I’ve never done well with parental sanctimony but there are degrees of it that are barely tolerable: Strangers with Vera Bradley backpacks who question your children’s music choices are annoying but family members who preach -- under the guise of “only trying to help” -- are the worst offenders. For instance, my parents and other relatives over 60 scoffed at my parenting and baby books yet felt compelled to send me news clippings of every freak accident involving children, however obscure, be it the dangers of above ground pools or playing tug-of-war with Golden Retrievers.
For several years, I walked around -- anxiety-ridden -- in the land of unintended consequence. My radar fine-tuned to pick up any slight, I saw danger and choking hazards everywhere. Each day was a mine field of processed foods and potential skull fractures and make sure he doesn’t stick that thing in his ear. I'm just starting to come out of this phase.
The new mamas have entered it as of late; it seems people are stepping in it left and right. Even Jess was looking a little emo so a few of us headed out to Mount Blue for some vino and snacks.
Aside: The only helpful unsolicited advice I’ve ever received as a mother was at Piers Park three years ago. I’d gotten dressed in the dark and was taking the kids, then 18 months and 4 months, to the park. I shuffled over to the playground, dazed and barely coherent at 7 a.m. with a turbo Dunkin coffee in the cupholder of the double stroller.
An elderly man walking by me, stopped short and looked at me: “Dear, your blouse is on backwards.” My “blouse” was actually an olive green wife beater but he saved me from appearing a few shades crazier than I already was that year.
Over the holidays, Jess’s relatives from Germany were visiting and questioned her use of a bouncy seat. “What’s wrong with a human lap?“
Before inadequacy could settle in, she found one of her young nephews, the son of the “human lap” enthusiast, holding some kind of explosive device in one hand and a lighter in the other.
“The Germans brought fireworks,” Jess said. That's right. Her bouncy seat was a risk to her child’s development, but potentially blowing off a few fingers with a cherry bomb? No biggie.
What’s worse is these people brought the fireworks in their suitcase, on a transatlantic flight from Europe, in the belly of a 747. This was not only a danger to their young kids but everyone on the plane. Scarier than MF snakes, more baffling than a suitcase of fresh produce arriving from San Diego. Code Red was understandably horrified.
Auntie had a similar story to share about one of her relatives whose own house is a “veritable shit show,” yet when this person shows up at her's, she points out uncovered outlets and pointy edges. When Auntie told her relative a cute story about how Jack sticks his chubby little legs through the spokes of his crib, she got a lecture about the femoral artery.
Using binkies is the equivalent of playing with blasting caps.
You can't smell carbon monoxide, you know. YES. We know.
Let's raise a toast to ourselves, the morons!
We’re not morons, of course. We're all just doing the best we can do, but there are good and bad days. And we’re thankful when the well-intentioned busybodies aren’t around to witness the bad days -- like yesterday afternoon when Caroline yelled “move your ass” to the minivan in front of us on Route 53.
Or last week when I was signing the kids up for swimming lessons at the health club. Paulie became unglued upon learning he wasn’t actually going swimming right then. He decided the best way to express his displeasure was to lie face down on the floor and flail and scream about it. Then he went all limp so I couldn’t pick him up properly.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a gaggle of pregnant women heading to a yoga class. They were watching me with a mixture of horror and pity as I struggled to haul Paulie out of there. Then I looked up and saw it in a few of their eyes. “My child will never behave that way.” I know this look because I had it myself once. Pre-kids, whenever I saw brats melting down at Target, I got all puffed up with smuggery. No way will my kids ever do that. Who’s in charge, anyway? Call it karma, call it the circle of shite, but now I know. When kids are in a state like that -- they are actually in charge. All you can do is remove them from the premises as quickly as possible.
So, I got a hold of one of Paulie’s legs and one of his arms; his hip hop parka was all bunched up over his head like he’d been in a hockey fight. Caroline held the door open for me. And as I passed by the pregnant women, I gave them my best glazed- over Britney-in-crisis smile and whispered: “Welcome to the shit show, ladies”