#EpicParentingFail

I did it. Epic parenting fail this week. I left my child. Just left. Forgot she was with me and got home, flopped on the sofa, talked to the hub. Then I asked, “so where’s the Princess, I promised her a book tonight?” The Man of the House looked at me as if I’d lost my mind and said, “you had her.”

Shit!

That was all I could say as I raced to the car, coatless and panic-filled. I said it 74 more times as I drove the handful of blocks to our church.

Well, 74 is a good estimate.

Luckily, my singing group had gotten out early that night and when I arrived, the Princess was just finishing up and heading out to look for me. If I hadn’t parked crazily by the door as I sprinted into the church saying a little prayer that all was well, she might never have gotten a confession out of me.

And despite the fact that I got “busted,” all was well. If you’re going to screw up and leave your kid somewhere on accident, church is probably the best place to do it. I would trust the women who run the evening program for kids the same age as the Princess with her life, to be perfectly honest. They are spectacular moms. If I had forgotten her completely, the worst thing that would have happened would be that I caught some hell from them. I suppose they would tease me every time they saw me until roughly the end of time. As it is, I hesitated to post this as I suspect my minister is already compiling some zingers at my expense as he reads it – a hazard of becoming friends with the holy ones in charge, especially if they are particularly ornery.

But, it made me think: WHY did I forget her? It is simple. My routine changed. The Princess hadn’t attended the evening activities for some months, I was used to motoring to and from rehearsal solo. A simple change of routine. And that can be deadly.

A quick Google showed me that, on average, 40 kids die each year when their parents accidentally leave them in the car – mostly due to heatstroke. That’s a big number for deaths and, just as bad, 40 families each year who will never recover from the accident. I’ve tried to imagine how I would handle the guilt and utter despair those parents must live with for the rest of their lives. I don’t know if I could survive it – I’m not that strong.

When the girls were tiny, strapped solidly into car seats and vulnerable to that type of disaster, I always placed my purse beneath their feet in the back of the car. I forced myself to get in the habit while pregnant. I figured I wasn’t going anywhere without my purse and that I had decades of experience remembering it, but not much time to adjust to having a newborn or toddler. In just about every news report about children left in sweltering cars there was one common thread – a change in routine. Mom had to pick up doughnuts for a meeting at work and then, in work mode, headed off to the office. Dad usually doesn’t take the little one to daycare, so he got into his morning routine on the highway into town and forgot his child was sleeping soundly in the backseat. Routines change and we’re creatures of habit after all, so that’s when things can turn bad.

When Doodlebug was little, the Man of the House would take her to my mom’s for daycare. We called it the House of Spoils Daycare. A decade later, yep, still spoiled. But, one day he was home ill with the flu. I called and told my boss I’d be in late. Got all packed up for me, for Doodlebug and set the Man of the House up with soup, tissues and some good drugs. I felt energized, organized, like I had just accomplished something as a wife and mother. I was ready to tackle my day at the office – and as I pulled into the parking garage I hear “ooooooo!” from the backseat. Doodlebug, at about eight-months-old, had never been in a tunnel or parking garage before. She was impressed. I was distressed. I had completely forgotten to take her to my mother’s house. Now, I had put my purse in the floorboards beneath her feet, so I believe I would have discovered her in moments. But, the panic that flooded me of what might have been? Pretty hard core.

That’s the same way I felt last week. Hard core guilt. Thank goodness she was at church, surrounded by people that I’ve known for almost 20 years and that have literally known her since birth. She was safe. And lives to tease me about it. And still loves me. She also thinks I’m a good mom, so I’m going to carry that in my heart. But somehow I still feel like I should wear a scarlet hashtag on my forehead for all to see…

#EpicParentingFail

Of panic, parenting and puke

It’s 2 a.m., do you know where your children are?

I do. My youngest is sleeping fitfully next to me, slightly feverish and flushed, little hands folded beneath still toddler-chubby cheeks, and the hair on her forehead still damp from the cool washcloth that I just took to the bathroom and exchanged for one that smells a bit less like vomit.

Ah, the joys of parenthood.

When you’re thinking about becoming a parent, talking excitedly about it with your spouse, dreaming of the possibilities – 2 a.m. feedings with snuggly newborns that still smell fresh from their evening baths are generally the trials that come to mind. The late nights spent with toddlers, school-aged children and even adult children when they are ill never seem to plague our thoughts. Perhaps it’s for the best that we picture the rosy-cheeked infant, crying for a feeding, instead of the panic, self-doubt and indecision that goes along with caring for a sick child.

The Princess, or as we’ve also come to call her “The Vomit Comet,” was a beautiful baby. The kind of pretty little thing whose infant and toddler pictures could rival Liz Taylor’s. But, I swear the child can hork with the best of them. She was a baby prone to spitting up. My former coworkers from my advertising creative days can tell you of many times I came to work with unnoticed spit-up on my suits and dresses. By the age of two, she had so much practice puking she could accurately hit a trash can or the loo from yard’s distance, while running and yelling “MOM!” Now, the Princess is six-years-old. We’ve been at it since about 11 p.m. Her face, even in repose, is weary. I can see a faint redness ringing her eyes, shadowed by those eyelashes that go on forever. Her legs, positioned as if to be instantly ready for the next round, have kicked off the covers. She is hot but would likely only throw up any medicine I give her, so I stick to the old methods such as damp washcloths tonight. Every movement catches my eye and every whimper earns a cool hand on her forehead.

Just to check. Again.

It’s a simple thing, tonight. It’s not always so simple. Some nights, you hear THAT cough, and it won’t stop. You medicate, you crush ice for crunching, you make cups of hot broth for sipping – all to no avail. You wonder and doubt and think and debate and then you finally cart yourself and your child to the Emergency Room, where, after waiting for two hours the cough has subsided and the little darling has fallen into an exhausted sleep. Heavy in your tired arms, but finally resting. “Just Croup, Mom,” says the doctor. “Don’t worry, it’s not Whooping Cough or worse. Go home.” So you go, you tuck your child in the “big bed” between your spouse and you – just so you can keep an eye on them – and snuggle up close to doze, badly, until dawn.

Dawn. That is the time I dream of, strive to reach, on nights like this. I’m sure there is a scientific reason for it, but every mom knows the fact: Fevers peak at night, children become more ill and every ear infection is at its worst during the darkest of hours. I dread the night when a child is ill. I look forward to dawn so we can both, finally, get some sleep as the rest of the household begins its day.

My eldest has reached the age that I’m not as needed when she’s ill. Teens seem to have less issues with the vomit thing, but when she has a sore throat or cold, she really just wants quiet, her own bed, some popcorn and the password so she can rent movies to watch. I hesitate to hover, though I’m sure she would say that I still do. I can’t help it. I know someday, I may wish I could pick up one of my daughters, tuck her into the big bed and snuggle her into good health again. I’ve realized recently that this job is never finished. This mom, this caregiver gig that I so casually fell into with no real caution, without an appropriate maturity level and definitely without a clue, I will live it until I die. Just like the mother of a high school friend of mine who has cancer. I love his entire family and I can’t help but pray for his mother as fervently as I am praying for his healing. I imagine she is in a panic beyond anything of which I could ever dream. I’m certain it is difficult to stand back and allow his wife to tend to him – that is her baby, after all. I also imagine she wishes she could simply scoop him up, make the pain and the sickness brought on by chemo go away for just a few minutes, tuck him into her big bed and make everything better. Just for those few minutes. I bet she’d exchange her own life for those few minutes of peace for her child.

I know I would.

It’s one of those things they don’t really warn you about when you’re about to become a parent. Oh, sure, people talk about spit-up, they talk about late nights, how kids are germ factories and so on. I even had one brilliant bit of advice from one of my sisters, Michelle, who said when your little one is going to throw up and you’re somewhere that can’t be easily cleaned, turn them and let them puke all over your shirt. Smart one she is, that tidbit of advice has saved my sofa several times over, while the chunk-and-slime residue on the shirt went neatly down the drain of the washer. But, even that handy piece of advice didn’t give me a clue. There are few things in life that make my blood run cold. A sick child is one of them. Am I handling this right? Did I give her the right medicine or did I give her enough? When do I call the doctor? Should we go to the ER? Good God, what if it is something like meningitis? All those thoughts – and worse – plague a parent when their child is ill.

The Princess has turned over onto her back now. Sleeping deeply, breathing more normally. Her face is no longer bright red. The virus must be near its end. Tonight at least, I made the right choices as a parent. Tomorrow, I will keep her out of school, just in case. She’ll spend the day wrapped up in extra blankets in the big bed, watching Stawberry Shortcake or Sofia the First to her heart’s content. I’ll get a few things done, maybe work a bit more on that big project I’m writing, maybe do some laundry to eradicate all the vomit-scented items. But, for the most part, I plan to snuggle up with the Princess.

And maybe, just maybe, I’ll even sneak in a nap. Just in case, when the sun goes down again, we need to fight this bug yet again. But, for the moment, I’m turning the television off, logging off my computer, and settling down under the sheets that smell vaguely of last night’s dinner and puke. I’m sure I’ll spend the next hour or two staring at her. I’ll check her forehead a dozen more times. And, I’ll leave the light on, too.

Just in case. Just in case.

Teens, music and the curse of the earworm

If you happen to see me sitting in the parking lot of my eldest daughter’s school, reading and not-so-patiently waiting for her to sprint out of classes, you might be surprised to hear the music that is seeping out through my cracked window.

Justin Timberlake. Lorde. Lady Gaga. Imagine Dragons. Ahem…One Direction.

It’s not my fault. Doodlebug is thirteen. You remember what those early teen years were like, right? Full of music that stirred previously unknown emotions, soothed the pain of unrequited first crushes, fueled the angst raging in the cage for unfair parents, and, frankly, helped distract from all of the awkwardness that is puberty. Ugh, I still cringe in memory. But, I gotta admit, some sweet tunes from Michael Jackson, Def Leppard, REO Speedwagon, Bryan Adams and Air Supply made it a little bit easier.

So, when her iPod iHome gets a bit louder than I truly appreciate while I’m attempting to sound intellectual in a paper for some part of the dissertation process, I try to remember how miserable I was as a young teen and let it slide. (For the record, however, Doodlebug seems to be the type of happy, well-adjusted kid that I always aspired to be – but only seem destined to parent.) The problem is, in my attempt to be a cool mom, I am slowly losing my dignity.

You see, as I’ve aged, I’ve matured in my musical tastes. I never really gave up on pop music, but I did grow to love country music in my 20s and since then have discovered classical music and, in particular, choral music. I have added music from the Rat Pack era to my collection and even some jazz – I thought I was getting all grown up.

Not so fast, mom.

I’m ashamed to admit that my new iPod is populated with music mostly stolen from my children. Some of which, I admit, are seriously addictive earworms that are currently ruling my workouts.

Katy Perry. Girl can sing, no doubt, but she also gives a good workout. I especially appreciate her angry songs, such as Circle the Drain and Roar. Her cute little figure is inspirational, too. Darn her. Biggest earworm: California Gurls with Snoop Dogg (or Snoop Lion now?)

Lady Gaga. While I’m not a big fan of Applause, her latest, I have to confess that the Madonna of the Milennials is pretty kick-ass. She’s got the same showmanship as our Madonna, but this girl’s got the pipes, too. Throw in a few too many trips to the New York Fringe Theatre Festival in her youth and I really think this is one performance artist that has staying power. Biggest earworm: Black Jesus.

One Edition, er, New Direction, er, New Direction on the Block? Oh, yeah, One Direction. If Doodlebug compares New Direction to my Beloved Beatles one more time, I wll be forced to retract this particular statement, but these kids aren’t bad. They are cute. I can vouch for that because they populate the door of my daughter’s closet. I hear they play soccer, which brings them up a notch in my estimation. And I didn’t have to decide between the explicit or edited versions of their CDs because, well, these kids are the definition of clean-cut. I don’t have any of their music downloaded, but I have been known to sing along when they are on the radio. Yep. Guilty. Biggest earwom: What Makes You Beautiful.

Speaking of explicit CDs. Sigh.

Miley Cyrus. Miley, Miley, Miley. Girl is laughing all the way to the bank, I think. But, in the interim, she’s making it hard for a mom to support her daughter’s lifelong Miley Cyrus habit. Say goodbye to the sweet days of Hannah Montana and even “Party in the U.S.A” and hello to the foam finger. I squinted and tried to look past the antics and listened to the music from her new album Bangerz, then ground my teeth a few times and hunted it down for the last birthday. When the salesman at Barnes and Noble showed both the clean and the “parental advisory” versions to me, I only hesitated a moment before grabbing the latter – prompting an unsolicited “you are the coolest mom, ever!” from the aforementioned salesman. Doodlebug concurred. Subsequent time with the CD proved my instincts were correct, it’s not that bad. Thanks for making me cool, Miley. By the way, love Wrecking Ball, babe. Biggest earworm, however: Kicking and Screaming.

Royals by Lorde. I must confess, the first time I heard this song was at my daughter’s school, during a talent show for middle schoolers. Yeah, the trio that sang it there was actually better than Lorde, although lacking in the worldliness ingrained in her slightly-older voice. Not only an earworm, this one is a singer harmony-worm, I can’t stop singing along.

The most-played song during my workouts? The brilliant Holy Grail by Jay-Z, featuring Justin Timberlake. Mostly embarassed that her mom knows every word, I think she is secretly pleased I like to rock out to this particular song, as it’s her favorite right now. Me? I’m just secretly pleased she hasn’t figured out what the lyrics “sippin’ from your cup ’til it runneth over” means.

Until she figures that out or I die from the horror of explaining that particular …ahem…pleasure of life to her, if you see me tooling around town and hear that “thumpa-thumpa” generally associated with a car driven by a teenager? Don’t be surprised, I’m just being a cool mom.

Things my husband should never know…

My mother is beautiful. Oh, yes, inside she’s beautiful – kind, generous, all of that. The kind of mom that makes you chocolate chip cookies just because when you’re little. The kind of grandma who has infinite time to spend with grand kids, coloring for hours and patiently watching the Disney Channel. But she’s also physically beautiful. Short and petite, a fashionista of the first rank during her day, still immaculately groomed at all times. In the 1960s, when Elizabeth Taylor’s Cleopatra was so popular, she copied the look to great effect. In fact, she looked just like the beautiful Liz Taylor.

So, of course, lucky me? I look just like my dad. A little more like if Johnny Cash and John Wayne had an offspring together and a little less Liz.

To be completely honest with you, dear reader, as I make my mad dash toward middle age, I find I am not doing it gracefully. I fret, I dye, I tease, I wax, I work out, I eat rabbit food. And I still look increasingly like someone’s Great-Aunt Myrtle. Gee, thanks, Dad!

The maintenance is absolutely astounding. Can I get a “Hell, yeah?” from my sisters? Not quite so old that sky-high stilettos have stopped calling to me from the shops (yeah, I’m talking to you, my beautiful patent-leather Kate Spades, you just wait until the after-Christmas sale, darlings) but I’m not so young that I can just forget to work out for a week, or God forbid, skip a month coloring my hair. I look at peers such as Jennifer Aniston or Victoria Beckham and wonder, how do they look so good?

Oh, yeah, right. They get paid to look that good. And have a team. But I would bet my next pedicure on the fact that even with the aforementioned team, they are appalled at the maintence required as they progress to middle age. And I guarantee that they are not interested in letting their partners know exactly what it takes to get them red-carpet ready. Hell, I don’t want the Man of the House to know exactly what it takes to get me…er…Red Lobster and a movie ready. So, here it is ladies, the things our husbands really do NOT need to know. Because seriously, even after nearly 20 years of marriage, the truth behind the maintenance just spoils the fantasy. Or what little fantasy is left.

1. Lotions and Potions. Let’s start with the basics, in case any gentlemen are reading. No darlings, we were not born with silky-smooth skin. That 15 minutes your wife spends in the bathroom, post-shower? She’s slathering on half a bottle of the latest in a line of disappointing gels, creams and lotions that promise to make her skin as soft as a baby’s butt. She’ll try another one next month when this one proves to be just as useless as the last two dozen she’s attempted.

2. Waxing. After a few years of marriage, your husband knows and complains during your wintertime “Sasquatch months” sans-razor or waxing, but it does take some time to maintain our legs. I’m trying to visualize my husband, in attendance as I receive my “spring cleaning” of leg and bikini waxes. He’s frankly a little horrified at the aggression with which I push back my cuticles, so I’m not sure he would actually survive such a violent appointment with me. I am quite certain it would ruin any future movies he may watch with hot-wax sex scenes for him. Not that we can manage to wrest the telly away from the kids and the drone of the Disney Channel, but, hey a girl can dream about watching rated-R movies with her husband, right?

3. Layers and layers. I carry this clunky Laura Mercier compact with heavy-coverage powder in my handbag and there is a twin in my makeup drawer. I have a sneaking suspicion that’s all he thinks there is to the process. Well, I have adult acne (dammit!) so he is aware of the miracle of concealer. But, I’m not sure he realizes the extent to which the war paint goes. First, of course, the face primer to keep those pores unclogged. Next, a mattifier to reduce that nasty shine. Now, a tinted primer in light green to reduce redness. Then eyelid primer. NOW I’m ready to start with foundation, concealer and loose powder. That’s all before I start on any color – i.e. eyes, cheeks and lips. He’s generally in-and-out of the master bathroom while I’m getting ready, so he misses most of the process. I’m glad. I’m especially glad he has no idea how much all of this crap costs.

4. No, that’s to clean my face with, it’s not a vibrator. Speaking of costs, how much I paid for my Clarisonic is on a need-to-know basis. And the Man of the House does not. need. to. know. However, if I get one more joke, smirk or sophomoric giggle about the little buzzing sound it makes as I desperately try to eradicate the zits before the wrinkles set in while taking a shower, I might just have to tell him. (Although I do fear it might be the last thing I ever say to him.)

5. Nose hair exists. Sorry. Gross topic, eh? Well, we all have to take care of this little matter. And while the Man of the House has no problem whipping out his little grooming tool (which, now that I think of it, buzzes quite loudly itself) and letting me see him, er, trim things. Personally, I like to keep this process a mystery.

6. My workouts. I’m not athletic. I’m not even that coordinated. When I workout, I look a bit like a drunken ostrich doing a mating dance on hot lava. It’s not pretty. To be perfectly truthful, I cover the mirrors in our bedroom and I even lock the cat and dog out when it’s that time of the day. I swear the cat was laughing last time he caught a glimpse. As far as the Man of the House goes, he can just appreciate the fact that I no longer weigh more than he does. Without getting a visual.

7. And lastly, SPANX. Sadly, the cover-up about these fat and jiggle cover-uppers is over at our humble home. The more fat you try to squeeze into Spanx the harder it is, and dear friends, I admit I needed help so I could get into a dress a full size smaller than was I. Nothing is more humiliating than having the love of your life yanking and pulling the stretchy stuff to its limits before helping you shoehorn into a dress and then attempt to zip it for you. And he had the fortitude to kiss me on the forehead and tell me how much he loved me, afterwards.

So, perhaps, ladies, I am wrong. Perhaps if he can create a wife-sized, human sausage with Spanx and still love the squished creature within, he can handle the truth of the rest of it.

And maybe he can’t. But, I think I’d still like to keep the mystery. As long as I can manage to hold “Great-Aunt Myrtle” off for just a few years more.