As we drove to Brooklyn on Tuesday, I illegally sent a text from my phone to Abigail's best school friend's mom. We were coming into town for a few days, and could Abigail and Viveca spend the day together?
Viveca's mom is pretty much the portrait of mommy cool, so I didn't worry too much about the last minute notice. And Viveca is pretty much the coolest friend an eight year old could imagine, so I hoped she would be free. If only for my sake, because it was time for a long-overdue day of little girl fun.
Abigail hadn't seen Viveca in over six months. Most eight year old kids don't have email, so it's not like they would be able to manage to keep in touch awfully well through mere words. Kids need presence to connect, and Skype doesn't really do it. Abigail had been asking for this, in more or less patient language, for an awfully long time.
I've wracked my brain on this, but I am pretty sure that I have never spent an entire day just enjoying being with Abigail and another kid, with nothing at all else to do. Shocking, I know, and perhaps horrifying for those parents who find ways to make themselves more available to their children. So it was long overdue in this sense as well -- nearly nine years overdue.
Viveca was in fact free, and so were Abigail and I, and so the three of us set off. We went shoe shopping, bought Gatorades, run through the sprinklers in the park, found and re-purposed an abandoned scooter, ate at the local cool pizza place, saw a funky movie, and ultimately finished the day with a swim in the local school pool. They traded silly bandz and opinions on Justin Bieber. We went to the paint store and I let them take as many paint swatches as they wanted while I sought out exactly the perfect shade of peachy yellow for the living room (Benjamin Moore Lighthouse 2018-60, if you're wondering.) They begged me like crazy to let them ride the mechanized horse outside of the candy store and the mechanized alligator outside of the pizza place. And I let them.
In exchange, they laughed at all my jokes and good-naturedly berated me for my bad parenting manners. They made me the happiest mother in America, just for this normal nothing of a day.
Our day together had all the hallmarks of the best parenting moments: it was everything, and it was nothing, all wrapped up into one. The kids knew it was special ("This is the best playdate we've ever had!" VIveca very nicely gushed at one point) but it wasn't so out of the ordinary that they couldn't just be their goofy selves.
I think I'm going to like this next phase of my life. I know there will be awful moments of child rudeness, and crushingly boring moments of not-enough-to-do. I'll have to negotiate the unfamiliar social landscapes of the Parents' Association, the food co-op, the subtle ways in which people greet and ignore one another at pick-up time at school.
But if my day with two excellent nearly-third graders is any sign, being a stay at home mom back in the city that I love is really going to be great. A little like the languor of my year off and away, but with more happening. Better movies. Stores with terrific shoes. More English. It's been a long wait, Abigail -- but you and me, we're almost home.