Getting Real: Life Ain’t Always Pretty on the Playground

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Unless I’m there with another single parent, the playground isn’t a very happy place for me. On weekends I see couples with their children, and on weekdays I see moms with rings on their fingers. I used to blend right in. But now, at least in my head, I stick out like a sore thumb.

Point in case: last month I was chatting with another mom who was going through a traumatic breakup and our conversation drifted toward s-e-x as our littles scooted around obliviously on their bikes and trikes. The group of moms seated one picnic table behind us was not so oblivious and threw wide-eyed stares in our direction before we realized anyone was tuning in. My instinct was to shrink into embarrassment, but my friend just rolled her eyes and got it right when she said “Hey, life ain’t always pretty.”

On the playground I’m usually not so interested in talking about potty training, Pinterest crafts, or separation anxiety. Instead I’m fretting over whether or not my ex will ask for more custody when he moves to town next month. I’m wondering if I should be working harder at finding a job or if that would leave me less energy for running the show at home for my kids. I’m trying to figure out what the next step is toward discovering how best to help my oldest with his behavior problems in school. I was going to write a whole post about my “novel” playground issues, but then I remembered that Glennon Doyle Melton, aka Momastery, sort of already did.

In case you haven’t noticed, Glennon is one of my writing sheroes. When I became a mom, I stumbled onto her blog and got hooked on her brand of truth-telling—like going to the gym specifically for an hour of childcare, struggling to stay sane and thrive through mothering and mental health challenges, and mining the everyday drudgery of parenting for spiritual insights.

I remember reading her first book Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life on the way to our family beach condo the summer before my ex husband and I split. When I got to the chapter where she spills what it was like to find out about her husband’s multiple affairs, something inside me knew that infidelity is what I was headed toward discovering. I closed the book immediately and haven’t picked it up again until today.

I’m a single mom now, and coincidently so is Glennon in a roundabout way. What made me revisit her book was my recent experience on the playground. In her Building a Life chapter, Glennon relays her visit to the playground with fellow mom Tess. Even as married moms, who you’d think would fit right into the playground culture, the two ladies have trouble getting their conversation past soccer practice and into what’s actually going on in their lives at the moment, like marriage difficulties and recovery from addiction. “There were so many layers of my armor and her armor between us that we couldn’t touch each other,” writes Glennon.

Eventually she takes a risk and spills her story, and in return Tess spills hers. I can’t tell you how many times this has happened to me with other women over coffee or lunch. So why not on the playground?

The last time I remember getting real on the playground was the week my second son Leo was born. My mom volunteered to watch him for an hour while I took my oldest son Cameron to the playground with our neighborhood friends. As Cameron was bouncing around with the other kids, one of the moms asked me “so how is it going so far?” I burst into tears and confessed how much I missed one-on-one time with Cameron. She gave me a big hug, we both laughed about postpartum hormones, and life went on.

So I’m starting to wonder, what would it look like if I was brave enough to get real on the playground again? Maybe I’d make more authentic connections with the other moms in my son’s kindergarten class. Maybe I’d discover more “me too” single moms and start being more comfortable in my own skin in my present life circumstances.

I’m down with getting messy and being real with others, and I’m game for giving it a try on the playground because, as Glennon so eloquently writes, “Life without touching other people is boring as hell.”

What about you? Anyone want to dish your most awkward playground experience and how you handled it?

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