Thursday, February 12, 2009

Surprisingly Isolated For a Stay-at-Home Mom

Last night was 8th Grade Information Night at the local high school, a sis-boom-bah push for uncommitted 8th Grade students to attend that school as opposed to other ones they might be considering. There was a pep band performance, a Royal Blues performance, and a drama performance that knocked my socks off, though I have no idea what it was all about. The principal talked about what great staff and parent support they had, someone else talked about academic excellence (and we are lucky that we have a high ranking public school one block away), and the student body president gave a lovely opening speech.

Not that we didn't know any of that, since our seventeen year-old son goes there already. But it was our daughter's turn to get the rush for her attendance, so there we were.

What stuck in my mind more than anything, even more than the oh-so-enthusiastic representatives of the Gay Straight Alliance who handed out literature and tried to explain A Day of Silence before I could stop them, and the fact that they have a rugby team, was how many parents and students I recognized that I hadn't seen in years.

I am strangely isolated for a stay-at-home mom. "Stay-at-home mom" must be one of the single most ironic oxymorons--not one mom I know gets any time to stay-at-home; they are constantly on hand doing this, doing that, and keeping the school/athletic/student activities world humming along, when they're not carting their children off to scouts, soccer or sleepovers.

My world is a bit different than that. Choosing to homeschool our daughter in 7th and 8th grade took me out of an established social circle, which was fine in itself, a good choice, and one we made with our older son when he was the same age. Our older son is unusually capable of self-determination and organization, so he has eschewed established school group activities in favor of bringing the gang home for lunch daily, and creating his own educational and recreational opportunities. After respectable efforts at soccer, Cross Country and crew, he persuaded us that really, sports were not for him.

I was sure, when we had a third child, that I would be entering a new circle of moms, with playgroups and toddler classes and eventually pee wee soccer and playdates. Not to be. By the time we'd figured out that his antisocial behavior and non-interest in other kids was part of the autism spectrum he fit somewhere on, the only social contact I had in connection with him was a team of specialists helping him get ready for kindergarten. Lovely people, all of them, bless their hearts, they saved my isolated life, but it was definitely a different experience. Thanks to his high-functioning autism classroom, I have met some parents who "get it", we just have to meet when our kids aren't around, so that mine doesn't start a rumble.

Clearly, I could make some different choices. The isolation is my own fault to some degree--one does have to seek out company, as well as let it come by lifestyle default. I could volunteer my heart out, when not helping our daughter at home, and create community that way, but I'm choosing to use this long-awaited time to write my heart out instead, and loving every minute of it.

But the community I saw last night, moms and dads I used to chat with before and after school, made me remember the casual friendliness I miss. Perhaps, with two in high school next year, I will manage to run into some of them from time to time--Back to School Night, Teacher's Conferences at least--happy to see those familiar faces. And obviously the jury's not out on our youngest son's social future either; there could be soccer, art classes, socializing galore (in his own unique way) to come.

This morning, it is enough to have good memories of shared stories, daily chit chat at pickup, and parent helping at co-op preschools, and a morning of my computer and me.

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