I never should have let Amanda hold her own Popsicle.
The child always made such a mess of everything. But getting Popsicles at the ice cream truck after swimming had become a ritual for the children. Amanda just wanted to be a Big Girl and hold her Popsicle like her brother.
By the time we got to the car the Popsicle had melted. Everywhere. Cherry Popsicle was all over Amanda’s hands, face and pretty pink flowered shirt. Naturally, I had nothing to wipe her off with. My stash of crumpled napkins sat in the glove compartment.
My van was parked on Ardmore Avenue near the LuLu Lemon store. I told Christopher to get in and buckle himself in. I would have to strap Amanda in her car seat knowing the entire back seat would soon become a huge sticky mess.
Then, Amanda began to cry. Right in front of the LuLu Lemon store my daughter had a melt-down
over a melted Popsicle.
“Mommy! I want another Popsicle!”
“Sweetie, I’m sorry. You can’t have one. Just get in the car for Mommy. Please.”
But she refused, continuing to cry and stomping her tiny flip-flopped feet.
And then it happened. Karen Shaw came out of the LuLu Lemon store.
Karen Shaw, queen of what I had dubbed the Cult of Suburban Moms. Karen with the perfectly coiffed 300 dollar blonde bob haircut and the exquisitely manicured red nails that never seemed to chip.
Karen Shaw looked at Amanda, covered in Popsicle stains as she continued to cry and fuss. Then she looked at me with what I could only perceive as a Pity Stare.
Adam and I had lived out here for two years and I had never fit in with the Cult. My children were boisterous and sloppy. They threw temper tantrums and said inappropriate things sometimes the way normal children were prone to do.
I knew what that look said. I was a complete failure as a Mom. My child was a messy little disaster who threw tantrums in public.
Karen Shaw’s kids would never do that. Like her, they were perfect.
We went home and ordered Dominos Pizza for dinner. I was sure Karen Shaw was at her own palatial home planning some elaborate feast for her two perfect boys.
“Mom, we’ve had pizza three times already this week. It’s not even good pizza,“ Christopher said as he devoured his third slice.
I was in no mood to argue with my son. By now, word had no doubt spread all over Main Line Philadelphia about by ineptitude as a parent and as a person.
When Adam came home from the city I tried to talk to him but my concerns were dismissed.
“Lauren, I think you’re overreacting. People don’t care about these things as much as you think they do.”
”Adam, you are so wrong. The Cult of Suburban Moms care very much about keeping up appearances. I’ve never fit in with them and will fit it now even less. I know the next time I see them at the park or a kids birthday party I’ll be ostracized. Forever.”
Adam laughed out loud and kissed my cheek. Then he repeated his assertion that all of this was silly.
“Lauren, I love you and the kids love you. Who gives a damn what Karen Shaw or her followers think? I don’t, and neither should you.”
I knew he was right. I was grateful for my husband. He always knew what to say to soothe my craziness.
I avoided the local pool for about a week. Then a triple digit heat wave hit the area so I packed up Amanda and Christopher and headed over there. I told myself Karen was not likely to be there. She was probably on an exotic vacation somewhere. Her and her family were no doubt touring the capitals of Europe or on an African safari. Renting a house down the shore for a week like we did was below her.
I found a spot on the grass and pulled out our beach towels and all of the kid‘s other paraphernalia. I noticed a young mom there I had not seen before. She was trying to keep an eye on two small boys while holding a baby in her arms.
I went over to her and introduced myself. She looked like she could use adult conversation.
“You’re new here. I’m Lauren. Welcome to the neighborhood.”
“Hi, I’m Megan.”
Her blanket was littered with spilled juice boxes, goldfish crackers and plastic water toys. Like me, she was a hot mess.
“Aaron and Able, get away from the water right now! Do not go in the pool without me!” She bellowed at her boys.
“So, what brings you to our lovely part of the world?” I asked her.
Megan sighed. “The usual. My husband didn’t want us raising kids in the city. But after buying a house out here we can‘t afford child care. So here I am, A SAHM.”
I knew the acronym stood for stay at home mom. They used to call us Housewives back in our mom’s day.
Her story mirrored mine and I felt empathy. Maybe I had found a soulmate among the Cult of Suburban Moms.
Then I did something I almost regretted. I told her about what happened with Karen Shaw and what I had come to refer to as the Popsicle Debacle.
Maybe it was a mistake to confess this to Megan when I didn’t know her. Maybe she was really part of the Cult and just undercover as a regular harried Mom.
She laughed at my story. To my great relief.
“My twins were invited to a birthday party at the home of one of those women. One of them peed all over her sofa. A white leather sofa, mind you. Believe me Lauren I understand completely.“
Amanda started tugging on my arm, demanding I take her into the pool.
“Mommy, stop talking to that other lady! I wanna swim!”
“Okay, okay. Calm down Amanda. Please just calm down!“
Megan gave me a knowing smile.