- I’m a mom to a 6-year-old and a baby, and at age 46, I don’t enjoy working out.
- Recently I became friends with a semipro football player at a playground.
- Our lives are totally different, but we enjoy each other’s company as our kids play.
The playground was nearly empty in the afternoon, we decided to drop by to ride the merry-go-round with my son. I was holding my newborn baby in both arms, but I had an epiphany: I could use my foot.
Just as the metal contraption my son was excitedly clinging to gathered momentum, a beautiful, energetic 3-year-old came running over, eager to hop on. Her caregiver was just a few steps behind her, calling her name.
“Let me push,” he said, observing me balancing on one foot in a “Karate Kid”-esque pose to move the park toy while holding a baby.
We started chatting, and I learned that he was a stay-at-home dad whose partner worked in administration at a private school. We talked about this and that, as parents often do on the playground while their kids play.
We found out we were polar opposites
In these scenarios, parents verbally feel each other out — it’s almost like a soft interview to see if we could become friends. Sometimes I don’t feel like making friends, but most of the time the Gemini dragon in me can’t help it; I just want to be loved.
It’s not unlike dating, except that while you’re weighing the pros and cons of friendship with your child’s possibly longer-term playmate, you’re also considering them for your partner.
As we chatted, the topic of health came up. We talked about getting in shape and nutrition — which is odd, because he was slim and fit and I was three months postpartum with diastasis recti, a condition where your stomach muscles separate after birth, leading to stubborn belly fat and a “pooch” that can be difficult to get rid of.
Between telling our children to “put down that old candy wrapper” and “only use nice hands, please,” we were somehow able to cobble together a conversation, and I learned that he was a semipro football player.
This was fascinating to me — I like to know people’s stories, but also, when does a regular 46-year-old playground mom get to rub shoulders with a 24-year-old football player?
He told me his story: He didn’t take football as seriously as he wished he would’ve when he was in high school, although he was good at it and it might have taken him somewhere, and now he was trying to reconnect with his dream.
We became friends
We talked about the benefits of beets and other health tips, and we bonded. We made plans for playdates and told each other where we lived and about our partners, should they meet one day.
Meanwhile, his 3-year-old and my 6-year-old had become best friends the moment they laid eyes on each other. They were drawn to each other’s high energy and desire to chase the other everywhere. They laughed and yelled with delight over every little thing. With almost no words, they’d become as close as could be.
While I’d rather sit at my breezy backyard patio table and write, my friend would prefer to slam into other grown men and catch and pass a football. He told me he works out every day and is working on bulking up, whereas I try to work out as little as possible but have big dreams of bulking down. My favorite exercise is walking, while his is running. Somehow, it works.
If you find yourself in search of a friend, I suggest looking where you’d least expect to find them — that’s where they always are.
Jessica Delfino is a multi-hyphenate creative. She is a showrunner, a creative lead, a social-media content creator, a mom, and the host of “The Mom Report” on Pocono 96.7 FM.