I took my kids to Family Fun Center, one of the many indoor areas that vacuums the money out of my wallet and shoots into the big laughing beast that reminds me as long as I have children, all of this is fleeting, especially my money.
I prefer to go to these places early, when the better families spend their mornings at the breakfast table, sharing which inspirational quote will direct their lives that day whereas my family usually just assembles to boss me around about wanting eggs then SPOILER does not want eggs.
Maybe it’s because I know I become a monster around so much sensory overload and my kids shouldn’t suffer because mommy is ready to fight every uppity mom who even looks at her sideways. They deserve to experience the joys that I can afford–a discounted trip to the arcade, a discounted vacation at a water park and driving through richer neighborhoods because social mobility dreams are free.
There’s an area in the back called Kidopolis–a maze of plastic large tubes, padded stairs, more levels, some slides, etc. Parents perch around the periphery on metal benches near the shoe cubbies and stare at our kids when they emerge and we cheer like they are gold medal winners who have overcome so much when really, the most difficult task they’ve taken is putting their socks on by themselves.
I was pecking at my phone because that is what I do to pass this time between being present and yelling, “AY AY AY! GET OFF YOUR BROTHER!” Then the woman sitting next to me, whom I had already written off because she was not me and not wearing yesterday’s yoga pants so how could she know my struggles, pointed out, “Um, I think your son wants you!”
And I looked up and there was my baby, my forever child, my TJ pounding on the plastic dome that jutted out the top of the maze. I then had to quickly wave and yell, “HI BABY! Totally present here! Totally not rolling my eyes at Facebook again!” He smiled then disappeared back into the play area but I couldn’t enjoy the quiet time I had with my mobile nonsense.
In a move that is unlike my ogre self, I said to the mom who pointed to TJ in distress, “You’re a good mom. I’m just here, on my phone, going blah blah blah,” then I motioned my thumbs on my phone like I was an angry gorilla on a blackberry.
“Well, he just looked, so desperate!” To which I also laughed off nervously because when I’m laughing, I am not attacking you with my face darts (I almost wrote farts, which is also true, though I am not that far gone).
“Haha! I can’t go back to my phone because what if he appears again!?” That was the end of our conversation. She went on to being a perfect mom to her children while I kept looking up to see if TJ did reappear so I could be ready with High-Energy Mom Waving. And since I didn’t have my phone, I kept flipping the part in my hair because of all the gray hair (that my kids have caused) sprouting up.
I don’t know if this will be one of the moments TJ will milk later, when I’m feeling vulnerable and guilty the last thing I need is hearing how TJ needed love and assurance but I was too busy playing, “Who is this puta?” on Facebook which is a game when someone says something stupid on Facebook and I whisper an angry: “Who is this puta?!”
When I was a little older than TJ, there was parents lunch day at school where your family could come and eat lunch with you. And I waited in the hallway and my parents did not show up. They forgot. So I just ate lunch with my best friend’s family and it was really no big deal but I could have won an Oscar for my role as a leading actress in “BUT ASHLEY JORDAN’S FAMILY REMEMBERED!” I reminded my parents of that moment, how desperate I was for love and not only did they forget about me, but everyone knew about it and felt bad for me and if this had happened in 2017, there would be a gofundme but in the 90s there was just heavy shame.
I’m sure this is how I guilted my dad into having my birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese’s. And buying me a Barbie dream house. I’m ready for the guilt trips, I have enough time to save money for them and by then there will be something other than Facebook that will be taking my attention from the tiny voice calling out to his mother and the pretty mother next to me armed with, “Um, shouldn’t you be paying attention to your child?!”