Letter From the Weird Mom at Kindergarten Orientation

I know that sometimes talking to me seems like being inside a Surrealist painting. I'm just so weird. You'd think I'd be used to people's reactions by now.
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Dear Kindergarten Moms,

Hi. You might remember me. I'm the Weird Mom you met at Kindergarten orientation. Maybe you watched the Oscars last night, when Graham Moore, the winner of Best Adapted Screenplay, talked about not fitting in as a kid and urging everyone to "stay weird."

I totally get where he's coming from, in way more ways than are appropriate for this letter. I'm still weird even as a grown up.

Even though I'm weird, I'm writing to see if your kid and my kid could have a play date some time. My kid seems to really like being in school with your kid. I just wanted to apologize for a few things first, though. You know, to clear the air.

Remember when we entered our kids' classroom for the first time? I'm the one who burst into tears as soon as she crossed the threshold. When you patted me on my back and said my son would be OK in Kindergarten, I said, all weepy and weird, "I know! This place is amazing!"

You took a quick step away from me. I think you didn't understand that a person would cry so much because she actually liked the school. Especially this particular school. It's only a public school, after all, with public school desks and 25 5-year-olds to a room.

But there were lovely colors arrayed on the walls, and there was a big rug on the floor for the kids to roll around on when sitting in a desk just gets too hard. And the desks were actually little circular tables so the kids could see each others' faces instead of the backs of each others' heads. The gym even had a climbing wall, with the little grabby-pieces bolted to a wall that was painted like a shiny fairy forest. Everything was beautiful and perfect, and so I cried.

I'm so weird. I know you were trying to comfort me, and I appreciate it. I think I freaked you out with my emotions, and I'm sorry.

Then we went to the art room, remember? They let the kids sit around the big art table to color while the teacher explained the curriculum to us parents. I'm the one who said that raising small children is like living inside a Surrealist painting where cause and effect seem unrelated. Then I imitated my 3-year-old son: "I don't want to eat the green beans because of the PANDA BEARS!" I mean, living with a toddler is a constant stressor on one's association with reality, right?

And you, cheerful mom with the long wavy blond hair (really, I'm completely jealous of your hair), look at me uncomfortably. So, I pointed at the Dali painting taped to the middle of the large art table, the Surrealist painting with the melting clocks (it's called "The Persistence of Memory, everyone had it on their dorm walls in college). I wanted to show you that I wasn't just making up this reference out of nowhere.

But you still didn't smile at me. I turned red and looked at my feet, feeling like I was in the sixth grade again. Not fitting in, in the worst way.

I know that sometimes talking to me seems like being inside a Surrealist painting. I'm just so weird. You'd think I'd be used to people's reactions by now.

Later, one of you -- either you with the beautiful hair or your friend in the cool yoga clothes -- asked me what I do for a living. I flubbed my answer. I'm sorry. You see, I was in between jobs, but I don't know how to explain that exactly. For the past decade I've been in academia, but for five of those years I've been writing, too, and now I'm transitioning to full-time writer.

But I really didn't want to say "I'm a writer." At Kindergarten orientation, that sentence seemed painfully pretentious. Plus, I didn't know if I really was a writer. After all, I'm certainly not Ayelet Waldman or Alice Walker. I'd only published textbooks. So when you asked me that question in August, I acted weird.

I told you that I was on leave from my academic job and "exploring new ideas." (Who says that?) And although I quickly clarified that my leave was unpaid, I must have sounded terribly flighty and privileged.

You said, turning away from me, "They're holding your job for you? That sure is nice of them."

I felt terrible. I couldn't explain how hard I work each day and how ground down to the bone our family's budget is. (Macaroni and cheese and peas FTW.) My awkward weirdness got in the way. It won't happen again, I promise. You both seem really nice, and I wish we could have become friends. I just seem to alienate people when I first meet them.

But please give us another chance. After all, it's not my son's fault his mom is so weird. He's rather normal, actually. He's a genius at Lego and hates baths. (But I do bathe him -- of course.) He's also very kind, and he's gentle with small things like younger children, kittens and bugs.

So what do you say? Play date? He'd really appreciate it, and I would too.

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