Open Window. Throw out Ideals. (Part Un)

This is another post from my former blog.  It was written on January 20th, 2009 at 12:54AM.  Can you tell that I am both nostalgic and suffering from Writer’s Block?  Anyhow, it was categorized under “Favorite Posts” among other things and I thought it worthy of reposting, especially since I am hoping to write a post about the same thing 2011-style.  I hope you enjoy!

It’s official.  I plopped my kid in front of the TV so that I could actually get something done around here.  (Ironic after I just wrote a post about the demented self-created world that I inhabit in which chores and false responsibilities take precedence over my family.)

Still, I don’t feel guilty.  In fact, in some ways, I feel liberated.   I’ve never, in the 16 months that I’ve been a mom, sat Silas in front of the TV.  That’s not to say that he hasn’t ever been plopped there.  He has.  In my opinion too frequently.   But not on my clock.

Until tonight.  Oh, honey, forget the Calgon.   Elmo in Grouchland is where the sugar’s at!

About a year ago (perhaps exactly a year ago—I’ll have to look), I remember feeling the exact same way.  (I dare you to check my January 2008 post about the Vino Nobile to see if it also mentioned Calgon.  I’m that cheesy.)  The “Vino Nobile” post was, of course, not about letting Silas drool over himself in front of the flat screen, but rather about letting Silas drool over himself as he cried himself to sleep.   Just like tonight, the relief came not so much from the added physical freedom, but from the decreased sense that I have to be perfect to be a good mom.

(By the way, is it normal for a child Silas’s age to sit in front of TV for forty minutes without actually moving???  It’s really sort-of sick.)

So, perfectionism mentioned and my lack thereof confessed, I would also like to confess that I’ve started and stopped this “Open Window” post about ten times.  (I’m still trying to learn that I don’t have to be a world-class author to be a good writer…)

When I originally started this post, I wrote about the seemingly black-and-white politicizing of parenthood.  You know: un-medicated or epidural?  breast or bottle?  Passie or thumb?  Cloth or disposable?  Co-sleep or Cry-it-out?  Dr. Sears or Dr.  Spock?  (I don’t actually know if anyone reads Dr. Spock anymore, it just sounded good.)  Still, you get my drift.

I talked about how advertising your parental ideologies seemed par with a trendy haircut, a pacifist bumper sticker, or carving the initials of your crush into the soft flesh of your ankle as a teenager.  (What you mean you never did that?)  Worse, I talked about how there seemed to be no middle ground.  For me, at 7 months in, it felt icky and uncomfortable that parenthood should be a playground for “us-and-them-isms” rather than a community of inclusive fostering and support.

After recognizing this culture of uppity divisionism, I found myself admitting to a friend, in hushed and mysterious tones, as if confessing a friggin’ love affair, that I gave Silas a dropper-full of Mylicon to ease his stomach pain.

I then had to admit to myself (albeit no one else) that, every time a friend popped in, I removed the pacifier from Silas’s peaceful mouth and hid it in the cutlery drawer.  (By the way, he gave up the ole passie long ago.)

I would talk incessantly about the cute organic baby clothes I found at the Co-op and then wear a headscarf, an odd shade of lip gloss, and dark, unassuming glasses when I shopped at Sam’s Club for cheap diapers and–dum, dum, dum—FORMULA.

It was like leading a G.D. double life.  Who has time for that shit?!?

I have to admit, after having a child in pain for months on end, I practically counted the inhales before getting the okay for another sweet, sweet round of antibiotics.

(Honestly, if you’re reading this and you’re disgusted with me, you’re either a much stronger person than I am or you’re delusional.)

Then only several weeks ago, under the title, “Notes from Rotisserie Chicken Land”, I began again.

I started my post as follows:

Next to me on a mismatched dish, perched atop an eclectic useless candle plate, beside a nearly drained bottle of Sangiovese and the crumpled remnants of a bag of Amish Friendship bread, lies the mangled, oily, faintly recognizable carcass of a dainty winter chicken. The chicken is so tasty, so tantalizing, you’d think the damn bird is Johnny Depp the way I can’t keep my hands off of it.

I then began to surmise about my college days.  (I’ve been hopelessly nostalgic lately.  I even re-pierced my nose.  It’s like I’m in the middle of a 33.3%-of- your-life-gone-crisis. ) and about the last time I had even thought to purchase a rotisserie chicken:

The last time I bought myself a rotisserie chicken, I was a junior, maybe a sophomore, in college and had spent the better half of the afternoon and evening smoking marijuana.  On a mission to be as gluttonous as humanely possible, my friend Jill and I packed our grocery basket full of M&M Cookie Bars, Sour Cream & BBQ potato chips, No-Bake Oreo Cream Pie, and, of course, the friggin’ chiggin. 

After stopping just short of the punch line, in which Jill and I found ourselves, red-eyed and soft-bellied, waiting behind a former Prom Queen with a cart full of mineral water, carrot sticks and the newest edition of Self magazine in the checkout aisle, I mixed myself a cocktail and wandered down the hall to the bathroom where I drew a hot bath, pulled out my copy of New Moon (the 2nd in the Twilight series), and sat sipping bourbon as I waited to prune up.  As I sat in the tub contemplating whether or not I should begin naming the stretch marks that seem so bound and determined never to fade, I was struck once again by my lack of ideological follow through: while I had imagined my Mother-Self as an incarnation of Mary Poppins I sadly realized that I was a bit more like Ms. Hannigan.  I mean really, I felt like I was just two small steps away from squawking out a slurred rendition of “Little Boys” before gratefully falling into a pool of moonshine.

Yeah.  Not in contention for the parent-of-the-year award.

Anyhow, I’m sure you see my point.  Like so many of life’s experiences (think: losing your virginity) parenting-in-theory barely resembles parenting-in-reality.  We’re all just trying to survive and do what is right.  Or as my friend Sly (real name Melisa) put it: “Everyone chooses something to obsess over but why the hell choose parenting?  It really has the potential to f*$% everyone up!”   (I have had to completely alter my speech now that Silas repeats EVERYTHING.)

So, please, don’t flub anyone up.  You’re not perfect and you never will be.  And, still, everything’s gonna be a-okay.

An Afterthought (6:32AM the next morning): Yes, I’m editing.  I seem to have caught that bug.  Still, I rarely do this– comment on a post that I’ve just published.  But, this morning’s “did I actually say what I meant to say?” seemed worth paying attention to.   With a bit of exaggeration and– I hope– humor, I intended to express the fact that I have had to open my window and throw out many of my ideals and that this cleansing of the idealistic soul has been good FOR ME.  (Of course, I am not suggesting that you throw out all of your ideals.)  Basically, I wanted to have an unmedicated birth but after 20 hours at 4 cm I chose an epidural.  I was so obsessed with breastfeeding that I refused my mother’s suggestion to give Silas a bottle of water.  I ended up having to both supplement with formula (had serious difficulty pumping) and to quit earlier than I wanted to (didn’t want to pass on the meds I had to take after my lovely little breakdown).  I never intended to use antibiotics.  Never intended to let my child watch TV.  I most certainly believed that every time I got home from work, I’d be able to give my undivided attention to my son.  Well, we make the best decisions we have given the situations that we are presented with.  With this post, I wanted to absolve myself from any guilt that I might be feeling about not living up to the theoretical fantasy that I had about motherhood.  I was also hoping that, if you also are struggling with mama-guilt, that you might be able to do the same.  We all do the best we can.


1 Comment

  1. slysummaries said,

    July 1, 2011 at 5:22 pm

    That is so cool that you were able to recover some posts!!! How lucky. And this one was a good one to recover.

    It rings true, even more than two years later. It’s still all about doing what we can to survive.

    I love the comparison to losing virginity. And did I really say that about screwing people up?

    And, I love the chicken descriptions. Those deserve their own short story. A dual time line story about then and now? How many other little unexpected consistencies can we think of? Reminds me of how in Slaughterhouse V, Billy Pilgrim notices the same things no matter where in time he travels, like the way his wife or secretary eats Three Muskateers Bars and when he’s about to be captured by the Germans the soldiers are described as three Muskateers. I’m not sure if those details are meant to be comforting because they tie all his loose ends together, or unnerving because his memory cannot keep things discreet.

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