Something has been bugging me. We love Samuel’s new preschool. His teacher’s really warm, wonderful, and so experienced. The program is well organized. He only goes three days a week, but he’s learning so much, not just academically, but about Judaism and more importantly, good character.
His teacher has a wonderful way with discipline, but more importantly, she’s warm and a great model for compassion and thoughtfulness. Yesterday, I just knew I was hearing some of her influence when he said to me randomly, “Mommy, it doesn’t matter who you love, it just matters that you love them.” I mentioned it to his teacher this morning, and told her that obviously that’s a value we want to impart to him, but I wasn’t sure where he got the language. She told me they do talk a lot about keeping their hearts open.
I’ve been excited ever since we decided to move to Memphis that Samuel would spend more time around other Jewish kids, that he’d get to experience holidays and such with more friends, in a consistent and familiar environment. Our synagogue feels like home to him. But for the first time yesterday, I realized there are other benefits to sending him to a progressive Jewish preschool. Obviously, this kind of discussion might be problematic in a secular school, or a public school. Because while I don’t think he was thinking about homosexuality in particular, I do think that that kind of discussion about keeping your hearts open and celebrating love “no matter what” will translate to making it easier for Samuel to reject homophobia and other kinds of hate. He’s already asked, and we’ve already talked about how in some families there’s just a mom or just a dad, or two moms or two dads. I just really like that his preschool models and shares our values. Anyway, that’s not actually where I meant to go when I opened this post, which is meant mostly to complain and ask for advice about a problem I’m having.
So, now, to the drama: Samuel has a favorite friend at preschool. We’ll call him Bobby. Samuel talks about Bobby all the time. He wants Bobby to come over, and when we’re at birthday parties or see Bobby’s family, he asks me to go talk to Bobby’s mommy and get her email address. I have tried. I haven’t just walked over and said, “Hey, can I have your email address,” but I have tried to introduce myself. She manages to always be talking to someone else, or to somehow not see that I’m trying to approach her. I get the feeling she really doesn’t want to talk to me.
That sounds crazy, right? But it’s real. Last week we were both at a meeting of preschool parents about fundraising and parties and such. I sat next to her, and she turned away, talking pointedly to a woman on her other side. Mean girls as this sounds, she’s the only mother to do this to me! I’m having perfectly normal encounters with other parents so if she weren’t Bobby’s mother, I’d think rude words about her and be on with it.
In the beginning, I thought maybe she was just timid, uncomfortable around new people. I know plenty of people who come across as snobby, but are really just shy. So I kept trying. Then a couple of weeks ago, I was at an event with one of the teachers in the school. Bobby’s mother came up in conversation, and the teacher called her “a piece of work.” I also teach religious school with another one of the teachers. That teacher, an incredibly nice woman, asked me last weekend how Samuel likes school, I told her he loves it. She mentioned Samuel and Bobby, and I told her that it seems like for some reason Bobby’s mom doesn’t want to talk to me. She rolled her eyes, and said Bobby’s mom is something of a wannabe social climber, who only talks with people whom she thinks can help her socially. She told me actually, that there’s been discussion among the teachers about Bobby’s mom alienating parents not in her social circle, and because she’s a room mother, making it more difficult for teachers with her kids to get much participation in their class.
I feel like we’re living in the late-19th century. We may not have major connections in town, but chatting with me is not going to hurt her standing in the community. It’s completely weird. Plus, she knows nothing about us other than that we’re new in town. Perhaps it’s because while she looks like she’s going out for an evening even at 8:45 am, I am often dropping Samuel off wearing yoga pants and a bare minimum of makeup, and often have baby slobber on my shoulder.
I’d pretty much decided to forget about Bobby and his mother. Samuel’s perfectly fine at making friends, and there are other parents in the class with whom I can organize play dates. I really don’t care about being her friend.
Then, this morning, I dropped Samuel off, and Bobby ran right over to him, and gave him a big hug, saying, “I am so happy you’re here Samuel!” Samuel’s teacher told me that every morning Bobby arrives and asks if Samuel’s going to be there that day (Samuel only goes MWF). She told me they’re inseparable in class, that it’s a really sweet friendship. I love that Samuel has that here–he misses his Mississippi friends so much that his making new friends has been a major concern for me. Bobby then came up to me and asked if he and Samuel could play together at home some day. I said, “Well, you’ll have to ask your mommy about that.”
Then I left. Bobby’s mom was talking to a mom with whom I’m friendly in the parking lot. This mom is married to someone important in the community, but doesn’t strike me as someone who shares Bobby’s mom’s attitude. The mom waved to me, and started to coo over Jonah’s cute new pumpkin outfit. I decide to try again with Bobby’s mom, to be nice. So I say, “You know, Bobby and Samuel are becoming such good friends. Samuel talks about him all the time.” She says, “Hmm, Bobby’s never mentioned him,” and angles herself away from me. Seriously. Insane as that sounds, it happened.
Having written this out, I realize I don’t need the advice for which I started out asking. Obviously, I am not going to chase her down and beg for a play date. I am not going to try to break through her snobbery or prove myself worthy of her attention. I feel badly for her son. I hope he takes their teacher’s lesson to keep his heart open and doesn’t become as pretentious as his mother.
But, what should I tell Samuel when he keeps asking for a play date with Bobby? I can’t keep saying I don’t know how to contact his mom–I see her all the time. Yet, somehow, “No we can’t hang out with Bobby, because his mom is a big snotty meanie” doesn’t sound quite right either.