So I find myself struggling, sometimes, lately, with remembering how little I wanted to do with other people’s children when I was single with no children and just trying to live my life in public places and trying to enjoy my right to… enjoy those places, and how fresh those memories are, and how much I remember being that person, and how much I still am that person, and how much sympathy I have for those people when I am out in a public place with my admittedly pretty stereotypically terrible toddler, and how that rubs up against the fact that I do have a kid now, and there’s a whole lot of “what can you do?” and “I also have to live this life” and “I also need to be in this place” and a whole lot of boiling up feelings of MY BABY IS ALLOWED HERE that I do my level best to stomp down, because yes, of course she is, and I won’t be told any different, but there is a huge difference between my baby being allowed somewhere and my baby’s right to be somewhere spreading all over someone else’s right to enjoy being somewhere.
Anyway, you know what I’m saying? I’m in no way making an effort to be the cool mom lady. The mom lady who doesn’t change from her single, childless ways now that she has a baby, who is still hip and with it and doesn’t let having a toddler cramp her style. The mom lady who swears to always understand that the single, childless people have the God-given right to enjoy their lives without hearing a peep or seeing an errant streak of snot so their delicate other-people’s-poop free existence remain untainted.
(Note that I am not accusing single people of demanding this behavior, but I am instead making fun of a certain breed of parents who try to behave in this way. I can make fun of parents, it’s cool. I am one. Some of my best friends are parents. I’m allowed.)
No, I’m not the cool mom lady, and I’m not trying to be. My style is cramped. My style is tiny and hunched over. My style is stuffed into to go containers with a lot of mumbled, “Sorry, sorry, sorry,” on the way out of restaurants. That I still go to. Early.
No, I am definitely not a cool mom lady. I don’t want to be a cool mom lady. If I wanted the same life that I had before I had a kid, if I wanted my life to be as close as possible to my pre-child life, the best way to go about that would be to not have a baby. But I do try my best to straddle the line. I don’t expect the world to cater to me because I had a baby. (Oh, and they don’t. Holy shit you guys, how about the difference between pregnancy and baby? “Oh, a pregnant lady! Let me get that door for you, let me get out of your way, oh, excuse me, oh, you’re a treasure, smile, smile, smile!” And then, AND THEN, “Oh, a woman with a stroller and a diaper bag, and 40 shopping bags, let me let that door slam in your face, let me grab that last shopping cart out from under your hands, QUICK HIT THE DOOR CLOSE BUTTON.” Children: only adorable til born.) I take my crying child out of restaurants. I run errands during off hours when I have to take her with me. I don’t let her run through stores, I don’t let her unfold tables of clothing (seriously, your child is an asshole), I don’t let her ruin your day if I can help it.
Basically, I’m super-conscious about being That Mom. I really don’t want to be That Mom. I don’t want to be the woman I used to talk about. I don’t want to be the lady who thinks your world should revolve around her kid. But you know, I’m perfectly fine with the fact that mine does. For now, at least. It does. I’m not embarrassed about it. I don’t think it’s anything to be ashamed of. I don’t think it’s sad that I don’t have any bigger interests. I don’t think that makes me That Mom. I mean, take my Facebook account. I post about Penny constantly. Pictures, status updates, videos. I mean, it’s all Penny, all the time. When I read a friend’s status, though, and I catch myself about to say something like, “Yeah, when Penny –,” or somehow relate it back to my kid, I don’t.
I have not even begun to make my point.
Here’s the thing. You know how I am really into terrible in law stories? That, plus advice from old women about the fact that my child is never wearing socks, really soured me on the whole “it takes a village” thing. Well, plus we no longer live in villages. I don’t need anyone’s help in raising my child. You know what it takes? It takes me, my husband, and an Internet. It Takes an Internet. That should be what they say now. It Takes an Internet.
Anyway, I thought the whole village thing was stupid mainly because I felt like it gave aggravating as hell people license to butt their stupid irritating noses into your business and tell you what to do, simply because their were AROUND, thus part of your VILLAGE, and you can’t get mad, because, oooh, villager, and, I don’t know, burning hay on pitchforks or something. I really never followed the metaphor all the way out. Or analogy. I never really followed that lesson all the way out. And please don’t take it upon yourself to actually give me the lesson in the comments. I have the Internet. If I was actually interested, I would use my Internet. Go back to your village. Damn!
Terrible or not, I have to take my toddler out in public. It’s part of my job, actually, to make her less terrible. She is kind of a demon, and we have some cross country flights coming up, and I just need her to be… less terrible. At least when other people can see her. So yesterday, she and I were running some errands, and she did pretty well. Kind of well. It was okay. Nobody really cried, not with actual tears. So, when we were finished, I took her for a snack at Starbucks. We got a water and a slice of lemon cake, because those things are fast, with no waiting, and we sat at a table to share them.
And Penny was just delighted. I mean, just fucking delighted. I think she’s old enough to know now, sort of, when something is a little bit of a special treat. She was out with just me, and I didn’t make her sit in a high chair. She got to pick the snack from behind the glass, though she really just kind of slapped at it. I had it in front of me, and was breaking off pieces for her, so she was getting some of “Mama’s snack.” She was really excited, but we’re working on keeping the exuberance and shrieking down to… not shrieking… in public. And she was doing great. I mean, in my opinion. She’s still a toddler. And I know that can grate on some people. And you have to understand, I’m not saying that snottily. In the townhouses I used to live in, there was a family living in the next set of units over, and they would put their kids outside to play very early in the morning on weekends, and they would play, indeed. Loudly. And happily. And I swear to you, there was no sound more awful to me than the sound of children’s happiness. I mean, it was terrible. I’m retro-hating it, even now.
So even though we were there during off hours, and even though she was being good – for a toddler – I was doing my best to be quick. I’m not trying to tell you I’m a cool mom lady, see above. I’m trying to tell you I’m aware, at least. I’m aware. I’m aware of the limits of my toddler, and I’m sympathetic to the limits of people in general where toddlers are concerned. There was a man working behind us, and several couples chatting, it wasn’t too crowded. I understand that those people were not my village. I don’t believe in the village concept. Or at least, I didn’t.
Every person that went by, Penny would kind of check them out, wave a little bit of lemon cake at them, and say, “SNAAAA!” Snaaa. Kind of nasally, really excited. It means “snack.” And “snack” means anything in a bowl, or anything that someone else is eating that she thinks she might be able to snake some. And I’d say, “Mmhm, snack. Remember, inside voice, okay? Eat over the table, wipe your face, etc, etc.” We’re working on becoming a functioning human being here, you know? And people would smile and move on, or say hi to her, or nod, or whatever. I don’t know, the split second interaction you have with a toddler who is making an effort to engage with you.
Except, except this ONE WOMAN, who came and sat down right near us, and who was only waiting for a drink, not there to stay who just deliberately turned her face away when Pen tried to SNAAAA at her. And okay, you know, I guess that’s fine. Okay. Okay. In fact, I think I remember snorting with laughter when I read a post online somewhere about a woman being angry when people wouldn’t smile back at her kid. Because that is ridiculous. No one is required to smile at your kid. That is how I was reasoning with myself. No one is required to smile at your kid. I am not That Mom, no one is required to smile at my kid.
Except even now (it’s tomorrow), I am still huffy and trying to tamp down my inner That Momness, because look, me and the Internet will tell my husband how we’re going to raise this baby, and we’ll go ahead and do it, and we’re not going to ask you, Starbucks Lady, to jump in and be the village and wipe her butt or deliberate over preschools or anything like that, I promise. Nothing. No villaging the baby. But for the love of shit, could you just engage a few neurons when she attempts to make social contact? I’m not asking you to join a tribunal and come to budget meetings, I’m asking you to just show a flicker in your eye sockets, anything, and only during this formative social learning period. I will wipe the asses, clean the snot holes, etc, and YOU “be the village” by helping her not become a sociopath. When we’re ready to move on to the “well, honey, some people are cunts” lesson, I’ll give you the nod. I’m sure it won’t be long, what with your cat butt-looking face walking around out there.
Is it even possible? IS IT EVEN POSSIBLE to parent without, to some degree, becoming That Mom? I hope I’m clear in that I don’t want to be a cool mom lady, I don’t expect to be thought of as such, but was it too much to expect that I could straddle the line indefinitely?
I don’t, I don’t really expect you to smile at my baby. I don’t really get mad. I mean, I do notice. I can’t help noticing. I don’t think the non-react-backers are awful people. They’re just people I take note of. I’ll present your names to the judge if Pen turns into an arsonist.
“I HAVE THE NAMES OF THE ENTIRE VILLAGE, YOUR HONOR. RIGHT HERE. THE ENTIRE VILLAGE.”
No but seriously. I don’t even know. You don’t have to. I don’t even. I’m both That Mom and not That Mom. I’m both. I don’t even know.
HEY PAY ATTENTION TO THIS PART REALLY PLEASE.
Over in the sidebar is a link to Phil’s fundraising page for the Extra Life marathon to raise money for Children’s Miracle Network – specifically, Phoenix Children’s Hospital, where Penny has been receiving treatment since she was very small.
I know a lot of you have already donated, and it is SO APPRECIATED. He blew his goal OUT OF THE WATER, and he was so shocked and grateful.
But now, he is only $68 away from earning $1000 for PCH, and that is INSANE.
I don’t have a lot to offer. What I have to offer is embarrassing in that… I don’t know if you even want it. But listen. Today is the last day. If you donate anything today – ANY AMOUNT – and Phil makes it over $1000 before the marathon starts tomorrow at 8am, I will do a TJ’s Cosmo Cliff’s Notes of your choosing, and promptly. No promising to do it and disappearing for 3 weeks. And “of your choosing” means any media easily available to me. It could be Cosmo, or any other magazine I can get off the shelf. Or? Any episode of a currently airing TV show. Or? A show available on Netflix streaming or Amazon streaming. Or a podcast. Or… or whatever. You donate, you choose.
I know. It’s not really… anything. It’s what I have. I mean, I can make you an 8-bit perler bead hair bow barrette. I can do that. If you donate $12 ($.50 per hour!) and you’d rather have that, I can make you one of those instead. It’s equally lame. I can’t help it. We’re a lame people. But we really do have good intent toward PCH!
Regardless of if he makes $1000 or not, the marathon is tomorrow. Follow me on Twitter to get pictures and updates of Phil’s progress, except for the hours that I’m asleep. Because, ha, no.
EDIT: HOLY CRAP. $1000 passed! BUT MY OFFER STANDS. Of course money for PCH is still welcome, we love them. If you donate today – ANY AMOUNT – just email me and let me know. Take your time to pick your media of choice and redeem it whenever.
THANK YOU EVERYONE!
Penny’s prepared to step in if needed.