I wrote this a year or two ago, but thought I would share it today. I was given the topic: What is/was your defining moment as a parent? This was a contest for a mommy blog--I should post the name here, but I forgot it! I will get back to you on that one. Maybe I SHOULDN'T share this--it's not like I won! We all know I'm going to share it...I hope you enjoy (even though it is a loser!):
What counts as a "defining moment" as a parent? The time your toddler enters the pantry (for the seventeenth time) only to have a can of clams the size of Detroit BOUNCE (yes...BOUNCE) off of his brow, spewing blood around your kitchen like some sort of CSI scene? Or diving into a hotel swimming pool (fully clothed) because your preschooler PRETENDED (yes, PRETENDED) to be drowning all the while keeping an eye on the toddler who refused to swim, but now wants to jump in with you? Perhaps it's when your preschooler SLAMMED (are we sensing a pattern here?)--and almost cut off her sister's fingers in the door--the edge closest to the door jam (another CSI moment!)--in a new town with no friends or family around and--oh--that's right--ONE car that was being used by their soul provider--on the ONE day her mother decided to do a serious workout including squats (stupid Cross Fit). Needless to say, Mommy wasn't moving very well, but the scream was enough to fly her up the stairs in seconds Add to it the "big thaw" which really meant three feet of water floating on top of four feet of slick ice, so carrying the child out is not an option.
After having children, nothing is "defining" anymore. Before I had them I was the best mom ever! No one could TOUCH my parenting skills. Child number one came along and it was like I had never seen a baby before--EVER.
Sadly, I babysat and nannied until I was twenty-eight, but once I had my OWN baby, I didn't know what to do with it. Yes, "IT." I held my sweet boy in front of me like a peeing sack of potatoes and while decorating the walls of our home (which were quite nice the way they were) with baby-urine, I sobbed, "What am I supposed to DO with it?" to my husband for what seemed like hours. After that first week (and a visit from my mother so I could SLEEP), I was back on as MOTY. I knew I had been weak (it was, after all, our first night at home and I was exhausted. Still am...) and vowed to make up for it. I did a great job with OTHER people's children--surely I could handle my own.
I was lucky--my son was a GREAT baby, only I didn't know HOW great. I was so naive--other people would talk and complain about getting up with their babies and I would commiserate. It wasn't until "perfect baby #3" that I realized that these people got up with their babies and were up for HOURS! I was complaining about getting up, feeding the child then going right back to sleep. I didn't realize that SOME children actually stay up for a while and make their parents stay up WITH them.
All three of my children were wonderful babies. I remember each time I got pregnant (after my first) my aunt would say, "You'd better watch it--one of these times you're going to get a REAL baby..." Well, don't be too jealous. I have a theory that they make you pay at one time or another, and my children chose to make me pay as my first one became a preschooler, my second was a toddler and my third was...pre-toddler? All the parenting I had done so well for my first went right out the window as my second tried to do all the things he knew were wrong. At the age of three he would tell his two-year-old sister (YES--we KNOW how it happens--all parents with more than one do, so you don't have to keep ASKING us), "It's dangerous to jump off of the furniture," but by three and a half his motto was, "If you can't beat'em, join 'em." By the time my youngest was two, her siblings would say, "It's okay if she bites me, Mommy--she's just a baby," which explains why (as adorable as she is) she is such a brat (don't tell HER I said that--she might bite me). Between my foggy mommy-brain and their apparent compassion for her, we had created a monster. The CUTEST MONSTER EVER, but a monster nonetheless!
Once we were outnumbered, I became confused--and still am. I spend most of my time counting to make sure I have them and the rest of my time making sure they don't hurt themselves or others. I often wonder about people like my sister (who has five) and a girl I met who has TEN. How do THEY make it work when I lose my mind each day with only THREE. Drugs. Lots of drugs. They must be medicated, right? Or are their brains just numb to it because they have replacements? "Oh, we lost Joey at the zoo, but Bobby looks a lot like him minus the dimple. It's still loud and chaotic in the house, so we should be fine..." Maybe it's just that they have so much to worry about on a daily basis that their brains protect them from the little things. A friend told me about her sister who allowed her son to write on the walls at a relative's house. Her answer (after everyone noticed but her)? "Isn't he so creative? We like to encourage his artistic side. He was just expressing himself--it's fine." When I heard this (as the BEST non-parent on the planet), I was grossly appalled. Not only was she rude for not apologiing and fixing the problem, she was teaching her son that it's okay to deface someone else's property. My new take? She was tired. Tired of saying no. Tired of giving time-outs (and fighting with them every step of the way), tired of worrying what everyone else thought of her, and tired of being miserable around her children.
I think that my mommy-brain is too ADD to figure out ONE defining moment--it rarely pauses on one thing for that long. My brain seriously is at full capacity. Unfortunately it gets rid of important details and replaces them with things like, "NO, you CANNOT put your sister in the washing machine," and "PLEASE stop coloring your sister's eye."
It came together one night when my older two were at a sleepover (YES--BOTH OF THEM! I KNOW!) and we took our youngest to dinner. I looked around the restaurant and saw moms everywhere. The dads didn't stand out as much. They were all seated and drinking, eating or laughing. The moms, however, were another story. Each one had a scowl or a look of determination on her face. Some were opening and passing out straws and drinks. Others were cutting up food. One was lassoing (is that a word?) children in every direction as she looked at her happily eating husband for a hand that was not offered. I looked at my reflection in the window and I realized what it was. Mom-face. I had it, these moms had it, my mother had it and so did yours. It's the face of all the reponsibility when it looks like you have none. It's the face of wanting to have healthy, happy (ironically enough), polite children who are welcomed in public and anywhere else besides your home. It's the face of unconditional love masked by ridiculous levels of stress. It's a face I'm trying to lose. Thusfar the closest replacement I have is, "I'm bordering-on-the-edge" face. Maybe I should ask those other moms for their prescriptions...then I'll have the, "I really don't care what you do, I'm just going to sit here and smile" face. MUCH prettier. When I die, I'm coming back as the dad.
3 years ago