Monday, February 13, 2006

Wanted: A Competent Mother to Care for a Very Cute Child

My child is adorable. Not to be conceited or anything, but everybody tells me so—the pink-haired old lady handing out shopping carts at Wal-Mart, the burly truck driver who coos at the gas station, the I’m-too-cool-to-look-at-you teen who pulls faces and plays peek-a-boo at the mailbox. Not only is my daughter adorable, but she’s actually pretty good too. While there is the occasional tantrum, these can usually be traced back to a lack of food, sleep, or cell phone. As long as her tummy is full and her naps are uninterrupted, she’s quite likeable.

Having a fabulous daughter has made it easy to feel like I am a decent parent who has this whole mothering thing under control. After all, perfect child, perfect parent, right? Well, okay, I’ve never thought that I was perfect, but I at least felt like I was competent. That is, until Friday.

Friday began on a positive note. I took some time off from work to take Brooklyn to the doctor where tests revealed that her eardrums are now vibrating and her hearing is dramatically improved. Elated, I gave myself a silent pat on the back for being diligent with the medicine, and observant enough to pick up on Brooklyn’s hearing loss in the first place. You’re a good Mom with a lovely daughter.

Afterwards, I brought Brooklyn back home for some lunch before heading back to work. I made her a bottle but somehow inserted the plastic lining wrong, so the milk leaked out everywhere, positively drenching Brooklyn, the table, the floor, and myself. (I’m a poor bottle maker—usually I give Brooklyn the real McCoy, so I lack experience.) Bad Mommy.

While I ran for a dishtowel to clean up the mess, Brooklyn reached for the leaky bottle that I had intentionally placed out of reach. Somehow the booster seat slipped off the chair, with her strapped in it. I was less than an arm’s reach away, but I didn’t catch her in time. I can’t tell you what a horrible feeling it was to pick up the high chair, knowing my daughter had just fallen on her face. I still cringe at the memory of it. I don’t think I’ve ever been so scared as a mother, not knowing what I would find. The silence before the scream is the most terrible noise you’ve never heard. In that moment, I would have done anything to trade places with my hurting child.

Fortunately, most of the damage was limited to a bloody lip, and Brooklyn was quickly consoled by “the real McCoy.” I stripped her down, changed her diaper (it’s not often that it’s soaked outside but dry inside), threw the milky clothes in the wash, got her dressed again, gave her some Tylenol, wiped her tears, changed my clothes, and sprinted over to the sitter’s, as I was now running late for work.

Still recovering from the recent trauma, I took a moment to talk with our sitter Sarah, who asked how Brooklyn handles stairs--(her sixteen month old Nathan loves to navigate his way up and down.) I had scarcely told Sarah how Brooklyn had fallen once when bang, I heard the thud of head hitting linoleum. Sarah said, “Let’s make that twice.” In the thirty seconds I had been talking, Brooklyn had attempted to follow her friend Nathan up the stairs, slipped, and fallen backwards. Once again, I cradled my bruised babe in my arms and dried her tears (I skipped the Tylenol since she was already well dosed.)

Sitting in the car on the way to work, I wondered how I managed to do so much damage all within the space of thirty minutes. I had looked forward all week to spending some quality time with my daughter, yet wondered if I wasn’t more of a health hazard than a help. Somebody’s going to call the child abuse hotline.

It took Jason all evening to convince me that despite our lunchtime trauma, I really was a decent mother capable of caring for my child. I almost believed him until 6:00 a.m. when I was startled awake after dozing off during an early morning nursing. The cause? Another thud--Brooklyn had just rolled out of bed.

So, out of concern for my child’s safety and well-being, I am issuing a call for a competent mother to care for a very cute child. This mother must never allow my child to fall out of high chairs, slip down the stairs, or roll out of bed. This mother must convince her to eat her vegetables and put the bananas in her mouth instead of feeling them squish between her fingers. This mother must build forts, color sidewalks, slide down slides, and swing in swings. But most of all, this mother must love my daughter as much as I do. Competent or not, I don’t believe anyone else is up to the job.