Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Mother of the year award

It isn't bad enough that we are all being judged by the world around us. Nope, most of us are plenty hard on ourselves without outside help. Last night I was listening to a radio show about cooking, and the subject was school night dinners. One mother called in, and explained that since she is so rushed on school nights, what with practices and library time and quality time and everything, that she keeps dinner limited to fresh home made biscuits, a chopped salad, roast beef and mashed potatoes. "I save a lot of time by using frozen veggies instead of fresh. The kids can't even tell the green beans almondine started out from the freezer". At that moment, I think I wanted to kill her. Do you know what MY daughter ate for dinner last night? Reheated rice-a-roni and two cold hot dogs dipped in ketchup. Now mind you, she WANTED the hotdogs cold and insisted I not heat them, but that saved, Oh what, thirty seconds of microwave time? Just when I thought I was the best mother in the world because we spent an hour painting and talking and laughing and having a good time together, WHAMO. I get hit in the face with roast beef and green beans almondine. I call these "toss my cookies" moments. Not because they make me want to throw up (although sometimes they do) but because they make my efforts at good mothering (what I call baking cookies) seem so meaningless, worthless, to be tossed out the window. I wish I could take full credit for this idea, but really it came to me after something another mother said. Last year we had a day that dumped a foot of snow onto the ground between the start of the school day and the final bell. I decided to pull DD home on a sled rather than pick her up in the car. I brought the toboggan, a blanket, and a thermos of hot chocolate so she could sit toasty warm and enjoy the ride. As we were leaving, a rather distraught woman hustled by me with two kids who weren't wearing coats (it had been warm earlier in the day, not everyone knew it was going to snow), eyed DD in the sled - swaddled in a blanket and blissfully sipping hot chocolate - and said "Thanks a lot. Every batch of cookies I ever baked now mean absolutely nothing. They just can't compete with being pulled home on a sled". Now, I laughed at the time, but have thought about it since and it kind of makes me sad. Because I KNOW those moments. Like when I found out my sister warms the kids towels while they are in the shower or swimming. That was a cookie tossing moment. It never occurred to me to warm the towels, and since then I have tried but our dryer just doesn't do it right. Or the time we were in the emergency room, and DD had already eaten all the snacks I brought and a stranger gave her a banana so she wouldn't starve. And again when she was getting her follow up assessment and I didn't think to bring snacks at all (she had just eaten lunch, I didn't think it was going to take so long) and another stranger gave her a granola bar. While I am glad that there was so much kindness directed towards her, I still felt terrible that I couldn't provide for her. The first week of school we weren't sure what DD needed. So I packed a pencil box with a minimum of coloured pencils, crayons, her pencils and erasers, gluestick, scissors, pencil sharpener (which was confiscated as apparently the blade is a weapon), and a marker or two. I told her not to leave the box at school yet (usually it gets left in the desk) until we know what she needs for sure. We got a note home the third day that said while the first week the teacher was glad to supply pencils and crayons, DD needed to start bringing her own. That was when I found out that a) the supply list was in her desk and hadn't come home and b) DD was afraid to take the box out of her bag at school because I said not to leave it there, so had to use the teachers supplies all week. That thud you heard was my head hitting the table. We got it cleared up, but still. Last year we found out after several weeks that DD was missing gym class because she didn't have appropriate shoes. Her runners had been in her backpack the whole time, she just forgot they were there. Sure, we saw the notes coming home but they were dittos and very generalized, we took them for broadcast messages and not specific to us because, after all, the runners were in her backpack. They can't mean OUR child, her shoes are with her every single day. Sheesh. I know we have all had these moments. The mothers who made their kids go to school with a stomach ache thinking they are trying to avoid a math test, only to have their appendix burst and need emergency surgery. The mothers that made their kids eat ALL their lima beans because they are good for you, to have their child vomit in their plate. The mothers that saved money to buy yet ANOTHER pair of shoes by cutting their own childs hair, only to botch the job or slice their ear with the scissors. The mothers who move two meetings and take vacation time to come see their kid in an assembly only to find that the other kids mothers made them special costumes and brought snacks like homemade cupcakes. Or the mothers that show up at sports practice with pop tarts and sports drinks to be told that THOSE snacks are not acceptable, and they will use the reserve snacks they keep on hand just for these purposes - gluten free graham crackers and dye-free-sugar-free juice. Toss those cookies, ladies. Fathers just don't seem to care about things like this, and they get away with it. Is the kid dressed? Is the kid there? Is the kid fed? Then what is the problem? Never mind the child has chocolate all over their face from the cake they had for breakfast, they are wearing their older brothers dirty shirt from yesterday and their little sisters pink leggings from her princess costume, their socks don't match and the shoes are from last year and too small. Their lunch consists of a frozen "Lean Cuisine" shoved into a clown-face overnight bag because no man can find anything in the morning (not that they looked), and a can of soda. But when the school calls, do they ask to speak to the father that did this? Nope. They want to talk to the MOTHER. This is the "Mother of the year award" I speak of. No matter what you do, there will always be these moments, these toss-your-cookies moments that make us look like and make us feel like the WORST. MOTHER. EVER. For those that are wondering, yes I did find shoes yesterday. Black, faceless, old-lady slip on shoes that are non-skid, padded, and have washable insoles. Not ugly enough to be irrisistable, not cute enough to photograph. They are the wallflower of shoes, the ones that sit on the shelf and watch while the pumps and strappy sandals party and the sport shoes race around. Sensible shoes. Shoes that say "I am married with children and won't be tripping the light fantastic anytime soon". Nothing cheeky about them, nothing flirty. But come on, what is it with designers this year? They were the only shoes there that fit and didn't expose more of me than I am comfortable showing - at least when it comes to my feet. Cleavage belongs on my CHEST, and not my feet people. There. Now you know another "secret" about me. I am not fond of toe cleavage. I don't even like how it SOUNDS, let alone how it looks.

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