The Perils of Public Parenting

A friend of mine I haven’t seen in a while wanted to get together at Applebee’s. We were celebrating her pregnancy. Sweet Pea came along for the ride.

Like any good 21st century mother, I brought along pumped breast milk and homemade organic food in sealed containers. I had separate Ziploc bags for her clean and dirty eating utensils/receptacles. I brought a washable cover for the public high chair and two different toys on little links–I could link toys to the high chair! They’d never touch the ground! It would be epic and germ-free!

Sweet Pea, of course, was having none of it. She detached her toys and threw them to the floor within 5 seconds. She then grabbed one of the menus and started gnawing on it. And honestly? I didn’t care. I was thinking, “I really want to visit with my friend. This is making you happy. You will probably live through whatever germs you might pick up. In fact, picking up germs might be good for you. I am not raising you in a hermetically sealed bubble so that you can grow up to be that perpetually snot-nosed kid in kindergarten.”

Best, least selfish parenting decision I’ve ever made? Absolutely not. There was definitely some justification of laziness going on.

But even when I’m on eagle-eyed surveillance, Sweet Pea somehow manages to sneak my keys in her mouth (or, my favorite, chew the bottom of my high heel. Nasty!) I have to believe she can handle germs–even, in the occasional case, a generous helping of germs.

So I let it ride… until one of the hostesses barreled across the room, took the menu from my baby, and chastised, “You can’t let your daughter have this! It’s filthy! I’ll go get you some crackers.” I thanked her, demurred on the crackers, and felt a little spike of rage.

I mean, really. It’s not like I was dipping my child in a vat of ebola virus.

So now I’m feeling annoyed that (a) a total stranger felt it within her rights to interfere with my parenting decisions (b) this same total stranger probably thinks I’m a terrible mother (c) my brief interaction with the total stranger has me wondering if I’m a terrible mother and finally (d) that I lack the emotional balance and self-confidence to just write this off. (Three minutes of some random lady’s work day just became a whole night of agonizing for me.)

And speaking of agonizing… (e) what if my kid does manage to get ebola from gnawing on the Applebee’s menu?

There are days when motherhood really sucks. This is one of them.

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Nerf Baby

I now have tangible proof that there is, in fact, a God. And He (or She) certainly operates the universe according to a plan.

From whence, do you ask, comes this burst of divine faith? From a lunch conversation several days ago. We all got on the topic of harrowing baby mishaps: children falling off of changing stations, aunties accidentally smashing little toddler heads against the undersides of bay windows, and (my personal favorite) games of “toss the laughing baby” gone horribly awry due to the presence of a ceiling fan–of a TURNED ON ceiling fan.

Now, the reason I enjoyed these stories was not because I’m sadistic and evil. It’s because these incidents all involved babies who are now children or adults… and all fully-functioning members of society. At the time, I listened with a certain level of smugness, thinking, “The worst I’ve ever done to Sweet Pea is accidentally ‘burp’ the back of her head one night when I was too tired to realize what I was patting.”

Then today, I was swinging Sweet Pea onto my shoulders as I’ve done a thousand times before. Only this time, I happened to be (thoughtlessly) standing under one of the beautiful low archways in our 1940s home. I’m sure you can guess what happened: bump. Cry. Guilt. Oh, and then guilt compounded 15 minutes later, when I was trying to fasten the last snap on her onesie as she crawled away. It was like a physics problem gone awry, all at-odds force and momentum. She pitched her head into the floor and wailed like I’d pushed her there on purpose.

Mother of the Year, right here.

So what does all of this have to do with God, you ask?  Well, if I hadn’t heard those stories at lunch, I’d be having a case of apocalytpic terror right now. There would be phone calls to the doctor, and bright lights shining in Sweet Pea’s eyes. There would be lying awake at night, wondering how many points our little head knock shaved off her SAT score.

As it is, I just feel like a bad person. But I’m a bad person who’s less worried about whether she’s caused her daughter permanent brain damage… so hey, let’s call it a win.

The universe is, indeed, benevolent.