Tuesday, February 23, 2016


Over the Christmas holidays I had an Italian friend visiting with her husband and 2-year-old son. I love them all dearly, and it was great to speak my native language daily and relax into the comfort of our shared cultural background. From the very beginning, though, I had to struggle with the evident difference between my life as a mother of two and my friend's life as a mother of one. Let's see how it went.

My friend's child spent his time adorably playing by himself, going on fun museum outings with his parents on public transportation, showcasing his amazing potty-training abilities, and recounting his adorably inventive imaginary adventures with the sweetest voice ever. In two weeks, he cried TWICE. My friend was calm, competent, and rigorous at all times. 

My kids spent their time screaming for joy or anger, begging for clementines at all hours of the day while refusing to eat during proper mealtimes, and generally displaying their territorial nature with the ferocity of male teenage Komodo dragons. At various intervals, they would toss off their clothes and run naked up and down the stairs, throwing toy cars at each other. All the while, my parenting action was limited to sighing, changing diapers, picking up scattered underwear, and occasionally pleading them to be "gentle". I collapsed on the couch A LOT.


Frankly, it was embarrassing. As a Xmas host, I should have provided my guests with a safe winter haven filled with joy and family fun rather than a tableau vivant of squalor and despair only to be photographed in the starkest of B/W. My knee-jerk reaction, of course, was to reject any guilt and toll the "you-just-wait" bell, but I knew that would have made me feel even worse. What right did I have to burst my friend's happy parenting bubble by telling that her beautiful family was just a delusion ready to be destroyed completely and permanently by any additional spawn?

I looked at my friend, all fresh and innocent, and caught a glimpse of my old efficient self in the half-forgotten years when I only had one child. When MiniBee was the sole center of my world, I was the one folding cloth diapers. I was the one setting weekly playdates at the zoo and making homemade yogurt topped with freshly-grated apples. I was the one insisting that we have a full meal at the table and we seldom or never watch TV. Yes, dear friend. I was once young and beautiful, too.

So what happened? What came that transformed me from a busy mother into this zombie of dejection, capable only of refilling Cheerios and shaking her head slowly?

Well, Microbee happened. I know that. But I also know that I can do better, even just a tiny bit. I might not be ready to take both kids on a museum outing on public transportation—fuck that—but I can go back to some of the principles I once had. I can start with food, for example. Take my friend: She is a stickler for fresh vegetables. Once she served us grated beets and, to my complete surprise, my kids loved them—especially when they learned their poop would turn red. How great is that?

grated beets
A gory close-up of your kid's new favorite snack.

From now on I can grate beets for lunch, and watch my kids eat vegetables happily while sitting at the table. Their smiles will shine through their red-stained faces, and suddenly they will look like zombies just like me, and it will feel wonderful.

So if you have 2+ kids, don't look at newbie parents as lucky bastards who have it all easy. Just try to be inspired. I believe that, as mothers and fathers (of any number of kids), we are all on our individual journey of discovery and humiliation, reaching each stage at our own speed. Some of us will enjoy more breaks than others, but it really doesn't matter. Because one day, we will all be there together, calling our adult, well-adjusted and ungrateful kids on the phone just hear it ring again and again without answer... deep into the bottomless void of our self-sacrifice.

No comments:

Post a Comment