(carefree in new york when i knew everything about parenting, but didn’t yet have children)
when i was living in new york in my twenties spending sundays enjoying boozy brunches (after taking an early yoga class and wandering through the chelsea flea market - which is sadly now all condominiums - clutching a giant coffee from the bodega on my corner) i had all kinds of ideas about what my life would be like when i had children. i would, of course, still live in the city, but i would have a giant loft, rather than my run down holly hobby sized apartment and my children would just slip into my life without disrupting my routines. they would come to brunch with me wearing adorable outfits and contribute witty, charming stories to the conversation, enchanting the waiter so that we were sent a plate of free beignets each week. they would use their cutlery properly and keep their napkins in their laps and they would NOT whine or cry at the table like all the other bratty, poorly-parented children in the restaurant. they would be like this because i was going to be a GOOD mother who paid attention and set boundaries and generally just had my shit together.
(what my apartment in new york looked like…)
(what my corner bodega looked like)
now, after nearly fourteen years of parenting, i have been truly humbled by the task of taking care of other people. and my standards of success have been mightily adjusted. i HAVE been that mother whose child was wailing and begging for cheetos in the check out line. i HAVE been the mother whose child had unbrushed hair and a crusty face and was still wearing pajamas to the diner (NOT tartine in the west village) for breakfast (NOT brunch… no child can wait until nearly noon to eat their first meal of the day.) i HAVE been the mother whose child rolls their eyes and shoots out snark and sassafras and forgets to say, “please” and “thank you.” and i HAVE been the mother who completely loses it and yells at her kids and bursts into tears with frustration and fury that the people i GREW in my body (and painfully pushed OUT of it, which i poignantly remember even though everyone says you forget how much it hurts as soon as it’s over) could be so rude and thoughtless.
(delicious, adorable tartine)
(theo at the diner - also yummy, but never boozy)
(imagine what happens when you don’t buy this girl bubbalicious in the checkout line at target)
so now i try to celebrate the small victories. this week we’ve had a lot of barfing at my house. the school nurse called and i had to pick lucy up early from school one afternoon… as soon as we got home she threw up about a million times. and ALL of it went into the toilet or the bowl i stationed next to her on the sofa. i honestly couldn’t have been prouder. some parents get really excited about a perfect test score or a hat trick in their kid’s soccer game or when their kid makes something cool for the science fair and those things DO make me happy, but the fact that my daughter could be that sick and i didn’t have to scrub vomit off my sofa or the rug or even her clothes made my heart swell to bursting. and i think she set a good example because a few days later, hank came down with “kennel cough.” he had interviewed for doggie day care and must have picked it up while on the test playdate. he started coughing so violently (poor popper) that he was also spitting up. he couldn’t reach the toilet (his legs are only about seven inches long) but he DID take care to only spew on the easily moppable wood floor. when he’d start hacking, he’d leap off the sofa or the bed and make sure that his regurgitation was not near anything difficult to clean. again, i was filled with immense love and gratitude.
i am not good with messiness, especially if it is bloody or smelly and comes out of your body. i would be the WORST doctor. most of the time when i am watching grey’s anatomy i have my eyes covered and just listen to the dialogue so i don’t have to be subjected to the gruesome wounds and unexpected projectile spurts of vomit or guts or whatever that happens regularly in the ER. i do push myself to power through the show each week (for decades now) because that is where i get all of my medical knowledge, but it is not easy.
(i have been watching this show so long most of these characters aren't even alive anymore!)
and frankly, i don’t think anyone should have to be exposed to such grossness if they are not getting paid (which mothers never are… at least for that!) so if i can raise children (and a puppy) who are considerate enough to minimize damage when they have the stomach flu, or are brushing their teeth (WHO appreciates being left with toothpaste spit shellacked onto the sink bowl?) or going number two (definitely NO ONE likes being confronted with poop cement!) then i will consider it a job well done. my kids may not go to the olympics or get into harvard or win a pulitzer, or even tell the most engaging story at brunch, but i am making it my mission that by the time they leave my house they take care of their own bodily debris. it’s really a metaphor for being a general good citizen and i am sure that their future housemates and girlfriends and spouses will appreciate my good work and dedication.
(hank recovering in the sunbeam after a strenuous bout of coughing…)
* update - a mother’s work is never done… i found these messages on my phone written by my NINE year old daughter to her brother when he was sitting right next to her on the sofa (wrangling for the coveted corner spot) watching a show AND texting - double screening - tip top parenting! i don’t know WHERE she picked up that language (or that spelling!) but clearly i can’t rest on my parenting laurels just because she vomited perfectly into the toilet… COTILLION!!