Her Bad Mother

Thursday, February 22, 2007

The Kid Stays In The Picture

The artist.

The art.


It is possible that the fact that I let my fifteen-month old daughter use my camera and then post the product of her efforts on the Internet is just so much more evidence that I am an unrepentant attention-whore who publicly exploits the precociousness of her child in order to affirm her own identity as a mother on the cutting edge of cool, if such a thing is not incontrovertibly oxymoronic. But it is also possible that I just think that the world needs more WonderBaby.


If any of you Toronto-area parents are looking to out yourselves as desperately hip - or just looking to have a really good time with your children in a venue that is devoid of licensed characters - you could always check this out this weekend. WonderBaby and I are going: just look for a tiny, sparsely-haired performance-toddler, and her bad mother.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Mothers Are The New Sheep

I became a mother because everyone else was doing it. No, really – I kept seeing all those flashy strollers and cool diaper bags and hip pregnancy clothes and I said to myself, girlfrennn! We have got to get us some of that! I’d been, like, totally ambivalent about having kids for, like, forever, but then when I saw that it was cool? And that everybody else was doing it? And that it meant more shopping? I was totally on board.

Gwyneth was doing it. So were Kate and Jennifer and Sarah and Gwen and Britney, back before she lost her mind, back when she was still hot. They were all getting pregnant and wearing skinny jeans slung below their bouncing bellies (totally sexy, omg, did you see them? Slinky little tank tops stretched over those smooth round tummies, belly-buttons poking cheekily through the filmy fabric? Hott!), slouching around with their decaf lattes and bags of super-cute baby clothes slung over their arms. Some of them already had their babies, and wore them on their hips, all fat and pink and decked out in the super-cutest little Burberry newsboy caps, like the sweetest little accessories that you ever saw. Kate, with her baby in one arm and that big white Birkin on the other? That was cool. And did you see when Gwyneth had Apple at the Live8 concert with those earphones pulled down over her little blond head, and Gwyneth had her hair all long and loose and neo-hippie-like and wore those big aviator sunglasses and was, like, totally rocking out with her adorable little blond baby and made motherhood look so cool? I loooooved that. I wanted to be that.

So I decided to have a baby.

Okay, so maybe I was already pregnant by then, but when I look back at it now I can totally see that I became pregnant because that’s what was hot. And that’s, like, totally cool. I got in on the trend at the very beginning. I saw the signs: Babies Are The New Uggs. Get Them Before They’re Out.

I was marketed into motherhood. I became a mamanista.

That’s what I’m told, anyway. That motherhood is, like, the new black and that all us mothers have just been, like, totally sucked in because the media and the marketers made it look just so tempting, like something that we had to have, like a totally hot new bag except with no waiting list (okay, nine-month waiting list! But still! Waaaay shorter than the Birkin list, omg!)

(Wait. Are we the same Gen-X/Y post-consumer performance artist hipster parents who are trying to make terminally un-hip parenthood cool? The ones who are exhibiting their babies as counter-culture artwork on their blahgs and Babbling about how to wrap their own baby slings out of vintage rock tees recycled from Goodwill?… Is that, like, the same thing or is it totally different? I’m, like, soooo confused.)

But here’s the thing about becoming a mamanista: it’s all fine and cool and hotttt and we all love the pretty shiny things that come with babies – even the babies themselves! – until we realize that motherhood isn’t as shiny and pretty as Sarah Jessica Parker makes it look and that even a Bugaboo Cameleon and a Burberry diaper bag don’t make up for all of the sleepless nights and the sagging, sucked-dry boobies and the spit-up stains on your vintage Diane von Furstenburg wrap dress and the fact that your swollen post-partum feet will never fit into Choos again. And then we get buyers remorse. That’s what they tell me, anyway. Mamanistas will regret - do regret - having babies, because babies are so less cool than you thought they would be.

They can tell, see, because of what we say on our blogs, because of how we’re quoted in the media. They can tell because some of us, sometimes, have said that motherhood can, sometimes, be boring. Frustrating. Messy. They can tell because sometimes, some of us, admit to having a drink. Or two. Or ten. They can tell because we’re obviously desperately trying to hang on to our selfish, urban-hipster-doofus-culture-victim lifestyles. They can tell that we’re miserable, and that we’re ruining our children.

So they're issuing public warnings now: Don't Have Children Because It's Trendy. Don't Get Pregnant Because Bridget Moynihan Did. Don't Turf Your Birth Control So That You Can Buy A Bugaboo.


Got that? Don't do it, because you'll regret it. No matter how much you end up loving - adoring - your children, no matter how incalculably precious you find those moments of snuggling/kissing/playing with/gazing at/thinking about your babies, no matter how inexplicably fulfilled you feel by this overwhelming, life-changing, soul-expanding thing called motherhood, you will regret it, because nothing - nothing - makes up for cellulite and baby puke on your Tory Burch wedges and you'll only have yourself to blame when you find yourself, some dark night, in a strip-mall beauty-salon-slash-tattoo-parlour begging a nineteen year old to shave your head and tattoo the words BABY'S BITCH on your pubes.

So, if you have ever at any point in your life been ambivalent about having children, if you never played with dolls or doodled the names of your future children in your schoolbooks, and if you now find yourself inexplicably drawn to Starck-designed strollers or Oilily diaper bags or Cookie Magazine or Babble.com, or have noticed that you discuss with some authority the relative merits of Chuck Taylor sneakers over ballet flats for attending Saturday afternoon family dance parties or kiddie salons, or find yourself surfing Celebrity-Baby when you should be doing your taxes or planning your charitable giving, consider yourself warned: you may be, or be on the verge of becoming, a mamanista, and so may be in danger of spontaneously combusting from the combined effects of sleeplessness, boredom and frustrated fabulousness. For which the only remedy is to not have children - or, travel back in time and not have children - and save your money for an accessory dog and that Birkin bag.

Because that's all that you really wanted to begin with, wasn't it?


Thank you all, beyond much, for your reassuring comments on my last post. I still feel like a bad mother, but at least I know that I am in the best possible company.

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Sunday, February 18, 2007

Heart, Dropped.

When WonderBaby was not quite four months old, she fell off of her change table. Well, fell isn't quite the right word. I can't say that she jumped - she still being in her infancy at the time - but there certainly seemed to be an element of will in the flight that she took. I had just bent down to retrieve the diaper, which - along with the baby wipes and the butt cream and the rectal thermometer and all manner of paraphernalia necessary for the tending of baby nether regions - had been flung to the floor in the frenzy of bouncing and struggling that was and is characteristic of WonderBaby's toilet rituals, when it happened. And in the split-second that it took for her to fling herself off of her change pad and into mid-air, it seemed that I spent an eternity lamenting my terrible, terrible parenting skills: if only I had belted her down, if only I hadn't bent over, if only I had kept a hand on her, if only I had three extra hands, if only, if only...

In the next fraction of a second, I threw out my arms and lunged forward and caught her, like a football, inches from the hardwood floor.

My heart still pounds when I think of it.

WonderBaby has, in the year and some weeks since that first dramatic fall, pitched or hurled or tumbled herself off of and onto a variety of surfaces. She's an explorer, and an adventurer, and there ain't no mountain (or chair or table or windowsill or bookshelf) high enough to deter her from her quest to conquer her known universe. There've been more than a few head bonks along the way. And with every thud, thump, bonk and bang, I have become more and more blasé. Pick her up, dust her off, kiss her head, sit back and watch as she climbs right back onto the rocking horse.

Until this weekend. This weekend thrust me right back into the abyss of heart-pounding panic and soul-searing self-recrimination. This weekend, we faced blood, and the emergency ward.

The blood wasn't actually the worst of it, although it seemed pretty bad at the time. WonderBaby was performing her usual dining room table acrobatics on Saturday morning - against the futile pleading and grasping of her mother - when she stumbled and banged her mouth; there was a shout, and there were tears, but it all seemed fine until I noticed that her chin and neck and chest were covered in blood. Drenched in blood. Oh holy mother of shit, I thought, she's knocked out her baby teeth or bitten off her tongue and I AM GOING TO HELL. But I didn't freak out, not totally. I could tell that she was fine - in the broader, she-has-not-broken-her-head scheme of fineness - that it was just a matter of figuring out what had been cut or bitten and pressing warm wet cloths against her mouth and administering kisses and mopping up the blood. My heart did not pound or spin, at least not at a speed that exceeded posted limits.

When, however, today, she flung herself out of a shopping cart and landed, with a dull thud, on concrete, on concrete, my heart spun - it spins, it's still spinning - with all the force of a cyclone and very nearly burst the confines of my chest. It was only a moment, a split second - I was right there, I was keeping near, because she kept trying to climb out, she's so good at climbing out, and in the split second that it took for me to turn away to quibble with the husband or he with I about some banality or another it happened, something happened and all we heard was the thud. And then, silence, for what seemed an eternity.

And then we were both there, on the ground, pulling at her, clawing at her, encouraging her screams, willing her to scream more, louder, because the screams were better than that terrible moment of silence, that moment that was just a moment ago that felt like forever when she just lay there, when she lay there, silent, on the hard hard concrete for only a second but also for an eternity. And then, grabbing her, both of us at once, and squeezing her between us and moving, quickly, together, one body, away from the cart, abandoning the cart and ignoring the eyes, the looks, the stares - I know I know I know I know I am terrible I let her jump I wasn't there it's all my fault bad mother bad mother bad mother - and hastening for the car.

She was calm by the time we arrived at the ER. By the time that we were ushered into Pediatric Emergency, she was fussy, and belligerent, and determined to make full use of the available wheelchairs and stretchers and bedpans for her own amusement. We sat, exhausted and diminished, while she dismantled the waiting room. She seemed fine, but we, we were not, we having clearly revealed ourselves as bad parents, the worst parents, negligent parents, our daughter having been hurt - for the second time in one weekend - while in our care. As my husband put it later, it felt as though we were made to wait in that waiting room, under the harsh glare of the lights and our consciences, for the sole purpose of sitting and thinking about what we had done.

What if you get one chance, but only one chance, to get it wrong, to make THAT mistake, he asked, and this was that chance, that mistake?

And later, after the doctor had said that it seemed that she hadn't hit her head, at least not hard, and that she seemed fine, that we just needed to watch her, keep an eye on her (those eyes that so fatefully strayed): did we dodge a terrible, terrible bullet? Did we get lucky? Did we get away with something? THIS TIME?

We've been beating ourselves up ever since.

We know - I know - that we can't protect her from every bump and tumble. That even the best parents look away at the wrong moment, sometimes. Loosen their grip, trust that the safety belts will hold, trust that the safety belts are just in case and that it's no big deal if they're missing or broken and that even though you never leave child unattended it's okay if you look away for just a second, just a second.

But, oh, holy Mary mother of God, that second, that second is all that it takes and once that second passes you can't snatch it back. And then it doesn't matter, whether you were bad, or good, or a little bit of both.

The blood, I could handle; I know that motherhood, parenthood, is a river of blood and spit and shit and tears. I know this; I expect this, however hard it gets. But that silence, today, when I looked away, when she fell, when the world stopped - the silence overwhelmed. I know that it was nothing (although we are still watching, we will not sleep, listening for her to stir, listening for her breathing, reassuring ourselves that she is fine); I know that we will go through this again; I know that - given WonderBaby's daredevil nature - we will probably go through something like this many times over. I know that my heart will pound to the point of bursting again and again and again. And I know ( I pray) that it will all be fine, more than fine.

But how do we do it? How do we calm our hearts? Do our hearts ever calm? Or do the hearts of parents always beat harder, faster, always threaten to burst?

It's no wonder we drink.

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