Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Broken Shell of a Woman

I have this great memory. I was in my early twenties and working at a law firm, finishing college, and one of my work buddies was Valerie, an "older" woman who was married with a toddler. She was ancient; if memory serves, she was 26 or 27 at the time (gack, struggling for breath here). She was a real grown up: house, husband, baby, four door sedan and a full-time job. I really looked up to her, and thought her lunchtime anecdotes about daycare, home budgets, and Pampered Chef parties were fascinating.

One day, Valerie was sick and at work anyway. I asked her why she didn't just go home and rest. She told me it was easier to be at work sick than at home sick, because she would have to pick her two year-old up from daycare, and that just wasn't worth it.

"Well why don't you just ask your daughter to play nicely while mommy rests? Explain to her why you're not feeling well. Give her things to do and go lay down." I waited, smug in my knowledge that I had outsmarted the mommy. Sometimes, people just can't see the forest for the trees, you know?

I don't know why she didn't just bean me with a legal file, or worse, stop talking to me. She must have been extraordinarily ill. But that's not the point of my story. I remember thinking to myself, and later telling my fiance, that when we had kids, things would be different. Yes, not only were the first seeds of mommy judgment planted that day, they germinated alongside the hearty flora and fauna of Futurous Maternalous Planneous. It's a bitch of a plant.

We would raise cerebral children. Our kids would be precociously verbal, either because of genetics or our diligence, or both. Our children wouldn't watch television, unless it was a video to supplement their sign-language, or Russian, or European history facts.

We would not bribe our children, or yell; reasoning and calm would prevail. The family dinner table would be laden with several healthy, lovingly prepared options that our future Rhodes Scholars would devour without complaint. We would giggle over one of the children's observations that the jicama salad resembled the profile of Mao Tse Tung. Bob and I would hold hands while we listened to our children stumble over their first pronunciation of denouement. After dessert of fresh berries, picked from the garden planted earlier in the year with the children, we would read aloud from the Classics.

I would excuse myself after dinner to read in my favorite chair, as the housekeeper finished the dinner dishes (our trilingual PhD candidate housekeeper who taught our children Mendel's genetics through the pea plants in the aforementioned garden) and the sounds of the viola, piano and cello would waft through the house. I would note the time each night, after losing myself uninterrupted in yet another novel, and quietly announce that the children needed to be in bed. Somehow, they would hear me, and they would all put their instruments away, brush their teeth, say prayers thanking God for their amazing lives, and wait to be kissed goodnight.

Yes, I was certain in my abilities that not only would I do it all right, but that when my friend did it wrong, it was simply a matter of course correction. Judgment? Meet blind optimism and her date stupidity.

Tonight was a stream of consciousness bickerfest between the older three that ended with me telling the girls that everytime they argued, shouted, or used harsh words, their baby brother's brain stopped growing (I was serious). So when my daughter whined asked for help with her homework when she should have been in bed, I looked at Bob with wild-eyed desperation and hissed, "I will do anything you want later tonight if you will just take care of homework."

He did. After helping her for a protracted amount of time, wherein I heard the muffled cries of distress over fractions, he emerged from her bedroom. He silently went into the kitchen and took a fork out of the drawer. He walked over to me and handed me the utensil.

"Please. Just stab me in the eye."

I think we have some weeds in the garden.


Amber said...

I used to be that naively superior girl. MY kids would never scream bloody murder in a store. MY kids would sit politely at the table in a restaurant. MY kids would be able to mentally kick anybody else's kid's ass, because they too would never watch t.v.

I was wondering if hypocrisy could join judgement and stupidity at dinner...

Robin said...

My kids were going to eat all sorts of healthy, homecooked organic meals that I personally prepared for them. No refined sugar or other crap until they were old enough to go out and buy it themselves. Oh, and they'd love to sit and do arts and crafts with their mom, too. Bwahahahahahaha!

painted maypole said...

ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha

your friend from work was probably young and stupid once, and so knew only too well that in a few words you would be in enough pain yourself, and the punishment would be self inflicted

metalmom said...

But sweetie, mommy's head hurts and you need to understand blah, blah,blah! That's what a kid hears! I'd be in work with my face melting off my skull before I stayed home with my own kids!

thewishfulwriter said...

I can't stop laughing. And I have strep throat - so that puts me in a terrible predicament.

How stoked am I to have found such a funny blog!

I'll be back.

(you did read that in an Arnold voice, didn't you?)

my minivan is faster than yours said...

I was never going to lie to my kids either. I still don't. I really do call Barney and Elmo and tell them when my kids don't follow directions. Not my fault they never answer :)

Now I'm off to dictionary.com to look up half the words you used in this post!

bubandpie said...

I feel fortunate that I never considered myself more than marginally competent to become a parent. At least I'm not choking down humble pie as a side order to the main course of irritation and despair.

Shannon said...

LOVED this post! Glad to know I wasn't the ONLY one who had moments like these :-)

Great blog!

Sophie's Mom said...

Loved your post. Welcome to the real world, eh? ;)

Isn't it funny how when you're kids are acting wonderfully, you look like a 'good parent' to people, but when they aren't... there are so many judgements to pass?

Just today Sophia and I were shopping at TJMaxx. She wanted to walk. This is usually fine, but I told her (as always) 'as long as you're a good listener. If you aren't a good listener, you'll have to sit in the cart'. It wasn't 2 minutes later she stopped, wanting to look at something. I'm still on crutches (see blog). She refused to walk to me. A battle ensued.

I calmly picked her up, and placed her in the cart, reminding her of our pre-arranged deal. She screamed her head off - the rest of the visit in the store. I'm not a wishy washy parent; when I say it I mean it, and always follow through (good parenting, in my opinion!). She's been home 2 years now, seems as though she would be certain of this, but she still tests.

I just wish she'd settled down way sooner than she did, from the looks of the other customers! ;)

Oh well, just another day in the life of a mother!

Mary Alice said...

Oh to be young and smart again. I used to have all the answers.

headless chicken said...

Oh man, parenting is so easy before you have children! I'm just glad my husband's the better one at math!!

jeanie said...

ha ha ha ha - very funny post!

I remember thinking "just wait until you have children" when my sister told me I should try and match my daughter's outfits and make her eat more neatly.

I could have cut my thoughts out when she did - a very sick child who, after many surgeries, decided no food was the way to go - so gastro tube it was.

He now eats - but her subsequent healthy child refuses food because she can see the power it brought for Number 1.

So - did you follow through the "I will do anything you want later tonight" with his request to "Please. Just stab me in the eye"?

crazymumma said...


My kids were going to eat lentil salad and no sweets. TV would be a special time once a week for only one hour and I was going to make my art while they happily played with paper dolls.

Glad you are living the same life.

Gives a gal comfort ya know?

theghelertertwins.blogspot.com said...

Yes, I know. Already have poked both eyes out and girls only 2!!

Marmite Breath said...

Stab me in the eye is the weirdest damn foreplay that I've ever heard of, but I'm willing to try anything once.

Your description of your life with your future darlings was just like mine--and isn't reality a bitch?

I adore this post. I will probably come back and read it again and again.

Nancy said...

We have a sisterhood of fantasy and reality when it comes to parenting.

I linked this post today.

Any sober parent can relate, lol

Jennifer said...

Bwaa ha ha ha HA!

Isn't reality an awfully hard place to land? *sigh*

This totally cracked me up!

Oh, The Joys said...

I had to tell my husband about the fork. That was too excellent.

Kimmykay said...

YES! I did my best parenting before I had kids too. Ah, the joy of knowing I was right. That hasn't happened since my son was born 12 years ago.

dkaz said...

I remember the whithering looks I got from young, childless, singles as my tazmanian devil/Harry Houdini of a 1 yr old escaped from the seat of the cart for the 1,000,000 time in the line at the supermarket. I always felt that having to endure their scorn was kind of karma for my own sanctimonious attitude before I had kids. I guess that's why now I just paste on a smile and nod - I know that they'll get it some day.

shauna loves chocolate said...

ha ha ha!

Been there.
Done that.
Got the t-shirt.