You know, the parts of parenting nobody prepares you for.
By – Jeannine Miller (firstname.lastname@example.org)
After reading my last blog post about auditioning for a live show on motherhood, many of you asked whether or not I was selected. Alas, I was not. No worries, I’m really okay with it. And the good part is that now I can share my essay with the many three people who asked to read it. So here goes…
When my husband and I were dating, we knew pretty quickly that we wanted to marry each other, but honestly didn’t discuss it much beyond that as far as what we expected our marriage to be like. What we did talk about a lot was having kids. He already knew what he would name his first-born son: Davidson. It was his mother’s maiden name. I liked it. We could call him Davey. We talked of how we would keep our children grounded while giving them all the benefits of living this affluent area. We talked of sending them to Catholic school. And we talked about my being the stay-at-home mom I had always dreamed of being -- a fit and stylish mix of Martha Stewart and Bethenny Frankel. I was such an idiot.
Oh, sure, motherhood is all the wonderful things I expected. The unconditional love, the overwhelming joy...it’s all there. It’s the OTHER stuff that I was not prepared for. That’s what I call the stuff in parentheses.
My first glimpse of my new future came during my hospital stay with my first born, Davey. With all the different doctors and nurses probing my every orifice while I lay in various stages of undress, I eventually became numb to it all. Even following the birth, everyone and their brother was popping in the room measuring this vital or that. And don’t even get me started on the nursing Nazis. Seriously, new moms, if you can’t get your little bundle to latch on, figure out a way to fake it or be ready to be groped and fondled by complete strangers for days on end. I guess that’s why when there was a knock on my door, I just murmured “come on in” and didn’t bother closing my gown or exhibiting any semblance of modesty. When the teenage flower delivery boy took one look at my oversized, leaking breasts, he stopped dead in his tracks. I don’t know who shrieked louder, him or me. I was mortified; he was horrified.
A few years later my second son, Kenton, was born. This hospital stay passed without incident. Little did I know, his highlight reel would come later on.
And, finally, the birth of my daughter, Ava. I was ready for it. More than one person remarked that I was talking about my upcoming hospital stay like a vacation. Uh – hello? When you have 4 and 1 y.o. boys at home, you’ll take a 4-day vacay however you can get it. And I was right – it was awesome. Ava was easy – routine birth, no problem nursing and not much of a crier. Then the phone started ringing with questions from home like “How do you turn on the washing machine?” and “Where do we keep the food?” My husband was seriously harshing my mellow. It’s unclear how it happened, but somehow the hospital phone fell off the hook and was never put back. Ava and I thoroughly enjoyed the rest of our girls’ vacation. I look back and realize that was our first Girls’ Night Out, which is still one of our favorite things.
Up until this point, my 1 y.o. toddler, Kenton, was a complete angel – best baby ever – which I guess is why I thought having another one so quickly wouldn’t be a problem. I swear to you, the moment I brought the new baby home, my toddler hit his stride. He went BUH-nanas. One morning I was bathing my slippery newborn in the bathroom sink and I look over to see my toddler putting a light bulb in his mouth. I swear it was like Sophie’s choice. I sloooooowly set the newborn on the bathmat, walk to the toddler and take the light bulb away. I’m pretty sure I took 10 years off my life right there.
Apparently Kenton has a thing for eating glass. We’re thinking he may have a future in the circus, but I digress. Let’s talk about the time the Japanese came to dinner. Once a year, we host a dinner at our home for my husband’s Japanese clients. This particular couple was not comfortable being away from their only child, so we suggested including all of the kids this time. The evening started with the kids playing in the backyard and I noticed that every time this little boy fell down, his parents rushed over to make sure he was okay. I mention this not as a criticism, but to give you a sense of how helicopter-y they were. (By the way, I don’t know when the term ‘helicopter mom’ came on the scene, but I love it.) Anyhoo…I get dinner on the table and everyone is seated. As we’re about to eat, my 3 y.o. decides to take a bite out of a thin crystal goblet. Holy Mother of all that is sacred, the amount of blood that began to spurt out of this child’s mouth was beyond. This young Japanese couple, with their prized 2 y.o., stared in silent horror. My husband and I have our son upside down over the kitchen sink trying to shake the glass loose, afraid to reach in his mouth for fear of doing more damage. I have no idea what our guests were doing at that point. I just knew we had a problem and I headed to the ER. (Not our first trip.) I’m still not clear on how things wrapped up after I left the house. My husband is pretty sure he sent our guests out the front door with their dinner plates in hand.
I promise, it’s not always life-threatening things that happen in the parentheses. Sometimes it’s just plain funny. My oldest, Davey, is a pretty serious kid so when he says off-the-wall things, it really throws me. Like the time I overheard him telling his grandpa that I couldn’t come to the phone because I was milking my udders. Yeah, that’s just what my father-in-law wanted to hear. Or in the Wegmans checkout line when he pointed to the cashier and asked “Is that my daddy?” Or when we were all in the bathroom at Safeway and he’s waiting outside the stall for me, inspecting the feminine product vending machines and says, full of indignation, “25 cents for a napkin? That’s just ridiculous.”
As crazy as I find all of this, when I think about my family, I am positive that it’s the stuff in parentheses that makes this motherhood experience all mine. And I like it.
In addition to blogging about all things home and family-related, Jeannine Miller manages Moss Building & Design’s HandyMOM 101 workshop program and coordinates Moss’ philanthropic efforts in the community.