Remember the nun with a shotgun in the movie Freejack who says, “The good lord always said to turn the other cheek, but he didn’t have to deal with the assholes I do*”? Of course not. Nobody remembers Freejack, but that line has been stuck in my head for hours. It’s the kind of day I’ve had.
Please indulge me in a bit mommy blogging, and I promise to be back to fine art and Icelandic culture next time.
The stereotype of the patient, nurturing, self-sacrificing mother makes sense because these characteristics are ideal for infant survival. But of course, actual mothers are real people with a variety of personalities. The truth is, I have to fake the nurturing thing, and I don’t have a lot of patience for faking anything.
This afternoon, my daughter had to get a cavity filled at the dentist. She was born with bilateral cleft lip and palate, for which she has undergone a half dozen surgeries in her ten years on this earth. This makes her justifiably sensitive about anything having to do with her mouth. When she was little, the dentist had to use a mummy wrap to keep her in the chair for an examination. She is a brave girl and has gotten better over time, but a trip to the dentist is still an event that requires an extra dose of patience and nurturing.
She was compliant during the appointment, but it’s fair to say that 45 minutes of squatting near the dentist chair, trying to stay out of the way of the dentist, her assistant, and all their equipment while holding my daughter’s hand and maintaining a constant stream of distracting and/or supportive banter in the face of her constant stream of incomprehensible complaints seriously depleted my nurture reserves. If it had not, the rest of the evening would not have seemed so trying.
Of course every trip to the dentist ends with ice cream. There are two ice cream parlors conveniently located within walking distance of the dentist’s office, but today both were closed. We ended up at a pie shop instead, where everyone gorged on cream pies that spoiled appetites for dinner and triggered lactose tummyaches in both children.
Of course I was on my own because I foolishly scheduled a dentist’s appointment on a night my husband teaches. Of course, it was also bath night. I sent the oldest in first. I’m sure that I was washing independently at the age of ten, but it still seems to be a challenge for my kid. Lately we’ve spent some energy on the specific requirements of a successful shower, so I tried to stay out of it.
Then I had to deal with the drain. In a house full of females, hair builds up quickly and I’ve been putting it off for some time. But after the first kid’s shower, the slow drain was completely filled with a frothy material like the stuff inside a fire extinguisher.
“What did you do, bring toilet paper into the shower with you?” I yelled as I pulled globs of hair and chunks of stuff like dissolved paper out of the drain with a Leatherman. From her perch on the living room couch my 10-year-old shouted back, “I don’t know!”
With the drain finally cleared, I bossed the six year old into the shower. I was still trying to clean off the Leatherman when she screamed it was too hot. “Then turn it down!” I uselessly instructed. She didn’t know how to change the temperature of the water in the tub. I took deep breaths and then explained how to point the arrow on the handle toward red for hot water and blue for cool water.
An appropriate temperature finally achieved, I reached for the shampoo and realized it was on the top shelf where neither child can reach. But there were two bottles of conditioner on the bottom shelf.
“What did you use to wash your hair?” I shouted to the living room.
“Which shampoo? What shelf was it on? Come show me.”
This command was met with an audible eye roll and stomping.
Yep. She had used one bottle of conditioner to “wash” her hair and a second to condition. She had used lots of it, because it wouldn’t form suds. Her hair had almost dried by now, but it looked wet from the globs of conditioner that hadn’t rinsed out.
“You’re going to have to take another shower to wash your hair for real. Your head still smells,” I related in an admirably flat tone. Nevertheless, the statement was met with a face that screamed “Injustice.”
For the next 15 minutes, the six year old serpentined through the stream of water from the showerhead like it was machine gun fire. Every time I forced her under the flow to rinse off, she followed up with screams and tears, insisting her eyes were full of soap and demanding a towel to dry her face. She put absolutely zero faith in my assertion that wiping soap-filled eyes with a dry towel would not be a good idea. Meanwhile, the older daughter hovered in the doorway.
“Hurry up, I need to take another shower.”
Afterwards, I sent them upstairs to put on pajamas while I fled to the kitchen for chianti and the carbs that lay warming in the rice cooker.
The six year old returned in a pair of leggings, a summer nightgown, and a sweater. Whatever. I won’t even describe the process of setting out school clothes for tomorrow.
“I’m hungry,” she said.
“Me too,” chimed her sister.
I followed them into the kitchen. The oldest was about to bite into an apple.
“The dentist said soft food,” I reminded her.
“Oh.” She put down the apple and left the kitchen.
The youngest had crawled into the pantry and was trying to open a bag of almonds.
“No. You don’t eat pie, skip dinner, and then have snacks at bedtime. If you’re hungry, you can have dinner. Look, it’s still here on the counter,” I announced.
Her back was to me, but I could feel her calculating. Was the emotional satisfaction of a tantrum greater than her hunger. Not this time. She would eat her dinner instead of going to bed.
After Dinner, The Sequel, one played with Polly Pockets and the other read her own book while I read out loud a chapter from a nonfiction book about real-life princesses in Africa. This was followed by a chapter in book five of the Anne of Green Gables series involving a dead baby. The girls promised to lie in bed if I read another, hopefully happier, chapter, so I did. It was about 4,000 pages long. By the time I finally tucked them both in and turned off the lights, it was too late for the Netflix movie waiting by the TV downstairs.
Instead, I pounded out 1,000 whiny words on the excruciating minutiae of #familylife. I’m sorry. I know you don’t really come here for that. But someday, when I try to write realistic fiction, or maybe when I can’t remember why I failed to appreciate every single minute of raising the two poised and beautifully groomed young women who don’t have time to see me as often as I’d like, I’ll look back and read this post and say, “Thank god that’s over.”
*After I wrote this, I looked up the line and it was actually “didn’t have to deal with dickheads like you.” But even I can’t call my own kids dickheads, so I left it the way I remembered it, which was more about how we all fall short of ideal behavior under less-than-ideal circumstances.