Tuesday, October 12, 2010

{Bringing Up Boogie} Pumpkin Patches, Pumas & Play Dates: When Parenting Solo Takes On New Meaning

Photo courtesy of Jr Conlin

This weekend, Boogie had his first play date with a new single father friend of mine. Now, I’m generally against play dates. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with them, per se, and children need other children. And Lord knows Boogie needs more people; that child could wear out a plastic comb. I just don’t get playdates. I already have a child. Why would I want to watch yours too? Is that rude? Sorry. (Still true though.) But this was a special case.  

The first play date was on Saturday; we met at the other child’s house (we shall call him NotBoogie) and the boys played with trucks and generally made the kind of noise that two little boys would make. The kind of noise that had his father and me on the couch drinking wine. Lots and lots of wine. We ventured down a few blocks to the park at one point and watched the children climb things and swing on other things and jump off the highest part of that dangerous looking thing. 
It was a pretty cool evening, and at that point, I thought play dates aren’t so bad. If it means watching children run around while I drink wine, hell, at my house we call that Tuesday—morning.
The next day, I received a text from NotBoogie’s father telling me that he was trying to decide what to do with his son that day. He rattled off a few suggestions and I thought he was asking for my opinion so I rattled off a few of mine and then did what I do every Sunday morning—plan to stay in my pajamas until it’s time to go to bed again. So I was a little shocked to get the next text saying, “We can meet up at a central point between you and me, then I’ll pick you guys up and drive the rest of the way.” I’m sorry, what was that? Didn’t we do this yesterday? Well, this was… different. This time we were going to the pumpkin patch.

Now, let’s be clear, I love my son and we spend tons of time together. I call him my little stalker because the boy won’t let me change my mind without asking if he can come too. But our outings are to Target and the mall and the movies and brunch and the car wash (don’t hate—he loves that thing). As a matter of fact, my plan was to take him to the grocery store and point out the pumpkin display and then take him home.  Voila! Patches of pumpkin!

At home, Boogie entertains himself by launching himself off various furniture items and pretending to be a Batman Ninja Turtle something or another. But I'm always there when he's doing this. I'm sitting on the couch writing or watching TV (I mean reading. Lots of reading!) and every now and then, he'll squeeze onto my lap and we'll cuddle and then he'll remember he left his Buzz Lightyear upstairs and he's gone. Or I'll get on the floor and race cars with him. This is how we bond. But I remembered how much fun he had with NotBoogie the day before and decided, "Okay, we can do the Pumpkin Patch." I texted NB's father and we agreed to meet at 11:30 or noon or something.

Photo by The Art Institute of Portland

The drive there was long and windy and I guess I should have been impressed with nature and horses and shit like that. But I grew up in Oklahoma; once you’ve seen one cow… well, yeah. When we arrived at the farm, my first thought was, “What the fuck?! This is like an actual farm? I thought they were just being cute.”  My second thought was, “Oh. Yeah. I’m dressed way wrong for this.” And then my third: “Why are there so many children here?” Anyway, by the time we made it to the farm, the boys had to go to the bathroom. Oh, I mean we had to stand in line for port-a-potties, or, as I like to call them, Giant E Coli Cans. Nasty. 

And then we left to find pumpkin patchy things to do. We started with the maze. The boys and NotBoogie’s father were running around scaring each other and yelling while I was seriously trying to figure out this maze and how to lead us out. Come to find out that the exit was the entrance and booooo lame maze! The boys loved it though and asked to go again. I found the nearest wooden chair and had a seat. Then there was a haunted house, which, honestly, wasn’t any scarier than the port-a-potties. The boys went through that twice. I forgot to mention that NotBoogie is five, so he’s Boogie’s hero at this point. Anything that NotBoogie did, Boogie wanted to do too. So when NB’s dad hoisted him onto his shoulders as we walked, Boogie turned to me and said, “Let me sit on your neck.”

I’m sorry what? I don’t know if you all know what I look like, but let’s just say that I’m travel size. There was no way I was going to hoist this 40lb block of child onto my shoulders—neither of us would have survived this. Boogie’s look of disappointment as he watched the NB’s dad swing him around and throw him into bushes (or whatever) really broke my heart.
You see, it’s always been Boogie and me. He’s got his uncles, my sister, my father, my mother, my friends. But this was the first time it registered to Boogs that there was someone missing. 
Someone I couldn’t really explain. We looked at each other for a second. I got down to his level and I said, “Sweetheart, I’m sorry I can’t do all the things that NB’s daddy does but I’ll do my best, ok?” Boogie nodded quietly and then gave me a hug. “I love you, mommy, even if I can’t sit on your neck.”

Cue tears.

It was a good thing NB called for Boogie and he ran off; it gave me a minute to sit with this a little and wipe my face before catching up with the boys. NB’s father was concerned about my mood change, but I tried my best to get back in the moment. To NB’s father’s testament, the rest of the day, he tried his best to give the boys equal time. Of course, NotBoogie is an only child as well, so there was a little conflict, but not enough to ruin the good time. Then there was broccoli picking and apple picking and child, by the time it was all over, I felt like a slave. I was just ready for Harriet Tubman to lead us to freedom. My favorite pair of Pumas was dusty and dirty, my white Beatles vintage tee had seen better days. I was done with the farm. O-v-e-r it!  I could see NB’s father winding down a bit too and he couldn’t get the “are you ready to leave?” question out before I said, “Let’s go!”

The playdates were eye-opening in a lot of ways. They taught me about what I need to do for myself and what I need to do for Boogie and knowing the difference. They showed me, too, some of the qualities to look for in a good father. And they made me acknowledge to myself that I still will always do what’s best for Boogie, but that sometimes, I need to readjust what that “best” is. I now know, too, that I have to make more of an effort to actually get out and do things with Boogie and put him around more children his age, not mine.

Oh, also, I learned that you don’t wear suede to a farm.

You’re welcome.

* * * * *

About our MyBrownBaby Contributor: "Bringing Up Boogie" is a weekly feature penned exclusively for MyBrownBaby by Bassey Ikpi, a Nigeria-born, Oklahoma-bred, PG County-fed, Brooklyn-led writer/poet/neurotic who is the single mother of an amazing man-child, Elaiwe Ikpi. She's half awesome, a quarter crazy and 1/3rd genius... the leftover bit is a caramel creme center. A strong advocate of mental health awareness, Bassey is currently working on a memoir about living with mental illness and producing Basseyworld Live, a stage show that infuses poetry and interactive panel discussions about everything from politics to pop culture. Get more Bassey at Bassey's World.

If you would like to be a featured contributor on MyBrownBaby, email your essays/ideas/blog posts/rants/musings to Denene at denenemillner at gmail dot com. 
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  1. I LOVED this post! I was cracking up the entire time! "I'm sorry, didn't we do this yesterday?" and "viola! Patches of pumpkin!" ...hilarious!

    But also an eye-opener. Sometimes as a mother, you just have to do it... playdates, pumpkin patches, the works! I'm a single NYC mother myself and know how hard it can be... Needless to say, I took my son apple picking and pumpkin picking last weekend.

  2. At the beginning I was laughing so hard, but then I read: “I love you, mommy, even if I can’t sit on your neck.”

    And I just about fell out of bed crying. I don't have children. And quite honestly, I fear having a child, most of all a boy and not having a father (whether we are together or not) around for my child. You've done an amazing job Bassey. I know you often say that you don't do this alone, but you are the key player in Boogies life. Along with your family, your love and affection is shaping him into the great kids that he is. Although he got to see something that he might not have known wasn't there, you are a constant in his life, and as long as that stays the same he'll be just fine. I love reading Bringing Up Boogie and watching you two grow together. Keep up the great work.

  3. I identify with this post. Earlier this summer my son went on a play date with a friend and his parents and I recognize a look (can't describe it) in my son's eyes when he sees other kid's with their dads. It tugs at my heart but I do what I can to make sure he has good males to interact with.

    Oh the joy of the pumpkin patch,lol.

  4. I loved this! It brought tears to my eyes because I'm currently dealing with attempting to explain why it's just mommy...or why "uncle is taking me to my daddy/daughter dance and not my daddy" while her twin brother bitterly screams "duh because we don't have a dad, I guess he's dead or something." I try and balance life out and make sure they aren't missing out on anythings since I'm doing it solo then bam...some brat wants to know why their dad didn't come to the game or bam it's Father's Day...ah well such is life, hopefully I don't screw them up to bad.


    -Dawn Summers

  6. This was such a great post. I can completely relate. I am a single mom and Target is our favorite hang out.

  7. I can relate as well. I was a single mom for 11 years of my son's life. i remember that 'look' you described so vividly but things do get better. Glad you guys had a good time.

  8. Bassey as someone who grew up in a home with a single mother for the majority of the time I can empathize with what Boogey was feeling. There were instances when I was sad and sullen when I didn't have a dad but as an adult I appreciate so much more what my mother was able to give to me. She tried her hardest to make sure my uncles were around and the such. I'm tearing up a little right now even when she says crazy things like you were way thinner last year, and I have to tell her she's interrupting my Target quality time, I know she did the best with the tools she had. Keep on trucking!

  9. Sometimes after a king week I too want to just sit in my jammies, watch a Law & Order SVU marathon & do nothing. But I have kids. They need to feel the world like I already have. We went apple picking on Saturday. It was awesome. Thanks Bassey for reminding this (yawn) tired Mommy to keep at it. Oh & although I'm not a single mom my hubby works EVERY weekend. It can be exhausting & trying married or not. We all have our stuff to work through.

  10. B,

    you are HILAR. Le munchkin & I went apple-picking this weekend (my first time) and i SWEAR, before we were there for like 15 minutes, i was ret ta go! the flies, the huge crowd, the heat. i was DONE. but he was also on a play date (of sorts) & had another little boy to run a muck--I mean--around with. he loved it...and i guess, for those few hours, i loved it for him.

  11. Yes, I could not wait for Bassey's next adventure. I swear I go through withdrawals in between her posts. Sad, I know. Her stories are so addicting to read. They are hilarious and are always touching. They always have me talking to people about them and directing them to this blog. Denene you are genius to have this talented lady featured once per week. I look forward to reading more of her stuff. By the way because you and your blog are so fabulous, I've given you a blog award. Come by and get it when you get a chance :)


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