Yesterday when my naked two-year old escaped from my futile attempts to diaper him and unceremoniously crapped right in front of the fireplace I began to wonder how anyone survives parenthood intact. I mean, come on, a small person just took a shit in my house. On my stuff. And he has no remorse. He’ll do it again as soon as he gets the opportunity.
Then later, when said two-year old produced a crap in the toilet and I danced around him Mariachi style chanting, “Poopy in the potty! Hey! Poopy on the potty! Hey!” and proceeded to drag my older kids in to look at the crap and praise their little brother I began to doubt my ability to function in the adult world.
I might have known from the get-go that motherhood wasn’t going to be all talcum powder (don’t use it, you’ll kill the baby!) and roses. My first-born, my daughter, was a teeny tiny beautiful baby hand grenade. She had colic. She screamed constantly. She could only tolerate the most expensive, stinkiest formula on the market which she barfed all over me at regular intervals.
I didn’t leave our tiny 400 square foot apartment for the first three months of her life. I lived with her attached to my body. She had the look of someone who was gunning for a fight. Her squishy red face read: I’ll fuck you up. I loved her madly, of course, but I was afraid, very afraid. My husband was too. We walked around her as if in a mine field. She could blow at any time we whispered to each other. At times we considered her as an animal expert might a wild animal: Shhhh, be very quiet–there, in that motorized swing is a young example of Homo sapiens, subspecies Terribilicus Infantus.
My daughter and I have had our tender moments over the years, but she has always kept me on my toes, always kept me doubting my abilities to parent correctly. She did all sorts of “atypical” stuff as a toddler: licking walls, licking doorknobs, not making eye contact, facing out of the circle when all the other kiddies were facing in the circle, repeating the same word so many times the most patient person would poke their eyeballs out, lining all of her toys up in rows over and over like a little anal-retentive accountant.
After her preschool teachers raised a big red flag, we had our girl checked out by a bunch of experts and she was declared somewhere on the Autism Spectrum. Spectrum sounds so nice and rainbow-y, as if your child is a unicorn leaping over all the pretty colors, right? It’s not. It’s occupational therapy, speech therapy, IEPs, social skills training, and huge bottles of Advil.
Now that my daughter is eight, in a classroom full of “typical” peers she has entered into a new phase. She is enraged with me and her life about 98% of the time. She claims that I ruin her “best day ever” almost every day when I greet her at the bus stop.
My daughter thinks I smell funny, have bad breath, pay too much attention to her, pay no attention to her at all, never give her any candy or treats or puppies or kittens. She wants me to fix everything immediately, though she is often not able to articulate what is broken. She has the most amazing grasp of language and imagination. But most human behavior is totally confusing to her. She watches me all the time, befuddled.
Yesterday, as we were carting our way through Target, my daughter stopped dead in her tracks and apropos of no immediate incident said, “I’m driving you insane, right?” and I said, “No, why would you say that?” (while thinking, not insane, love, it’s bat shit, you drive me bat shit.) I want so badly for my daughter to know how much I love her angry, brilliant, dorky, confused, artistic self. I want her to see how much I admire her spunk, her piss and vinegar, her drive to connect.
Sometimes I do agree with my girl that I am, indeed, the worst mother in the world. After all, I did cave when she relentlessly questioned me about the tooth fairy. Me: Fine! She’s not real, okay! She’s not real. It’s been me all along. Daughter: How could you ruin my fantasy? How could you destroy everything I’ve believed in for my whole life? Me: But there’s still Hanukkah Harry! I’ve told you about Hanukkah Harry, right?
Motherhood, parenthood, it’s a bitch, a punch in the crotch, sometimes amazing, usually exhausting. I don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t have a license for raising humans. I’m barely holding on to a learner’s permit, and by the time I get it figured out (if I ever do), my three kids are going to be out in the world seeking therapists with whom to examine it all. (Shiver.)