I have so completely become "that woman", "that mom." "That mom" who used to inspire my eyes to roll in disgust at how she could possibly let her little angel roll around on the floor of a department store or touch the unbought merchandise with his tiny, dirty hands as she waits in line staring aimlessly. "That mom" who lets her toddler wander around the table at a restaurant while she tries to pay the bill. I have most definitely become "that mom" but I now understand what the aimless looks and frazzled dash to pay up and bolt really mean.
Yes, I am now the mom that the woman behind the counter at Barnes and Noble eyes evilly as I let my two year old fondle the tiny display books and the oh-so-tempting miniature Burt’s Bee’s products as I wait my turn to pay. Of course there are my obligatory, "honey don’t touch that, please put that back, we are almost there, please honey, sweetie, angel-pie……."
I know they are all feeble attempts meant more to keep onlookers from rolling their eyes at my indifference to my child’s behavior. I know that any stronger discipline would surely end way worse, with damaged unpaid-for calendars, a dramatic flopping onto the bookstore floor and some worked up tears thrown in. So quite frankly, I am silently thrilled and relieved that the furry bookmarks and unnecessary crap at the sales desk keeps my little one so intrigued. And my aimless stares, my weak reprimands are a welcome respite from a day filled with, "what can I get you, what is it, where did you drop it, let me just pull over to look for it, two seconds, two seconds, juice? milk? cookie? crack? what?????!!!!!!!!!!"
In other words, I have not only become "that mom" but I have also become my daughter’s bitch. I’m not proud.
Yes, I am "that mom" with the dirty faced kid shopping at Target. And I get some disgusted looks and some knowing looks but I will never get the adoring look that "that dad" would. "That dad" who is so cute as he struggles and scrambles to appease his little muffin with adorable dribbles of ice cream down her face. "Aww. poor guy, how sweet." No, only the moms should be expected to know how to get through the day sans dirt, boogers, and inappropriate behavior (is there such a thing for a two year old?)
Do I need to call that damn supernanny? It used to be that I could give myself a real ego boost by watching that show and revelling at how great a parent I was. I would never do that, allow that, ignore that….. Cut to me as my child’s personal assistant picking up every discarded item thrust from her stroller on her slightest whim without even one lame attempt to correct the situation. I don’t know when it switched from the concerted, patient effort to be the enlightened perfect parent to what it has become; making it through the day. I’m not proud.
As I sit here trying to type on the keyboard from which my child has peeled off the M, the N, andthespacebar, I cannot help but feel it is a metaphor. Gone is the ease and flow of life before baby. My fingers can no longer jump effortlessly from letter to letter. With every frustrated double tap of the missing keys, I am reminded that all has been changed forever. And again, I become "that mom". The one I used to speak of snottily. "Why doesn’t she just go get her keyboard fixed? Get her haircut? Clean her car? Having a kid shouldn’t be your whole life"!
I actually still slightly agree with myself. That is partially why I am sitting here trying to have some time for myself by typing on this awful thing. I would rather be staring at a wall but I already did that earlier today when I should have been taking the computer keyboard to be fixed. Is it that I let myself down or am I more concerned with what a stranger thinks of me? It feels like some odd combination of both. After my child tumbles backwards over a banquet at the local diner and I see my life flash before my eyes, I simultaneously berate myself as I am also aware of the glares from other patrons. Their gasps and whispers, "that mom" so wasn’t watching….. She was on her cell, fixing her hair, blowing her nose, staring into space……."
True. All true. And I want to present them with an itemized list of all the things that I’ve done right. I play a mental video of one day last week where I was engaged and present for 8 hours straight and books were read and put away, vegetables were eaten, teeth were brushed, and bedtime was observed. When I see the disapproving looks as my child devours the cookie I gave her to help make it through the stroller ride home I want to scream, "Where were you yesterday when she ate all of her quinoa and tofu?"
Is it what they think of me or what I think of me? I think it’s some strange combination of both. Their glances mirror my deepest fears. Does my child run my life, has she so quickly promoted herself to "boss"? How awful. How easy to judge. Is each "give-in" an insidious climb toward ultimate failure? Am I doing what is easiest for me or what is best for her? I think it might be some crazy combination of both. When I started this parenting journey, I took pride in my schedules, my rules, and the rituals that I had set. But as we both continue to grow, I have to take one challenge at a time with the hope that I can be strong and flexible without breaking. Some days work better than others and my fear of being inconsistent can be replaced with the truth. It can’t be summarized by a moment of property destruction or the demanding of a drink or by someone else’s eyeroll. My child does dictate my life, and as I try and set some boundaries, I realize that her and I have definitely entered some sort of dance-a-thon in hopes of glimpsing where we each end and begin. I had a child and my commitment has to be to the finishing of this lifelong tango. Even if it is to sometimes be played out in public because it does pay off.
It pays off with the putting back of the candy to the 7-11 counter after just one "no", the thank you to the waitress, the kiss before bed. Small victories along the journey that are sometimes witnessed by others but mostly known in my heart. We will get through the day, the week, the years, trying new dances all the time and trusting that some combinations will work better than others and that’s the way it’s supposed to be. For us and not anyone else.