Recently I took my daughter Sam to a friend’s birthday party. It was at one of those crazy inflatable jumping places where kids can bounce off the walls for a couple of hours then collapse in a sweaty mess just in time to put them to bed. I and the other parents watched with happy anticipation at the progression from wired to tired with no effort on our part. It was going to be a good night.
So I had time to look around and compare myself (come on, we all do it) to the other moms, most of whom were significantly younger than I. At 46, I always want to make sure I’m keeping up with the “Jane-ses;” those moms that have immersed themselves in parenting research, Pilates, the latest mommy-and-child fashion trends. As I looked around, I felt pretty good. I was comparatively fit, fashionable (in a Gap sort of way) and in control of my child (mostly). I figured there was no way people would guess I was on the 50-side of my forties, so I settled in and struck up conversation with the mother of four sitting next to me who was more than happy to talk with any grown up at all.
Then it was time for pizza. In a perfect line the sweaty kids lumbered into the next room and arranged themselves along several picnic tables covered with party regalia. The expected pandemonium ensued with kids fighting over cheese vs. pepperoni, forcing the occasional slice to shoot off the paper plate and onto the floor (where it was promptly picked up and devoured anyway). Sam wanted her pizza cut up, so I went over to her table and began working away with one of those useless plastic knives. Next to her a little boy sat, looking at me intently. He looked at me; then to her; then back at me. I smiled. Then…he said it.
“Hey, Samantha. Is that your mom or your grandma?”
WHAT? I stood up in shock. The little boy obviously didn’t have a mean bone in his body. He had asked this as innocently as though he were asking if she liked cheese or pepperoni better. I looked desperately at Sam for her response (please punch him), which simply was to shrug and say in between bites, “My mom.”
I don’t know how many times Sam has been asked that question. Once is enough as far as I’m concerned.