It was then, the Lord said, that I laughed at you

September 20, 2009 § 1 Comment

Back before I had children, I did a lot of work as a judge. Not for the City of Chicago, but for the world, really the universe, dare I say the betterment of mankind. I sat smugly on my throne of free time,8 hours of sleep and disposable income and tapped my sharp edged scepter on the heads of lesser mothers, clucking my tongue at their horrendous behavior.

Who were these harpies who didn’t drop everything to sit down and acknowledge every word their child had to say, even if it was just Mom…Mom…Mom…Mom…Mom? 34 times without a follow up question? And even if they’re not asking you a question, how could you ever ask a child to pipe down? Truly the voices of children are like God’s own soundtrack, a giggly, wondrous sound like a summertime breeze that blows and blows and blows and blows and blows and blows and what’s a breeze, am I a breeze? Breeze breeze breeze pphthththtpppppp hahahahah breeze. Mom Look, I’m a breeze. I’m a breeze mom. Breeeeeeeeeze. Mom?

How could you look into the eyes of an innocent angel and then poison them with juice and high fructose corn syrups? You’re the parent! Why, if they throw themselves on the floor in a back arching tantrum because they don’t want PLAIN WATER, just ignore it. IGNORE IT until 9:00 pm, or until CPS arrives, whichever comes first. And don’t even get me started on these bipedal serpents that feed their children sweets and candy at any and all times of the day. I once blanched at the sight of an obviously abusive (and probably drug addicted) mother feeding her child a SNICKERS BAR at 9:30 in the morning on the subway. There was simply no excusing it. Certainly the mother had time that morning to whip up a breakfast of whole grains, fruit, low fat, organic milk and lean protein before getting ready for work and getting her child ready for school! If not, she should just get up earlier. Don’t waste your breath. I HAVE RULED ON THE MATTER.

Hey, you know why I was thinking about that horrible woman? Because yesterday I bought Charlotte a 16 ounce bag of marshmallows to keep her from getting out of the grocery cart, and I opened them up IN THE STORE and gave her a fistful of sugar pillows as a bribe to sit still and be quiet. It was seven o’clock at night. As we checked out of line I promised her chipmunk swelled cheeks that she could have even MORE marshmallows if she got in her carseat without screaming and kicking me in the face.

It had been one of those afternoons that fell remarkably short of my “Giving My Child Perfect Memories of Childhood” dreams. On the train home from work I realized that I needed a handful of things at the grocery store, and I knew that Charlotte would enjoy the trip. We would go in holding hands, practicing colors and letters and talking about how important a balanced diet was, but in a FUN way, you know? So that she’d hardly know she was learning because I’m JUST THAT CLEVER.
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So when I fought her into the car seat after a lengthy argument in which I actually threatened her with POLICE ARREST if she didn’t buckle up, I told her “we’re going to go to the store! OK?”

“NO! I TIRED. I WANT MY JAMMIES.”

Like a needle skipping and scratching across a record, the Gaussian blur and soft white lighting of my motherhood dream screeched out of the picture as I told her she’d get her jammies when we got home and gosh darn it we were going to the store and she was going to have a good time.

There is a small window of time with young children wherein they have no idea of lengths of time, distances, or how much longer 45 minutes is. It’s important to seize this window, pry it open with a 1×4 and cram as much opportunity into it as possible. That’s why, as soon as we got in the store, with her asking to hold my phone, my keys, my wallet, I told her no, that she should just get in the grocery cart, because we would ONLY BE THERE FOR FIVE MORE MINUTES. Ten minutes later we were going to be there TWO MORE MINUTES and fifteen minutes later we were LEAVING RIGHT NOW.

Instead of reading labels and shocking her with the knowledge that tomatoes are a fruit, laughing together at the absurdity of it all, we fought about where she could sit in the grocery cart. We fought about her trying to pull down the produce scale. We fought about her trying to open the box of lasagna noodles while screaming “I HUNGRY MOMMY, PLEASE! IT’S OK! IT’S OK TO EAT NOODLES!” We fought about her putting six or seven foil roasting pans in the cart because she NEEDED them. And by the time I shoved forty marshmallows in her face, I’d had it.

On arrival at home I asked her if she would please help me carry the bags into the house. She said yes. She would. I gave her a bag with two foil pans and the bag of marshmallows, which she declared TOO BIG FOR ME, MOMMY. There were eight bags to carry in, so I got out the umbrella stroller and said through a forced smile,

“Charlotte, I’m going to be silly. I’m going to put the groceries in the stroller like a baby! How silly!”

She burst into tears, screaming “NO NO NO! I GO IN THE STROLLER. MOMMY! I GO IN THE STROLLER. I TIRED!”

I looked to the sky, for what I’m just not sure, but it kept me from swearing. She got in the stroller and I finagled all of the bags onto the handles, put one in the basket underneath and one on Charlotte’s lap. As we made our way to the house I thought about drinking, and why I hadn’t done it in the last couple of years, and how many beers WERE left in the fridge?

We got into the house and I dropped the bags, eager to get her into her jammies and into her bed. As I started to put things away I saw Todd jump up from his crate and run over to Charlotte. He’s not a dog that does this randomly. Food needs to be in the equation. Sure enough, Charlotte had dug out the bag of marshmallows and was carrying them UPSIDE DOWN, into the living room while simultaneously whining for Spongebob to appear magically on the t.v.

“Charlotte!” I snapped. “Look what you’re doing! Look!”

Todd had already vacuumed up a belly full of marshmallows and was following the trail to Charlotte’s feet. I grabbed the bag from her a bit harshly and said “Charlotte, you have to watch where you’re going. Look at what you’re doing before you make a mess all over the place. Now there’s marshmallows everywhere.”

She stared at me blankly and handed me the bag, skipping over to damage something else. I muttered regrets as I took the bag, and at that moment I decided it was really important to TEACH HER THIS LESSON. I needed to HAMMER THE POINT HOME, as it were. So, walking into the kitchen I said (to a two year old)

“Did you hear me Charlotte? If you don’t watch what you’re…”

And at that moment, God moved my groceries over a few inches and I tripped over the bags, kicking cans and foil roasting pans everywhere and went sprawling to the floor, a plastic grocery bag stuck to my foot. The dog came over to see if anything edible could be salvaged, and my daughter Charlotte –
The girl I had needled and nagged unnecessarily, the child I had snapped at because she failed to fit into my preconceived plans for a Storybook Mother Daughter outing, came running into the kitchen to say,

“You ok mommy? You ok?”

I laughed and said, “Yes. I’m ok. I wasn’t looking where I was going.”

And she laughed too and said, “Mommy, you’re silly. SILLY!”

And skipped off to watch Spongebob before going to bed.

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§ One Response to It was then, the Lord said, that I laughed at you

  • Greg says:

    It took me until my second child to just really enjoy letting my child be a child. It is the one thing I regret. At four years old, because he was so smart and articulate, I began treating him like he was fourteen. My expectations were always too high, and I was always too critical.

    He’s sixteen now, and I try like crazy to reverse some of the damage I caused. He is too critical of himself, others, and especially his little sister (age seven). When I see him lash out at her for interrupting his perfect day by just being a child, I am painfully reminded how I behaved.

    You are lucky to be so self-aware during all this. Perhaps it is the fact that someone is filming a movie of your life? Perhaps it is the self awareness that comes from writing a blog like this? In either case, your child will be happier and healthier if you continue to appreciate here for being her age. Enjoy her while you can.

    Warm Regards,
    Greg

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