Doing the wave

The colour-coded calendar on the fridge is full with PA days, pizza lunches, sports schedules, and sleepovers. Squeezed there are dentist appointments, family functions and the zillion other plans subject to change. According to my calendar, I am now officially too busy to see any of my friends. That’s okay though, because they are too busy to talk to me either.  Now we must resort to the only mode of communication at our disposal: the Mommy Wave.

The Mommy Wave is vital to the social fabric of our parenting community. From October to June, that wave will be the closest thing to a conversation most of us will have. Our open, hand-in-the air rocking motion is more than “hello.” The gesture conveys a multitude of messages from casual to intimate friendship to apologies for missed coffee dates, empathy for sleep-deprivation, through to emotional support. Sometimes it is the shared excitement of knowing that someone else is just as happy as you are to drop their kids off at school. It’s okay. The Mommy Wave is our silent code, our reminder that we are all in this together and there is safety in numbers. 

It’s not just for mommies. Daddies have a masculine version. Sometimes it is a casual raised arm with a half-turned hand wave. Like their speech, the Dad Wave is brief and concise. More common is the Daddy Nod; a sharp head flex forward, quick and straight to the point. It is their way of saying “hello, large groups of mommies and small talk about kid stuff freaks me out, so I’ll be going now.” Mommy wavers respect that.

The beauty of the Mommy wave is it goes beyond school yards, into grocery stores, intersections, and shopping malls, silently connecting us from behind the plexi-glass, across the frozen tundra of the hockey rink. It acts as a time stamp that says, “one day, eventually, sometime in the future, either this winter or next, if I don’t forget, I would really like to talk to you about something. Don’t forget me.” In our way, that exchange is a conversation that lasts all year.

It is an emotional meter, too. You can tell how your Mommy pals are based on their wave. Cheery fingers bending forward wave is a sweet gesture. It assures all is well in her life. It is a lie. It really means the kids have been fighting all morning, she has yelled at them and is now riddled with guilt. Wave back. Act fooled. The flopping wrist wave from the re–laxed Mom, experiencing the fleeting life-is-good moment implies your friend is temporarily content. Fool. Allow her that luxury. It ends at 3:15 with the school bell. The manic, frantic windshield-wiper waver indicates your friend has had entirely too much coffee and needs to be stopped before approaching a drive-thru. Wave appropriately, but do not engage in an actual conversation, as she is high on caffeine and liable to talk non-stop for hours. Above all else, pay close attention to the non-wavers or the flash-smilers. Those Mommies are steeped in the reality they have the hardest job on the planet and feel totally inept. They need reassurance, not judgement. They need to know you have their back. Have their back.

Smile and wave. It can change your day. It can save someone else’s. We are in this together. Do the Wave.


Kelly Waterhouse