Friday, February 26, 2010

Dodging bullets of the boardbook variety

My daughter, Kyra, is 19 months old and has begun to vehemently assert her independence.

I'm not really a fan.

Don't get me wrong, I want her to grow up strong and assertive and independent; it's just that those qualities aren't as awesome in a toddler. The really fun thing is, she has learned to totally work my husband and I. When she knows she's done something wrong--like smacking one of us in the face--she'll assess the situation by judging the look we give her and then either pretend it never happened or simply start stroking us lovingly as though that was what she meant to do all along. She is rotten, I tell you, rotten!

She has also gotten to that stage that is a favorite of all mommies everywhere: hitting, headbutting, and throwing things when she doesn't get her way. I know this is just a phase and it is her way of showing that she is in charge of the situation, and generally I can keep myself calm and direct her to something that will distract her. But when I take a board book to the throat, all bets are off.

I used to think I was a strong woman. Before I was a mama, I went through a lot of trying situations. I've escaped death no fewer than five times by my count (another blog story, I promise), made it through an abusive relationship and came out on the other side only slightly damaged, lived in my car briefly in my early 20's...all of those things, I was sure, gelled together to make me the person I am today, and certainly I survived them all to become a stronger woman. And while that's true, none of those things compares to being a mother. Daddies, love their hearts, will just never know what it's like, no matter how many times we remind them that our jobs are harder than theirs. It starts when we give birth, living through several hours of torturous labor pains only to get to the end, wherein we get to push a living human being the size of a watermelon through an opening the size of a lemon (sure, it stretches, but still...ouch).

Once the "hard" part is over, we must learn to multitask while subsisting on coffee and whatever we can shove in our mouths with one hand, and on little to no sleep to boot. I have a vivid memory of putting on eyeliner with one hand while holding a newborn Kyra in the other arm--it's a wonder I didn't end up looking like Cleopatra, because makeup application is iffy when you've had three hours of broken sleep.

After we have mastered feeding schedules and diapering and treating cradle cap, we get to figure out the carseat situation. Oh, those pesky carseat manufacturers! They must sit in a big room and think of ways to make our lives harder. "Hey guys, let's make the instruction booklet as difficult to understand as possible and see what happens! Draw tiny little diagrams that make no sense! It'll be anarchy!" Of course, this is where most of us recruit the hubs/boyfriend/dad and their masterful instruction reading skills, and of course the local fire department will always check your carseat to make sure it's installed correctly, but still....some moms have to do it themselves. And even those who don't still have to figure out how to carry 12 to 15 pounds of baby/carseat around when they are out of the car (if a stroller is not an option), and what if--DUN DUN DUN!!!!--you have to go to the grocery store? By YOURSELF??!

I don't know about other towns, but around here (small town Kentucky) there isn't a grocery store anywhere with carts that accomodate a carseat. You pretty much have to put the seat in the main part of the cart and sort of place your items around it, praying your bread doesn't get squished the whole time. Also, there's the whole conundrum of where to park. If you park close to the store (assuming you are lucky enough to find a spot that close), you will inevitably be too far away from the "cart corral". This is not such a big deal on nice days, but when it's snowing or raining, you want to put your baby in the car first, obviously, before loading in your groceries...and then what? Do you leave the baby in the car while you return the cart? I hope not!

There is also the possibility that, while you are out shopping with your baby, you will need to use the restroom or try on clothes. Uh-uh. What store has bathroom stalls big enough to accommodate a stroller? Or dressing rooms, for that matter? And when your baby gets big enough to sit up in the front of a shopping cart, you will probably want to use that instead of a stroller so you can put your items in it...which also means you can't use the bathroom/dressing room, because what do you do with the baby? Put him/her on the floor while you go? Not bloody likely. I suppose in extreme situations, you could hold your child in one arm and unzip/wipe with the other, all while balancing yourself over the toilet (public toilets...gross), but this is not preferable, for obvious reasons.

So we go through all this and manage to not only keep our children alive and well but actually nurture them and teach them and love them, and then we go home and make dinner and clean and some of us go to jobs outside the home. And the hubs/boyfriend changes a diaper and complains that it's smelly and we just smile a smug little smile, because he will probably never know what we've been through in a day.

We love our children. We care for them and make sure all their needs are met and sometimes we juggle multiple things...literally and figuratively (ever carried a baby, four bags of groceries, a Starbucks, your purse and a diaper bag that weighs roughly five pounds and then managed to open the car door and get it all safely inside?). We can take board books to the throat and screaming, head-butting tantrums in the middle of the store with ease.

We are Mama Warriors.