“Mom!” I heard fear in my daughter’s voice as I unbuckled my middle kid. Suddenly my giggling baby was flying “wheee” toward me on a stolen tricycle across the OUAC parking lot and that’s not all, a car had to brake for him. Later I knew I should have apologized and lavishly thanked the driver for taking care. In the moment I felt too embarrassed and incompetent to even make eye contact. I snatched up the baby (unhappy to relinquish the tricycle) and held him tight.
My daughter was supposed to be holding the baby’s hand. But at six, she isn’t responsible for a one-year-old in front of a toy store. The baby brother is strong, fast and capricious. From now on, he will always be the last one removed from the car.
Why is it that I take comfort in the fact that I’m not the only mama who suffers significant lapses in parenting finesse? Wouldn’t it be better for children everywhere if I really was the only recurrently maladroit mother out there? Yet as I read “get born” facebook confessions of moms who forgot to buckle safety seats, forgot to feed a toddler, spaced the daycare pickup, or can’t remember children’s birthdays at the doctor, I know we share a bond of imperfection. My neighbor’s daughter drank cough syrup. A friend’s son choked down coins and she had to recover them from subsequent diapers.
I once arrived at a MOPS meeting and discovered in the parking lot that I had only two kids with me and my week-old newborn was still at home, sleeping in his carrier just inside the door. Can anybody I know outdo that? I HOPE NOT, but I wouldn’t doubt it. I’m tempted to scrutinize other moms when they’re having a good day, convince myself they are always full of beauty, wisdom and eternal patience, and measure myself inadequate. I begin to fantasize that they never fall from grace and there must be something seriously wrong with me, living in such blatant humanity.
Those reminders that I’m not alone help curb the tendency to indulge in a classic guilt-ridden pity party probably involving excessive chocolate or corn chips. Well that and looking in my children’s endlessly loving and forbearing faces. I really don’t expect my middle son to harbor ill feelings about the preventable tantrum scar on his eyebrow, or the fact that his bike helmet is tough to fit on his misshapen skull forever flat on one side and pointy on top because I neglected to rotate his sleeping head in his first four months of life. No, he will forgive and love me just as my daughter has after being accidentally locked in the garage for ten terrified minutes – and just as the baby brother will if he ever finds out his mama let him loose in front of traffic.