I stalled, trying to come up with the perfect thing to say to resolve the situation.
“Let me show you something here on the computer.” We walked over to the desk and I plopped down into the office chair. I signed into my Facebook account and pulled up an old photo that someone had tagged me in from high school.
It was a bit grainy, as pictures of pictures tend to be, but you could still clearly see the group of us girls, arms over shoulders, the lot of us grinning widely. “See that? That’s Mommy.”
“Yes. And is that Aunt Maggie?” she inquired, pointing to a girl who looked absolutely nothing like my sister.
“No, that’s just another girl with blond hair. That’s me my friends after we did a play. That’s Katie, Jen, and Leslie.”
(Continued from Introductory)
“Mommy! I missed you so much!” She came over and hugged my waist, her 7-year-old scared little hands gripping at my sweatshirt.
What had happened in such a short period of time?
Confused, I looked down at Avery, who still had fistfuls of my clothing. Her voice was muffled as she spoke into my stomach. “I’m really scared, Mommy, really scared.”
I looked over at her little brother, who shrugged. “Can I stay up and watch tv?” He was completely oblivious.
“What happened? Why are you scared?” I tried to peel her off of me so I could hold her at arm’s length. She didn’t say a word.
I looked up at Tayler.
Parenting can be straightforward a lot of times:
“No, you can’t have Oreos for breakfast.”
“Yes, you have to go with the family to Aunt Suzy’s house for her dog’s wedding.”
“Don’t lick your brother.”
“Eat a piece of lettuce, for God’s sake. Just one freaking piece of lettuce!”
I’ve notice that as the kids get a bit older, however, situations become more difficult and parenting becomes more complicated. Last night was a prime example.
“Only 2 and a half hours left!” Avery cried to me from up in her bedroom. “When she gets here, we’re going to pretend to be princesses, then play Jenga, then we’ll color a picture, then I’ll play her the new song I learned on the piano, then we’ll read my new library book, then we’ll-“
By 7:45 am, the heat of the day was already overwhelming me.
As though I was carrying a gorilla on my back, its heaviness pushed me down, making my legs weak. I continued to drag the various pieces into the driveway, yelling at my children the entire time,
“Put that down!”
“Nobody talk to me, I NEED coffee!”
Whose stupid idea was it to have a garage sale anyway? Oh, yeah: Avery. My lovely child, who had already made plans to ditch us and go swimming at the neighbor’s pool.
Chris came over in the morning to help, and was out getting breakfast for the kids at the deli when a few customers came by.
I plastered a smile on my already dampened face. “Let me know if I can help you with anything!”
We went to the animal fair
The birds and the beasts were there
The old baboon, by the light of the moon
Was combing his auburn hair…
For as far back as I can remember, I’ve known the lyrics to this song, though I’ve never really heard them, if that makes sense. I guess I just never listened or paid attention to their meaning. The traditional folk song continues:
The monkey he got drunk
And fell on the elephant’s trunk
The elephant sneezed and went down on his knees
And that was the end of the monk, yes the was the end of the monk!
When I see the words now, in all their glory, I’m horrified. Did I really listen to my elders sing this jauntily to me? Did I really dance around as it played, laughing and giggling and singing along?
The fact that I AM horrified, but my parents were not, it begs the question: is my generation coddling our children? I remember my aunt singing this song to Laura and I as we were atizzy in a sea of hysterics. It wasn’t the words that made us shriek and chortle as she sang, it was the silly way Aunt Donna would act it out, flailing her arms about and making funny noises. Nowadays, though, a song like this gives me pause. An intoxicated simian getting crushed to death by his jungle friend? Not necessarily the stuff of a Pottery Barn thematic nursery.
My brain, as per usual, is at an impasse, then.
“Eh; it’s fine. It’s catchy. Stop being such a curmudgeon.”
“If you don’t need to expose your children to such barbarity, why not listen to ‘Baby Beluga’ again. That’s catchy.”
This is where I need advice. I desperately need YOU to weigh in. What is your stance on exposing children to lyrics, literature, to bad language? HELP!!!
The memory faded and my brain returned to the present, being crushed on both sides by my aggressive seatmates, both determined to be the emperor of the arm rest.
The seat in front of me reclined, making my space even smaller. Row 22, mine, didn’t move back. I suddenly felt as though the oxygen on the plane was getting more sparse, and I half-expected the masks to fall from the ceiling. I slowly filled my lungs with air and blew it out, realizing that I looked like a lunatic to the people seated next to me. Just a couple more hours…
I picked up my magazine again, but it was mere moments before my eyes glazed over, and my thoughts began wandering yet again. Once more, it was Christmastime, but this memory was from a few years earlier.
Avery was in her infant swing, giggling as she stared at the colorful lights that adorned the tree. I looked around at the decorations that I had just put up, and silently congratulated myself. Now, to finish ironing the Christmas linens and put the meatloaf in the oven.
I was one housedress away from becoming my grandmother.
C-31 the code on my boarding pass proclaimed. Great, I thought: the cheap seats.
After a long stint waiting in an organized line for the flight attendant to take said pass, then another wait on the jetway while the passengers in front of me crammed their stuffed-to-capacity-and-then-some carry-ons into too-small overhead compartments, I boarded the aircraft and stood on my tip-toes to view my potential seats.
“Ladies and gentleman, there is a full flight this morning, so please be sure to allow these new passengers access to all the seats in your row,” a nasally woman’s voice came over the loudspeaker. I noticed a few people who were already seated roll their eyes, huff, or curse under their breath. Sigh.
In a feeble attempt to get myself a seat that didn’t involve being sandwiched between a crying baby and someone who looked like a “talker,” I scanned available openings as I continued to amble down the narrow aisle.
Each time I found a potentially decent place to sit, I was rammed forward by the horde in back of me. Before long, I was given the choice of a middle seat in the back row of the plane, or one on top of the toilet. I chose the former so that I didn’t infuriate the flight attendant.
I began mushing my way into my destined residence in a flourish of body parts and bags and whispered “Excuse me!”s and “I’m so sorry!”s. In order to get to that particular seat, I had to apologize for my very existence.
What Is Your “Identity”?
I remember in a graduate class the professor posing the question.
She told us not to answer right away, but rather to consider the question carefully over the course of a few days. The next time we met, each of us were to think of all the words that identified us as individuals— teacher, spouse, parent, student, patient, former whatever-the-case-may-be, athlete, friend, etc.
Oh, good. Any easy day, I thought. Time to give my brain a break.
Turns out, I was wrong. This happened to be a defining moment for me, though at the time, I was unaware. So, I considered the ways that I saw my life, and how others perceived me. I thought about how I wanted to be identified. I also thought about how I didn’t want to be identified. This is an exercise that I find helpful to return to often, in order to make sure that I’m doing everything in my power to display the qualities that I want to be synonymous with as a person.
My New SAHM Life
I felt the comfort of being in a place with no complications; no obstacles to hurdle. But that, dear readers, does not a story make.
As my 32nd birthday approached, I thought of where I was now, what my life had become, and the fact that there was so much to look forward to: another baby was on its way, to round out our family- a boy, no less! My little toddler, Avery, was bright and self-aware, my marriage good.
I was a stay-at-home-mom now, a SAHM, something I never imagined I’d be, but was quite fond of the new position. Although I’d been known to don an apron to avoid the inevitable flour spill in the kitchen, I was not the type to vacuum the carpet daily, nor was I one to iron the bed sheets, and if my family was waiting for me to lay out their freshly laundered and pressed outfits each day, they were going to be spending an awful lot of time in the nude.
I had always had an image of the stay-at-home mom as a woman who anticipated and tended to every need of her family with a smile on her face and a twinkle in her eye. She wore sensible shoes, oven mitts, and a perfectly coiffed bob, and she listened to Tony Bennett while frosting a chocolate cake. This could NEVER be me: uncomfortably high heels, chipped purple fingernail polish, and long hair piled in a wet knot at the back of my head. Led Zeppelin (and, at times, Tony Bennett) roared out of the ipod speaker, and there were no sweet confections displayed lovingly on the countertop. Not exactly the image of June Cleaver, yet here I was. Mom. Everyday. Every minute.
“Let’s put on some music.” I declared, suddenly snapping out of my own imagination. I was hoping for a mutual, even excited, response from my kids.
“I guess.” Avery responded. Hunter didn’t even acknowledge that I had spoken. They were both such charmers in the morning. Delighted in the knowledge that I could turn on the radio without fear of waking anyone, I tuned it to a kids’ station and got to work making the rest of breakfast.
“Can I have waffles too?” Hunter asked while slurping the milk from his cereal bowl.
This had been my husband’s job, giving our children breakfast. Now, however, the task had become mine, and damned if I wasn’t going to be the best cereal-pourer, waffle-toaster, orange-juice-provider that ever lived. “Sure honey!” Hearing my own voice, I realized that I definitely needed to tone down the enthusiasm. “Av, what would you like?”
She looked at me for a solid 13 seconds before sluggishly answering. “Cereal.” I smiled at my little girl. Her mood would change soon, as it always did. Then it would change again. And again. And again. Living with my 5-year-old daughter now was a good indicator of the hormonal whirlwind that I would endure in her teenage years. I would not let her wear me down, though. My positive attitude would prove to them, prove to him, prove to me that I could do this. I could do it well. I would wear that positive shit like a bulletproof vest, because nothing was going to get to me.