Performed at Listen To Your Mother 2016 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
A few years ago I attended a baby shower. I’m a sucker for these pastel-colored gatherings because I love to shop in the baby section and look at all the onesies, footie pajamas, and other tiny things. Plus, I still swoon when I smell Johnson’s baby shampoo. The only thing that smells better is the intoxicating scent of a baby’s neck. As the mother of an 11-year-old girl, and 15-year-old boy, I don’t do a lot of neck sniffing anymore. Oh sure, I still try but then I’m reminded it’s weird and I should respect their personal space.
During the baby shower we were all given index cards and told to write our best piece of advice to the new mother.
My pen hovered in the air as I looked at the six lines on the card. How could I ever tell a new mother everything she needs to know about this baby business in just six lines? That’s a lot of pressure. I mean, I thought I was going to spend a few hours looking at miniature socks, discreetly sniffing all the baby bath products and eating cake. I was not prepared to dole out advice of this magnitude.
Should I focus on her physical well-being? Remind her that even though her body is a birth-machine and milk factory, it still belongs to her and she should probably wash it regularly. Tell her that even though the experts say, “sleep when the baby sleeps,” that watching back-to-back episodes of House of Cards on Netflix can be just as rejuvenating.
My mind suddenly became a flip-book of motherhood scenes from the last 15 years. So many things that caught me by surprise, like cleaning the never-ending crevices on miniature downstairs boy parts. I don’t know how many times I shouted, “It’s like cleaning a friggin’ Shar Pei in here. That’s it. One more diaper explosion and we’re sending him to the dog groomer.”
Finally, I settled on the one thing I knew to be true about parenthood so I wrote, It’s all a phase. So get through the bad and cherish the good. Someday you’ll wonder where the time went.
Thinking back, I don’t miss my daughter’s colicky phase, when she made a feral crying noise from 6:30 to 11:00 every night for two months, but I do miss my sanity-granting trips to Barnes and Noble where I sipped lattes by the gallon and purchased books I’d read, you know, once I had more time. Some of those books are probably still on my nightstand waiting to be opened. I hear the Twilight series was a real page-turner.
I certainly don’t miss my son’s public temper tantrums. By the time he was a toddler he had already mastered the fine art of manipulation. One time at Party City I told him I wouldn’t buy him a light saber because he already had several at home. His next tactic was to insist we buy it for his father, whom he called, “Dadoo.” In the end I had to leave my festive party purchases in the cart and tow him out under one arm yelling, “But I just want my Dadoo to have a light saber. Why won’t you buy Dadoo a light saber?”
Another time he was carried out of Old Navy yelling, “But I just want to be a cowboy who wears sweatpants.” I’m not even really sure what prompted that meltdown but as we left, other parents were definitely giving me eyes of irritation. I imagine they were saying, “He would make an adorable sweatpants-wearing cowboy. Seems like a reasonable request.”
Hand-holding will definitely be a short-lived phase so all you new mamas out there, be sure to reach down and take hold of those little fingers as often as you can.
Before you know it, you’ll give your kids the universal sign for, “take mama’s hand,” and they’ll look at you like you just tried to hand them a rat covered in dog crap while muttering, “Ugh, mother. As IF.”
Although my daughter is 11, I can still hold her hand across a crowded street or help her step up on a curb before she politely reminds me, “Mama, I can do it.” At 15, my son has not been a willing hand-holder for years. But every now and then he catches me by surprise on the way out of a store when he walks up, gently places his man-child-sized hand in mine and quietly announces, “You’ve got 10 seconds. Live it up.” And I do.
Over the years, things that caused so much contention in our household simply became teachable moments. Like the time we found my son’s booger collection on the wall by his bed, or that day his room smelled like pee and he announced very matter-of-factly that he’d been peeing in his trashcan at night because he was scared of walking to the bathroom. Solution? Kleenex in his room. Night light in the hall. Boom! Done! Next parent hurdle? We got this.
I definitely miss the way my children toddled from the bath tub straight to the living room, for naked dance time.
Just to clarify, my husband and I were dressed, of course. I mean, these kids will already have enough ammunition for therapy without adding, “had to watch parents dance poorly AND naked,” to the list.
No one knows when naked dance time ended but a few years ago my daughter thought she would recreate the moment, just for old time’s sake. She’s precious that way. In retrospect maybe it was our fault for having the stereo on while she was in the shower. Perhaps it caused a Pavlovian response. We’re still not sure. One minute my husband, son and I are having a conversation in the living room and the next minute my sweet eight year old daughter is there doing the Full Monty while belting out a Beyonce song. The reaction was swift and collective and I think my son said it best, “OH HEY HEY HEY, I’ll never be able to UN-see THAT.”
If you’re a new parent, trust me when I say one day you’ll blink and those babies will be all grown up. So let me leave you with the wisdom of my favorite sweat-pant-wearing cowboy, “You’ve got 10 seconds. Live it up.”
LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER – OKLAHOMA CITY – 2016
Cast and Producers!