) as a lunch backup plan.

Gracie asks if they can eat on the couch and I get the feeling they eat on the couch a lot. Just like us. I freaking love it. I feel normal! I feel OK!!

The microwave is not spotless and Allison drinks soda even though we agree it’s so bad for us. She got us giant sloppy joe sandwiches. The roast beef/turkey/coleslaw/Russian dressing on rye bread kind. It was the kind of sandwich that if I was home alone, I would eat the whole thing until I was sick because it was so damn good. But Allison was the kind of person that if I ate the whole thing in front of her (without any of that self-imposed or societal shame), we’d probably even have a beer after.

We talk about our families, how we met our husbands, our jobs, our favorite Trolls and how we feel about the school that brought our kids and us together.

I feel normal. Like just any other mom and kid on a Sunday afternoon playdate. The very first playdate.

Gracie and Allison only live about ten minutes away from us. But man, was it a long road to get there.  

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