Honesty

Despite my rabid insistence that Narragansett No. 7 is not a Mommy Blog – because it’s really more of an anti-Mommy Blog,  a catch-all for my neurotic ramblings, and failures as a writer/parent/woman/human being – I suddenly find myself engaged in some very Mommy Bloggish endeavors.

Case in point: I am teaching Kate preschool at home this year.

No, not because she was kicked out of her former school for bad behavior or anything. There are many reasons.  Mostly, the preschool wasn’t a good fit for us anymore. The mommies of her classmates were much younger and frankly, I wasn’t fabulous at making connections with them last year. What can I say? My thesis left very little room for play dates. Kate is our third child and most of the kids her class were the first-born in young families. I just wasn’t as… how shall I say? Gung ho? Nervous? I don’t know… I’ll let you fill in that blank. With two older kids and their schedules to shuffle, Kate’s preschool related extracurriculars took a back seat and if that appeared to be unfriendly, then so be it.

Then there was the issue of a little boy diagnosed with a spectrum disorder mid-year and some intolerance that came along with it. The situation brought me back to Joe’s first years of school and the shunning we experienced from the other moms. It pissed me off. It made me not want to bring my son anywhere near some of those folks. You know? I guess I threw a wall up.

Anyway, here I am preparing Kate for Kindergarten on my own. If I were a liar, I’d be sharing perfect photographs of each and every craft or messy sensory activity that Kate dives into. You would be inundated with toothy smiles and things like splat mats and smocks and wipes on the kitchen table, but that shit disappeared with kid number two.

Sure, I might post photographs, but rest assured, they won’t always be pretty. Not like those shiny happy pictures on some blogs and most definitely not like the photos snapped at preschool events of days gone by.

Why? Well, because teachers shower in the morning. That’s right. They generally don’t stink like dirty hobos in dire need of a breath mint.

Teachers don’t tell their daughter to “sit down and write those lower case e’s or I’ll steal all of the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups out of your Halloween stash.”  (Note to self: potential sorting and/or math lesson.)

Teachers might consider my requirement that she walk the dog after lunch unfair.

On the other hand, if Kate were at preschool she never would have felt comfortable enough to say, “Get over here you little gween bastard,” to a miniscule Lego frog evading her grip. That’s how our fine motor skill sorting game went down last week. I’m pretty sure most the other mommies wouldn’t have approved, but life isn’t always perfect. And maybe that’s the difference between first time moms and third timers.

Copyright 2013 Narragansett No. 7

Mommies Don’t Get Sick Days and That Sucks

I like to think that most mothers eventually find their groove. Like finely conditioned athletes, we stoically power through colds, migraines and bouts with projectile vomiting. Sure, we might gag or hold our breath and we might even shed a tear, but we carry on and cross that finish line no matter what the cost. Why? Because that’s the circle of life and, unless you want your children to write tell-all blogs about what a crappy parent you were, you’d better suck it up and perform.

Eventually even the best athlete is bound to suffer an injury. In motherhood, the equivalent of a pulled muscle is strained nerves. It generally occurs after a days-long bout of illness compounded with kid fights, whining, schedule confusion, picky eating and a stint as the parent helper at preschool. Parent Helper Day is the equivalent of the Big Game. Most of the time, you’re prepared for the Big Game and nothing can take you down. You remember to wear your bra and cut up the fruit and show up on time so that you can stand at the door to escort the kid whose mother “has a job” inside so she can tear down the road in her giant SUV.

Eventually, you’re bound to walk on to the playing field with some strained nerves and a nasty cold and, by the end of the Big Game, you are officially placed the injured player list. When your two and a half hours as Parent Helper come to a close, you retreat to the car with your crying children, your shame and your illness and somewhere in the privacy of your drive home you shed an exhausted tear, thankful that you made it through that part of the day.

You cry because you fondly recall the days when you could call in sick and get paid to lay in bed and watch cheesy Lifetime movies. No co-workers ever stood at your bedside demanding that you get up to feed them and wipe their ass. Your co-workers didn’t want to see you in that condition, but your children don’t give a shit. They simply want cookies and Juicy Juice and they don’t care if you have to drag yourself to the kitchen on bloody stumps in order to retrieve them.

In a perfect world, Mommies would be able to call in sick and someone would happily cover our shift without the need to miss work or make the sick mommy feel like a failure for succumbing to germs. But this world isn’t perfect and back when we were dreaming of snuggly babies; no one explained that when you get sick you’re on your own, sister. You’ll throw up then brush your teeth and go make those kids breakfast, dammit! On his way out the door, your hard working husband will cast a sympathetic glance at you and kindly offer you the option of going to bed as soon as he gets home from work. The sentiment is lovely, but the vast amount of time between his offer and the actual arrival of relief looms ahead of you like a hellish marathon.

Once, when Joe was just a baby and we were new parents, I experienced my first bout with simultaneous illness. Joe was running a fever and I knew this because, as a new mother, I shoved a thermometer up his ass at least twice a week to reassure myself that he wasn’t dying. This time, however, he actually did have a fever and as I changed his diaper I felt my own face blazing with heat. In my bleary flu-induced fog, I grabbed the thermometer from the changing table and placed it under my tongue. As I closed my lips around it, I realized that I had just placed the baby’s rectal thermometer in my mouth. The thermometer was promptly spit across the room and I spent the morning disinfecting my mouth with Listerine and toothpaste before calling my sister in New York to cry.

I hate shots, but this year some inner-voice advised me to get the flu shot in the middle of the grocery store on a random Wednesday afternoon. It was totally unplanned. I rounded the corner of the wine aisle and saw a table surrounded by nurses and their shots. There they were, all lined up and eagerly waiting to stab someone in the arm.

Public inoculations generally make me feign bravery. A public inoculation with my four-year-old daughter watching required extra bravado and even a bit of humor. When I feigned terror, the nurses giggled and Gwen rushed to hold my hand. She soothed me, “Don’t worry, Mommy. It’s just a little pinch and it will be over weewy fast.” She patted my hand and tried not to look horrified as the needle approached my arm.

Her eyes widened with terror as she watched the needle pierce the skin of my upper arm. She worriedly met my eyes with panic and expected, I think, for the same kind of wailing lament she lets out when the needle breaks through her skin. I smiled at her to demonstrate my (totally fake) bravery. She stroked my hand and said, “Shhhhh…Just a pinch. Here…have a cookie.” She turned to the nurses wearing a serious expression and with great authority asked, “Can we get a sticker over here?!”


Stink-Eye

It was that exchange that I pulled from my memory bank in my final moments as Parent Helper yesterday afternoon as that same precious little angel hid beneath the jungle gym, refusing to leave the preschool playground. It wasn’t until I offered to call her cab and asked if she remembered the way home that she came out. Her furrowed brow and public use of the ‘stink eye’ told me that she wasn’t happy. She began her dramatic rage-filled exit from the playground, pissed off that I was making her leave because, well…it was time to go and I didn’t feel well. Then I coughed.

Oh, Mama…are you okay?

I really don’t feel well, Gwennie.


I’m sorry, Mama. Let’s go home and you can rest on the couch with me. Would you like to watch a princess movie under a nice warm blankie?

She’s a beautiful little girl.

Quota Filled!

One of the joys of motherhood is that sometimes you find yourself in situations that smack of the social hierarchy of teenage girls and the social pecking order that you assumed you’d left back in high school. One of the things that my grown-ups never shared with me was that, even as grown-ups, some people never stop campaigning for the title of Prom Queen. There will always be a gossip monger, a shy girl, a natural leader and her faithful hangers-on. Every group has a class clown and the handful of cynical girls who feel that the rest of us are simply a herd of vanilla sheep.

Baaaa.

There is a seemingly endless stream of adults who have carried those social quirks well into their (almost) middle years. Thankfully, most have outgrown their Goth wardrobes and realized that the black hair dye just makes them look sallow and old.

Last week, I attended a parent meeting for my daughter’s cooperative preschool and, since we’re the new kids, this was my first meeting. Upon arrival, as is my normal modus operandi, I located my clique because yes, we still kind of do that. I sat on the fringes, introduced myself to the stranger at the adjacent table with a smile then proceeded to become a fly on the wall. At least, I tried to be the fly on the wall.

Throughout the history of me, I’ve alternated between fly on the wall and girl who unwittingly finds herself running with the ‘social set’ despite what I think is my weird personality. I tend to alternate between funny girl and tortured soul. In high school I was surprised one morning by the class advisor informing me that I’d been nominated for Prom Queen. I was shocked, kind of grossed out and embarrassed but also thrilled that someone liked me. I was slightly upset that I was lumped in with some of the other nominees, a few of whom were of the not-so-nice variety of girls. Oh God, I thought, do people think that I’m one of them?

I’ve digressed, haven’t I?  Back to the preschool parent meeting…

Fly on the wall posture assumed, I sat back and observed. I think that, like most writers tend to be, I’m a people watcher. I’m not just a people watcher, but a people absorber. I sat and politely listened to the issues at hand at the school. Eventually the reminder that we are a cooperative preschool came up and someone on the executive committee attempted to tactfully suggest that, as parents, we should actually try to cooperate with the various committees. She nicely explained that responding to e-mail is a lovely gesture, as is attendance at carefully planned school functions. The word “cohesive” was thrown out into the room and that was when I noticed that a woman sitting near me began to squirm. Closer inspection revealed that the word “cohesive” was hanging over her head and poking her.

It was annoying her.

Moments later that woman, let’s call her Ann T. Social, spoke up and said, “On the subject of cohesion, I’m not here to make friends. I’m here for my child.” She said more on the subject but I was too busy thinking, Oh-Kaaay, she’s a kind of a bitch to listen.

Just days before our (cooperative) preschool meeting, I invited all of the moms in my daughter’s class over for a night out that involved cocktails.  One of those moms was Ann T. Social. Well, Ann didn’t even have the courtesy to acknowledge the invite, let alone show up. So as she made her bitchy announcement to all of the parents of the preschool all I could think was, what a fucking asshole.

Evidently mommies like Ann T. Social have already filled their lifetime friend quota. In the future, perhaps we should all be required to wear a highly visible Friendship Gauge. Just think about the convenience that the gauge would offer. As we’re introducing ourselves to new parents each year we can all just cut to the chase and skip niceties with the ones proudly displaying their already over-flowing Friendship Gauge.

No hard feelings, honey…I’ve filled my quota. See? It says so right here on my gauge.

Following Ann T. Social’s obnoxiously public snub of every person in the room, a few of us made eye contact, subtly validating that we each thought her remark seemed (über-bitchy) crazy. On my ride home I started thinking about the different personalities I’ve encountered in my fledgling career as the mother of school-aged children. I mentally checked off the list of women that I’ve encountered along the way. Yup, I’m pretty sure that high school never ends and I can’t wait to blog about it. Don’t worry; I’m fairly sure that Ann T. Social doesn’t read Narragansett No. 7.

Monday

I spent the last seven days of my life immersed in writing samples, trying to select the perfect pieces for my residency’s manuscript submission. Thank God for David who took the bull by the horns and dealt with the financial aid stuff, made dinner for the family all weekend and entertained the kids while I sat at my computer telling them all to shut the hell up. I hate noise when I’m under pressure.

One of the side effects of ADHD is that when I’m focused on something with a deadline, something that needs to be just right, I’m not capable of acting like a normal human being. I forget everything else. I’m sure that to the rest of the world I appear to be a complete moron. David understands this. He might not necessarily appreciate it, but he gets it and works with me. He flips the pancakes that I started then walked away from to go clean the bathroom. Thanks to David, the house doesn’t burn down.

I picked my essays and started fine-tuning them yesterday afternoon. I felt good. Yup, I had it all together. No sign of any ADHD induced memory lapses at all. David and I even stayed up later than 9:00 last night.

This morning I was exhausted, yet for some reason when I rolled out of bed, I decided to flat iron my hair and slap on some makeup before driving Gwen to preschool. If only I had taken off the t-shirt that I slept in and put on a bra.

We were walking up to the front gate of the preschool when Gwen asked, “I’m the leader today, right Mommy?”

You know those dreams where you show up for school/work/your wedding and you’re naked? Yeah, well that’s how I felt as I stood on the sidewalk in front of Gwen’s preschool when I realized that it was my day to be parent helper. Technically, I was late, I didn’t have the fruit for snack, I didn’t bring a roll of paper towels and most alarming, I wasn’t wearing a bra.

I wracked my brain, trying to recall the contents of the mini-van, praying that I’d left a sweater in there at some point. For a brief moment, I was relieved when I remembered that I took my bra off at a red light a few weeks ago. Then I remembered that I hated that bra, took it off because it was uncomfortable and threw it in the trash at the Dunkin Donuts drive-thru.

image courtesy Google image search

We walked inside and I apologized profusely to the preschool teacher who, by the way, I swear is a direct descendant of Mary Poppins. She was totally cool with our late arrival and full of ‘don’t worries’ and ‘no problems’.

Sighing, I took off my coat and tried to pretend it wasn’t cold. I was thankful for the thin camisole I was wearing under the t-shirt. I took a deep breath and held my head high, as if going braless was a conscious decision and then Gwen said, “ummmm, Mommy…are you wearing your booby traps or no?”

I spent the morning playing memory match, circle time and serving snacks in what was, technically, my pajamas. Kate, who had dressed herself this morning, was clad in a pair of pants, a sweater dress and a pajama top. Her hair was sticky from breakfast. I tried to brush it with my fingers and ended up tucking it behind her ear.

That was my day.

image courtesy Google image search

Cookie

Gwennie’s preschool welcome letter was in the mailbox this afternoon. This was the moment that I have been dreading all summer. *sniffle* I know, I know… I need to let her move forward. It’s preschool. A right of passage… a major milestone in the life of my little cookie. My Cookie. *sob* She tries to make me feel better by saying things like, “Mommy, I have to get all growed up!” or, “It’s okay Mommy, you’ll be right back to pick me up”. She says these things with a shrug of her tiny shoulders while wearing an appropriately empathic, but too-bad-for-you facial expression. I recognize it as my own.
Oh, how long I waited for my little girl! For all of my blustering about never wanting children (back when I didn’t know I wanted them), I secretly dreamed of one just like her. Here’s a little secret…Gwen was not planned. I had no idea I was pregnant for weeks. No idea at all that another baby was on the way! Thankfully, we sorted it all out before we ended up on the I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant show.

My sweet little Cookie. I have no idea how or why the nickname “Cookie” began, but it belongs to her. Like every other mom, I will never forget the day we first met. As I recovered (lay helpless in bed) from surgery Dave took photos and, in his ecstatic state of new Daddy bliss he posted a most unflattering photo of our new baby girl.



I was beyond mortified! “WHAT?! You posted that picture?! Look at her…she looks like a hairy linebacker in that shot! Why that picture?!” You can imagine that my hormones were in full swing at this point. Poor David.

Here’s the one I would have sent:

I’ve enjoyed each and every minute of her existence, right up to this very moment. She makes us laugh both giggles and belly laughs without even trying. She can as easily make me cry as I watch her attempt a brave face before confronting the man-eating hippos in her closet. Who can blame her for being frightened if those are the kind of things lurking in the shadows of her bedroom?

Over the past week, I have gone through what seems like thousands of photographs and can’t help but marvel at how tiny the children were. How easily we forget and how quickly they grow. Chubby little baby cheeks and beautiful toothless grins are fading away. Like every other parent in the world, we only have our memories and photographs to help stir them.

I explored picture files full of Joe and Gwen’s first years, when we lived in Boston. I had forgotten how tiny our apartment in Oak Square was. I thought of when our two babies shared a sweet little bedroom, and how suddenly one afternoon I heard them babbling to one another. That was the afternoon that she became a little bit more “baby” and little less infant.
When people say that children are born with their own personalities, they aren’t wrong. It didn’t take long to see that Gwen was an “Alpha” baby. She began busting Joe’s chops (his words) as soon as she could sit up. Here’s the proof:

Gwen came into the world making us laugh. She has that special something that lets her get away with just a littlebit more than the others. She has comic timing. Gwen has presence. She’s quick to defend and stands up for the rights of those being wronged…including herself. She has a quick wit and a sharp tongue. At 18 months, she exited the sandbox with purpose to toddle to the swings where she proceeded to smack the neighborhood’s three year old Neanderthal who was pushing Joe around. I wouldn’t have believed it unless I watched with my own eyes. She emitted some sort of crazy babble/yelling, smacked the bully a few more times for good measure and chased him off. Gwen is one tough Cookie.
She claims that her brother is her bestest friend in the world, but will rat him out in the blink of an eye. She welcomed her new baby sister into the family with grace and watches over her to ensure her safety and happiness. In fact, she’s Kate’s official spokesperson. So much so, that Kate can speak her own Kate language, leaving Gwen to interpret. Oddly enough, she has developed an uncanny knack for knowing precisely what Miss Kate is demanding.
Gwen can walk into a room full of strangers at 12:00 and come out with 5 new friends a half hour later. It doesn’t matter if it’s a girl or a boy. So now, as summer ends Gwen is eager to join her fellow tribesmen, the little people of Patten’s Nursery School. She’s a tiny social maven on the verge of independence! She’s teetering on the edge of freedom. She’s chomping at the bit to escape my (control) love.
I will be shocked if there are tears when I leave her on the first day of preschool. In fact, I have absolutely no fear that she will cling to my leg, screaming to go home. Nope. No need to pry her off and run before my own tears start to flow. Instead, I’ll drive her there, walk her inside and she’ll run away from me to meet her new friends. I’ll hang around a bit (too long), making sure that she finds her cubby…that she’s okay, and right around the time I realize that I’m not okay, I’ll feign cheer, choke out a “Goodbye, Cookie! Be a good girl!” as I hastily exit. My little Cookie is growing up too fast.
My dirty fingered, bandaid obsessed, dress wearing angel. I had no idea that she was coming, but I’m sure glad she’s here.