If you want to drive a car, you have to study a driver’s manual, and pass two tests, proving that you can be trusted to stay within painted white lines on the road while hurtling along at 70 miles an hour. To become a mother, you just have to be pregnant.
When I braved the new frontier of motherhood by becoming pregnant, the internet was not publicly available, so the parenting tools I had at my disposal, were a thick copy of Dr. Spock’s book on Baby and Child Care, and spitting into the wind.
The Toddler years were a blur of playdates, “Tiny Tots” pre-school, and the daycare I was doing to supplement our income so I could stay home with our children. Daycare duties did not relieve me from household tasks, and food shopping was no exception. Wrangling three toddlers into and out of car seats added a good hour to any outing. At the grocery store, I was an octo-armed Master of the Shopping Cart, keeping two kids from hurling themselves out of the cart while holding the hand of the third: returning things back to the shelves as fast as the walking one was able to toss them in, all while keeping the cart going in a forward motion with my elbow.
Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t change a thing about those days. I adored being a mom and I loved my kids to the moon and the stars and back again, but while I loved and cuddled and planned my every-waking-moment around them, I was flying by the seat of my pants, and there were times when things got screwed up.
My daughter was my potion-maker and she liked nothing better than creating mixtures of all purloined lotions, shampoos, and cream rinses, because she liked the way they felt in her hands. One day, while I was folding laundry, I found that she had taken a large nursery jar of Vaseline and smeared it all over her brothers crib, her bed, and the dresser. She then proceeded to go into the family room and coat both couches, the easy chair, and three walls of windows before I found her. She was shiny from head to toe and harder to pick up than a greased pig. I think this is a reason that her skin remains moisturized to this day.
She was also my social child that adored attending preschool, which she called “Pretty School,” and she lived for getting dressed up, complete with toddler sized sunglasses. She was a little diva that took “Pretty School” seriously.
One of my favorite memories was when we gave her a baby bunny, whom she promptly named Bugs after her favorite cartoon character. While her father stayed home with her little brother, she and I drove to the grocery store to buy carrots with the greens on top, and other assorted bunny delicacies. I’ll never forget how her little voice rang out as she proceeded to announced to anyone and everyone in every aisle, that we were at the grocery store because we had bugs at our house.
Houdini paled in comparison with my son, who taught his older sister how to open all of the doors we had locked with childproof locks.
There were no cell phones in those days, but he managed to take the rotary phone headset and phone base apart faster than any NASCAR pit crew in the history of racing.
We had to put a lock on the refrigerator door because he liked to smash the eggs on the floor.
When he was three, he let himself out of our locked front door and walked blocks to the little league field where his big brother played. A neighbor brought him home…wait for it…before I even knew he was gone.
So, true confessions considered, I am hoping that, in the continuum of motherhood, from June Cleaver to Mommy Dearest, that I fall somewhere between: After all, they survived. They are now grown adults, with all of their original limbs, and while I made some mistakes as they were growing up, I did the best I could with the tools that I had, and never once, did I let them juggle with knives.