Trying to Act Normal When Nothing is Normal

When he was not quite two, Teddy and I embarked on the very first foreshadowing of his independent life away from his parents: a weekly Mommy and Me class. I enrolled with the idea that we’d make some friends in the neighborhood who Teddy could play with in the next few years until his school days officially began. The first class met exactly one week after Pete moved out.

This was a Waldorf Mommy and Me, where the virtuous rhythms were highly proscribed, the toys were impeccable, and the kids were expected to do everything in order, as they were told. Every child in the class except my son was the second child in a family whose older kids were enrolled in the affiliated Waldorf preschool. So the mothers, all stay-at-home moms, were already friends who had time to do things like sew, knit, cook, and discuss these things earnestly and at length.

I, on the other hand, was self-employed and supporting an entire family, carving out a few tense hours between deadlines and calls to engage meaningfully with my child. The kids were already well socialized with each other and in the Waldorf experience. My child was well socialized with doing things exactly as he saw fit, which was what I assumed to be the case with all not-quite-two-year-olds.

It went like this: women 15 years my junior discussing their husbands, their sewing, their two-to-three children. And from there: My child, who was clearly 25 times as hungry as the other kids, wanted all the raisins intended for the bread and then, when it was finished baking, wanted to eat everyone else’s bread.

My child couldn’t understand why he had to sit at a table when what he really wanted was to look at the fish in the aquarium. He couldn’t understand why he had to sit in a circle and hold hands when he wanted to be outside shoveling sand. Then, the unspeakable: a wooden egg launched across the room by my Waldorf-impaired child.

There I was, trying to fit in a community where I would never come close to fitting, trying to fit into a life that had in a week lost all sense of reality. I was the wooden egg: numb and dumb, flying through the air. I was the two-year old whose entire being was organized around the impulse to simply make something happen for the pleasure of experiencing his own momentum. And I was the collective gasp as that egg flew, without malice, toward inevitable harm.

We never went back to that class.

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