Fifteen percent of the time I suck at being a mom. I do things other moms would find deplorable.
I lie to the pediatrician about how often I give my child his vitamin D supplement. (That would be never. We spend our days outside synthesizing Florida’s natural abundance of the vitamin.)
Also: I tend to wake up in a surly mood, not because I hate mornings, but because I hate 6 a.m. mornings. Most people think I’m bubbly. At 6 a.m. I’m as flat as an old can of root beer. I trudge into Henry’s room like a mom zombie. I close the door behind me and crawl under a blanket on his couch, during which time Henry tears through his toys, upends his collection of Legos, rips his clothes out of his bottom dresser drawer and squawks like an angry bird. This is not an ideal situation. If I’m lucky I can get away with closing my eyes for 10 minutes. If I’m unlucky, as I was Wednesday morning, I’m roused from my 6 a.m. coma via plastic truck to the face. For those of you who noticed, this was how I acquired the small gash on the bridge of my nose.
I’m a natural night owl. This doesn’t mix well with motherhood. Still, I’ve found ways to persevere.
Now that we’ve removed the front rail from Henry’s crib, I can easily crawl inside to catch a few minutes of shut-eye before his squawking reaches headache decibels. Last week I fell asleep in the crib while Henry gutted his bookshelf. When Joe got up for work he glanced at the baby monitor and saw footage of his wife curled up like a big galoot under a monkey blanket.
I’m not an ace mom. The first time I caught my kid eating dog food I made him rinse his mouth out with water. The second, third and fourth times I let him decide whether or not Kibble was palatable.
This seems almost criminal to admit: I’m not a germophobe. In fact, I might even be the opposite — a germophile. I like to believe this is why Henry has never been sick.
When caring for a toddler over a long period of time you grow desensitized to disgusting behavior. When Henry was about a year old and gnawing on every bacteria-laden object he could find, I blatantly turned a blind eye to much of his teething habits. One time, while standing in line at the grocery store I failed to realize he was feasting on the pen-like thing attached to the debit card reader.
It was the cashier who sweetly reprimanded him.
“Oh don’t chew that,” she said. “It’s dirty.”
“Tsk, tsk,” I chirped, feigning dismay. “That’s germy darling.”
I pulled the pen out of his mouth. The cashier fished out a hand sanitizing wipe from under the register.
“Use this,” she said, handing me the wipe.
What I did next would make even the most incompetent parent cringe. In a total lapse of maternal judgment, I reached for the debit card reader, thoroughly cleaned off the pen and handed it back to Henry for further chewing.
“Thanks,” I said to the clerk. “Those wipes come in handy.”
I couldn’t figure out why she suddenly looked at me like I was a fire-breathing dragon. She ceased chit-chatting and completed the transaction without even uttering Goodbye or Have a Nice Day.
It wasn’t until I pulled out of the store and mentally dissected the exchange that I realized why she had shot me daggers. The wipe was meant to sanitize Henry, not the pen.
Mom Fail No. 302.
But this is not the kind of mom I am. Surprisingly, I’m much more sensible than I ever thought possible. For every one fuck-up I experience at least seven triumphs. That’s a pretty solid ratio.
I have a lot of fun with my kid. A lot of fun, most of which I attribute to him. He’s a fearless extrovert with boundless energy, insatiable curiosity and a caveman-like threshold for exposure to outdoor elements. I know he’s only 19 months old, but in 19 months he’s proved himself a worthy companion and co-conspirator.
Motherhood is nothing if not the opportunity to share experiences with a smaller version of yourself.
On Thursday we had a lunch date with Zipper Boy. It was raining with no sign of letting up. We had two choices: take the car and stay dry, or ride the bike and get wet. I accessed the situation. The rain was more of a drizzle, making the decision obvious. Or at least obvious to a lunatic such as myself. Henry ran to the closet to get his work boots.
“Should we pedal or drive?” I asked.
He ran to the back door, boots in hand.
“Pedal it is,” I said.
I walked to the shed, rolled the bike to the street, strapped a helmet on Hank’s head and took off for downtown St. Pete. The drizzle reminded me of the perpetual mist of Niagara Falls. It was a wet ride for sure, but my child loved every second of it. He babbled with delight for three miles. We dressed in layers to stay dry underneath. It worked. Mostly. We devoured vegetarian sandwiches, enjoyed the company of a good friend and when the time came for our departure we braced ourselves for the return trip.
“I can’t believe you pedaled in the rain,” Zipper said.
“We’re not gonna melt,” I replied.
We bid him adieu. Our bellies full, our noses red. We blew through puddles and quacked at ducks in the bay. It took 20 minutes to get home and 15 minutes to coax Henry out of the soggy yard and back into the house. I was soaked. He was thrilled. Water was beading down our foreheads. Eventually I just grabbed him, carrying him like a football into the house.
“No more adventures for today,” I said. “Time to dry up.”
He looked glum.
I dressed us in fleecy pants and fuzzy socks. I made some hot cocoa and unwrapped a piece of chocolate. Henry, fully aware of the nutritiousness of sugar, assumed his position on the living room floor.
I pulled his favorite blanket over our heads and divided the chocolate into two pieces. He wasted no time devouring his half and miraculously, rather than beg for more, he snuggled under my chin and tilted his wet head upward for a kiss.
FYI: I took the photo shortly after we returned from our bike ride in the rain.