Gin and Wit

You guys, I finally understand why Dorothy Parker and gin went so well together. Last night, after a very bad no-good day that I first tried to forget by swimming half a mile at the pool and then made the more effective decision to use gin and tonics instead (just two! Over dinner!), I found myself writing the wittiest, most scathing-yet-hilarious blog post in my head about the mommy wars and how I sort of understand why they continue. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nestwent neglected, as did the pile of magazines I had been looking forward to leafing through, as I wrote this mean but so funny! piece. In my head. Sometimes I really wish I could find a gig where I get paid to blog. I really enjoy it.

At any rate, fatigue and possibly common sense kept me from reaching for the keyboard and in the cliched light of day I am glad I didn’t put that post out into the world although I did delete another I was working on, a mushy,over the top piece about parenting Grace. There must be a way, I think, to talk about different parenting styles without being cruel, judgmental or self-righteous. I believe spending time with people who parent differently than I do is important for me, as a mother, and for Grace. Ian and I are the only ones out of our siblings who have a child and many of our peers are remaining childless – we need to learn from other parents.

That said, my daughter now expects baggies full of snacks to magically appear from my purse or her diaper bag, and it is entirely my best friend’s fault.

Before I go any further, let me first say this: Leah and I have been best friends since the fifth grade. I love her as much as I love anyone in this world, including my husband, daughter and parents. I would give her a kidney, part of my liver – I would take a bullet for her or carry her baby if she asked. But holy hell, does she ever need to cool it with the snacks.

Leah brought her two-year old, Paul, to visit last weekend. We had so much fun catching up, talking about everything from bra fittings to child rearing. We have committed to quarterly visits with one another for as long as we live near enough to do so, and it is one of the better decisions we have ever made. It makes me so happy to see Grace trust someone who isn’t a parent or teacher, to ask Leah for help or for a hug. It made me less happy when I realized Leah is the kind of mom who brings snacks with her everywhere she goes, as well as water bottles, juice boxes and perfectly organized kits – a kit to hold baby sunglasses, sunscreen, and a sunhat, a kit to hold bandaids and neosporin…you get the idea.

I am hoping that I can write this in a way that doesn’t make me come across as the world’sbiggest flibbertygibbit, and Leah like some sort of helicopter mom, because neither is the case. It is a pet peeve of mine right now among moms who blog about parenting when they cast themselves as total ditz-balls unable to hold a job or follow a recipe because they are creative and prone to distraction. So please keep in mind that I hold a steady job and regularly get dinner on the table before I state the following:

I rarely carry water, and never carry snacks, for Grace. She doesn’t own a pair of toddler sunglasses, and I haven’t replaced last year’s sunhat yet. Leah, as I noted above, is the Opposite of Me and over the course of walks, bus rides, parks and other outdoor play managed to produce (and keep in mind, she was visiting me) a wide variety of snacks in pastic baggies that made Grace’s mind boggle. Grace wanted it all, from dried cherries to goldfish to raisins, and, since they left, has regularly claimed she “needs” a snack, parlance she picked up from our friends. I am not necessarily adverse to snacks, perse, but they aren’t part of our regularl life rhythm so negotiating this has been tricky.

In the midst of Leah’s rigorous adherence of sun-screen application, water-bottle offering and snack supplying, I had a momentary mean thought. It’s because Paul stays at home with his parents, I thought. That’s why all of this intense parenting is happening. I have rarely, if ever, had a negative thought directed toward Leah – I love her the way Leslie Knope from Parks and Recreation loves Anne – and so I know there was more happening, emotionally-speaking, for me than actually believing Paul is hyper-parented.

Paul’s parents do work, but they are university instructors who work opposite schedules so Paul never has to attend daycare. Right now Ian and I are mired in the corporate world and while it comes with great benefits, like paid sick time, health benefits and vacation, it certainly has it’s drawbacks as well. Like most working moms, I shoulder my fair share of guilt on the situation and I guess I found it difficult, in the moment, to witness how organized and together Leah seemed. She was meeting Paul’s needs before he even knew he had them, and I was not equipped to do the same.

Of course, it all worked out. Paul hated his sunglasses and sunhat and proptly gave them to Grace, who wore them with all the panache of Audrey Hepburn. They both enjoyed the snacks, Grace rejected all water offered until she got home, and everyone mostly ate well, slept somewhat and were happy.

It’s easy to see how quickly mommy wars can spiral out of control. In my heart of hearts, I trust that Leah knows her son, and knows what he needs to be a happy, functioning kid. After all, we just recently talked here about how toddlers are nothing short of psychopathic. Sure, part of me perceived Leah to ever-so-slightly be hyper-parenting, but I’ve been told by many people that I veer too far in the opposite direction. It’s hard to watch someone parent so totally different than you and not take it personally – I kept thinking maybe Leah would scale back the snack bags at some point in deference to my obviously brilliant decision to NOT have any snacks around.

Not so much.

I have to keep in mind as I move through this world as a parent that for the most part, we are all just trying to do our very best. Some of us are going have perfectly organized snacks and supplies, and some of us are going to be great leaders of baby yoga sessions (something at which I excel). Our love for our children is what matters and we can’t let different approaches divide us. It takes a certain amount of confidence to have faith in the parenting decisions we make…it’s a confidence I’m developing slowly. For now, Grace will just have to get used to the idea that craisins and pretzels don’t live in my purse or her diaper bag, but sometimes other mom’s have those things and she should totally suck up to them when they do, because she’s not going to eat goldfish any other way.


4 thoughts on “Gin and Wit

  1. I really enjoyed this. For one thing, it reminded me that I really do like gin and tonic. For another, you used “flibbertygibbet”. A South Carolina woman just used that word in a comment over at my place a couple of weeks ago. It’s a word I love and haven’t heard in forever. It’s right up there with “tintinabulation” for being descriptive.

    Of course your parenting world now is so different from the atmosphere I grew up in , I really can’t comment. I will say I’m glad I grew up when I did. There were no mommy wars of any sort, then. The mothers all just said, “Go out and play”, and we did. We rubbed dirt on our scrapes and ran inside to drink milk out of the refrigerator jug when we were thirsty and knew to come home when the streetlights came on.

    Of course Grace is a little young for all that – by a couple of years, maybe – but I was only three when I ran away from home to find Dumbo and ended up on top of a dirt pile throwing clods at my mother. 😉 I didn’t have Baby Yoga, but I had a mother who sang to me in the rocking chair, and read books with me, and I turned out pretty much ok. 😉

  2. Ah! Loved this. A few years ago, my sis’s MIL said that she raised her kids live. “Live?”, I asked. “As in real-time? Live from New York? Or…”, I paused, not sure I wanted to ask, “you let them live….to adulthood?” “Yes” she laughed.

    And that’s what it’s all about. We do things in different ways, according to what feels right for our families, and make course corrections as needed – even if sometimes they aren’t, or we realize it too late, or we over-correct – we do it in real time and our goal is always the same: to get our kids to adulthood as a wonderful, responsible, loving human beings. And you know? It usually works and always in ways we never could have imagined. Even if we don’t have snacks and organize kits in our pockets.

  3. Thanks, shoreacres and Anne! It’s nice to hear that I’m generally on the right track, even if I doubt myself sometimes! And yes, I grew up in a much “simpler” time as well, I know – I was able to easily play outside and come in when it grew dark out. I hope we are creating a community here in Pittsburgh where Grace will be able to have that as well.

  4. I write those sorts of blog posts in my head when I drink gin, too. It’s amazing how witty gin can make a person, but it’s often at the expense of others, isn’t it? And I don’t really like to be funny at the expense of others, so they usually stay in my head. Your honesty here is great. I’m quite sure I would’ve been the sort of mother who barely managed to get her kids diapered, let alone have things like toddler sun glasses. I agree with you, though, that the most important thing is for kids to feel loved. Everyone should strive for that, and all the other minor things should be left up to individuals, with no compunction to make comparisons or label mothers as “good” or “bad”. I’m sad to think that there’s this new phenemonon of the Mommy Wars, as if our patriarchal society doesn’t do enough to pit women against each other. I say we all wave our peace flags and put on some protest music :-)!

    P.S. If you can figure out a way to get paid for blogging, will you hire me to help?

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