I read a lot of Mother's Day blogs and articles online yesterday, and one article was about the pressure to be the perfect mom. Moms are not even willing to admit to the every day silly mistakes that all parents make anymore, because no mom wants to expose herself to the criticism and scorn from the other "perfect" parents. Back in the day, you could screw up occasionally and admit it without fear of universal revulsion and maybe even a visit from child protective services. (I'm not talking about abusing a child here. More like, if you happened to come home from the pizza parlor one kid short of a full deck of kids, well, it was the 70s, times were different, and you know, it was all fine in the end. At least there was more pizza for the other 5 kids, right?)
In a decade long, long ago....at the end of a family road trip, we kids thought it would be hilarious to hide my cousin in the back seat of the family Dodge Rambler by making him lie on the floor and covering him with a blanket. Then, we let my dad drive towards home almost 3 hours and across a couple of state lines before we uncovered him and yelled, "Surprise!" My poor dad had to turn the car around and drive back (I think my uncle met us half-way, but still...) to return him home. I'm not sure many parents would own up to this one today, having a child's whereabouts unknown for that length of time, but there was a time when kids went out from sunrise to sunset pretty much on their own without any hovering or helicoptering. I bet while those kids were out, they fell, got stung by bees, ate junk food, drank large sodas, ran really really fast, and god only knows what other horrors.
So what's my point? As usual, I really have no idea. Maybe it's that being raised in the 60s and 70s should make it easier for me to admit I'm not so perfect, but that's not it. I'm worried that on top of the standard criticism most parents get, there will be the added "Well what did she expect having a baby at her age" shit thrown in too.
A few weeks ago, I took the little guy to the Hippo Park playground to let him burn off some energy. We have a runner on our hands. It's not just D and I who think so, other people make comments all the time. That day in Hippo, I looked around at the hundreds of other kids, and I swear mine was the only one running around the perimeter of the fence non-stop like a mad man. He does the same thing to us in the country. We put him down in the middle of a big empty field and he takes off flying, towards the road of course. My sweet friend Darci, who has a nearly one-year-old boy and whose career it is to understand movement in the brain development of children reassures me that it's totally cool that he loves to run non-stop like a mad man in the park or at the Mommy and Me class that she runs. My pediatrician has no problem with it either.
But then things like this happen: At Hippo that day, he ran and I chased as closely as I could. He is fast and has the advantage of being low to the ground and able to duck under slides and jungle gyms. Plus, the playground was packed with hundreds of kids most of whom I was trying to avoid trampling and their adult caregivers who were standing around forming a giant obstacle course. So, for like ten seconds, he got so far out in front of me that I lost sight of him. And then I heard the sound I had been dreading, SPLAT, followed by the collective gasp from all the obstructive adults, then a deafening silence, and finally of course, the blood-curdling scream of pain. I got there just in time to see my baby, flat out on the concrete, raise his bloody face. There was a circle of adults around him and they all turned to look at me as I ran to him and I projected the same thought on everyone of them: “Thank god she’s not OUR nanny.”
Now usually, I'm prepared. My diaper bag has matches in it, because you never know when you'll get lost in Central Park and have to start a camp fire to cook some rat and squirrel stew for dinner. I have bee-sting medicine and pain killers, a thermometer, nail clippers, all the diapering gear and ointments, cookies, bottles, water and sippy cups. I never leave this apartment without enough stuff in my diaper bag to keep us dry, fed, and medicated for days. Except, you guessed it, THAT effing day. I had just fed him and changed his diaper and I thought maybe I could manage a quick trip to the park without carrying his 30-pound diaper bag down the 4 flights. Fool.
So, I had nothing to clean up my bleeding baby. A bunch of other parents stepped right up to help me, though, offering tissues and wipes and even a consult from a woman who I'm guessing is a pediatrician or nurse, herself. She took a quick look from an arm's length at his gashed lip and said, "I think some ice should do it for him." I got him cleaned up as best I could and back in his stroller. I did the walk of shame out of the park that day and back to the apartment with my bloody little boy who had stopped crying after 5 minutes, but who had a big boo-boo on his lip for a week. For him, a badge of courage, for me, a reminder of my failure to keep him safe.
In the end, it was just a boo-boo, one of hundreds I'm sure this little bundle of energy is going to have throughout his childhood. It shouldn't be any other way, right? But instead of Hippo park today, we are going to NY Kid's Club, where the toddler gym has the thickest wall-to-wall carpeting I've ever stepped barefoot upon. Just in case....
Next time: Any suggestions?
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