Yesterday Eric and I took our niece to Claire’s to pick out a bunch of jewelry and accessories for her birthday. I went to the register to pay, and the cashier asked for my email. I immediately gave it to him. Eric rolled his eyes.
Eric: “Now you’re just going to just get a bunch of emails from Claire’s every day.”
Me (muttering through a fake smile): “That’s fine, I’ll unsubscribe later.”
Eric: “Why don’t you just not give him your email?”
BECAUSE, ERIC. I WOULD RATHER RECEIVE 57 DAILY EMAILS FROM CLAIRE’S UNTIL THE DAY I DIE THAN PARTICIPATE IN A POTENTIALLY AWKWARD EXCHANGE WITH THE CASHIER WHO IS JUST TRYING TO DO HIS JOB.
As soon as this thought went through my head, though, I realized how introvert-insane it was, and I was pretty ashamed. So when the cashier then asked for my phone number, I decided to not be as forthcoming.
Me: “Do you really need my phone number?”
Cashier: “Yes, to complete it.”
I had no idea what the ‘it’ was that the cashier needed to complete. He could not have been more purposefully vague. Was the “it” my purchase? A registration to receive Claire’s discounts? A lifetime subscription to never-ending texts with no opt-out option? Approval to let them test their products on my current and any future unborn children? Admission to a Pentecostal cult?
It couldn’t be possible that this children’s jewelry store REQUIRED your phone number to make a purchase. That would be nuts. And while a clogged inbox doesn’t really bother me, constant promotional texts softly threaten my will to live, so this is where I needed to draw the line. This was my clear-cut opportunity to just say no, and not be such a conflict-averse pushover of a human.
Eric looked at me. I looked at Eric. Eric gave me an encouraging nod. I knew what had to be done.
So I turned back to the cashier, took a deep breath, stared him straight in the eye, and in my clearest, bravest, most confident voice, slowly enunciated all ten digits of my phone number.
When COVID quarantine first started, Nora was only 18 months old, and, given concerns about preexisting conditions in our family, we stayed extremely isolated for the next 1.5 years. So basically, Nora saw no one. Ever.
I for one reveled in couch life, fully embracing hibernation like the marmot I’m certain god intended me to be, but I worried about Nora’s lack of socialization and zero exposure to different types of people. Or, you know, ANY people. She started talking to our living room electrical outlet because I guess it sort of has a face.
I became concerned.
It was very important to me that Nora have SOME type of exposure to people who were not in our family (and who were not a wall socket), as well as an understanding that people come in all types of shapes, sizes, colors, ages, abilities, etc– and that we should respect and celebrate those differences. Her babysitter at the time, Sesame Street, was doing an ok job teaching these concepts, but I yearned for her to have some off-screen experiences that would build her social intelligence.
Cue my brilliant idea to order her a slew of multicultural dolls. Nora was in a major dramatic play phase, so I thought it would be great to get her dolls of mixed races, ethnicities, ages, genders, and abilities, thereby normalizing cultural variation for her sheltered, isolated, impressionable soul.
It warmed my heart when her very favorite toy became this basketball-playing young man using a wheelchair.
We had many discussions about disabilities, and I felt proud that she had an understanding of why people might need accommodations or certain tools to help them live their lives comfortably and to the fullest. I felt relieved that once quarantine life was over and we DID go out into the world where Nora would encounter all different types of people, she wouldn’t be confused (or, worse– RUDE) about it. She wouldn’t stare, or point, or doing anything else to make someone feel uncomfortable or marginalized. She would understand and appreciate that we are all unique, and that that is a beautiful thing.
Honestly, I awarded myself alllllll the mom points.
Fast forward a year, when I took Nora into a store for the first time in essentially forever. She was about 3 years old. As we were waiting on a long line at the Walgreen’s pharmacy to pick up my prescription, a kind-looking woman came up behind us. She was in a wheelchair. She smiled at Nora.
Woman: “Hello, little girl, aren’t you cute!”
Nora (screaming, inexplicably, at a rave-level decibel):
“YOU’RE IN A WHEELCHAIR!!”
The entire population of the store– staff, customers, emotional support animals– turned to look at us.
Nora took that as her cue to continue.
“MOM DO YOU SEE THIS LADY IS IN A REAL-LIFE WHEELCHAIR???!!!!”
Me (to the woman, mortified and bead-sweating): “I’m so sorry– it’s just, her favorite doll uses a wheelchair, and I guess she’s really excited to see one in person. We don’t get out much…”
“It’s ok,” the woman replied, while somehow, bless her heart, still smiling at Nora.
I thanked her for her understanding.
“YOU LOVE TO PLAY BASKETBALL BECAUSE YOU’RE IN A WHEELCHAIR!!”
She stopped smiling.
So if anyone is looking for some mom points, I forfeited mine and left them over there at the Westport Walgreens. Said points are waiting to be claimed by a mother whose child would have done literally anything other than what my child did that day. So if that’s you, congrats, go ahead and collect.
Oh and please pick up my prescription from 2021. I ran away and can never return.
Well it took about 74 random password guesses (all incorrect, never should have deviated from my original AOL password, iluvfreddieprinze), at least 5 expletives (which felt great, because 4-year-old Nora doesn’t let me say the creatively coined “fuck word” anymore), banging on the laptop like a feral baboon and chanting a couple Hail Marys (I’m jewish, but I feel like Mary gets it?) to finally figure out how to log back into my blog site.
That tells me it’s probably been too long since I’ve written. Not great, since writing is my therapy, and the state of my mental faculties directly correlates with the frequency of my writing. Well, fuck. *pops Prozac, swallows with cold brew, simultaneously feels in control and on the verge of cardiac arrest*
But here’s the thing, guys, I’ve been realllllly busy.
Truth be told, since the last time I posted, I can honestly say I’ve never been less busy yet more overwhelmed. In this case, I’m defining “busyness” as having an actual, brain-stimulating existence– doing all the stuffs, working all the jobs, partaking in all the adventures, indulging in all the creative outlets.
Yes, I’ve been productive in some ways. For example, I made a human. Her name is Sophie. Eric helped make her, I suppose, so to be perfectly technical, I took what “we” made (a grain of sand– SOMEONE HAND ERIC A TROPHY) and turned it into an actual homosapien with limbs, internal organs, a brain and almost some hair (she’s now 13 months and still quite bald).
I did all this growing-of-the-human by waking up every morning, puking into a toilet, sobbing, cursing, returning to bed with the drama of an Oregon trailer dying of Dysentery, and then promptly puking again. And again. And again. And again! For 20 weeks straight.
There was a lot of moaning (the bad kind), sweating (still the bad kind), waddling (not the cute kind) and fun complications like gestational diabetes, hypothyroidism, and throbbing dental pain (yup, that’s a thing!)
To say that my entire pregnancy felt like an internal battle with Satan might be a tad dramatic, but when the doctors finally managed to wrestle Sophie out of my body with what felt like a jagged crowbar and a Dirt Devil Pro, and she emerged with the tiniest puff of red-tinted hair, was I surprised?
I was not.
So I don’t know, guys. Life is weird right now. Not bad weird, just weird weird, and I think I’m still settling into this suburban mom-of-two-young-kids life and finding my way through the Westport, CT jungle (I know. I’ve been here almost 3 years. For a marathon runner, turns out I’m quite slow).
Sometimes it feels like everyone else has a meticulously detailed map, and I’m just plodding along with my 4-year-old’s cracked Magic 8 Ball, kind of making shit up as I go. This is unsurprising, I suppose, because it’s how I’ve always felt in life in general. I guess this is just the Suburban Mom chapter in the bumbling memoir hero’s journey that is my life’s tale.
And none of this is a complaint about Westport (or my kids!! I obviously love the shit out of my kids and am beyond grateful to have them, but also hate that I have to point that out when expressing any weird feelings I’m having about motherhood, but some of you are cray so I’ll go ahead and cover that base– MY KIDS ARE THE ABSOLUTE BEST THING THAT HAS EVER HAPPENED TO ME, EVEN WHEN THEY DO THINGS LIKE LICK THE PLUNGER AND THROW UP IN MY CLEAVAGE).
I actually really like it here in Westport– it’s a phenomenal place to live (my kids better appreciate the fuck out of it, which, I understand, they will not), and I have met really great people. I just think that between our abrupt NYC exit, living a couple years in bizarro COVID Isolationville, having a second child who is very much a good baby (because all babies are good, of course! Of courssssssse. Settle down Gentle Parenting mob) but perhaps not the EASIEST baby (very screamy. Not a fan of many things.), and putting my career on pause to care for my kids full-time, it’s been a LOT. A lot of good, yes. But also “a LOT” in the most mind-numbing, tedious, floating-in-the-abyss way imaginable. And it’s left me feeling, at times, a little lost.
And I know one solid way to work through it is to keep writing, but every time I catch a spare moment away from caring for my kids, I find myself wanting to do nothing but zone out– do crosswords, watch The Bachelor, fight the dog for Nora’s remaining grilled cheese scraps, scroll Instagram until my brain cells bleed from my eyes, drink wine(s).
This, of course, feels good in the moment, but does nothing helpful for me long term, which I’m acutely aware of in the rational part of my brain (I call this rational part Anna, named after my therapist, who is responsible for all thoughts contained within it.) So I’m going to start listening to Anna a bit more. She keeps whispering that I should write, and that I’ll feel better if my swirling, shitnadoes of thought are spewed out into the universe, even if they’re messy and at times incoherent and probably not all that interesting. At least they’re mine.
So I’m going to write more. I bought Sophie a nice cage with a water bottle and an automatic feeder, and honestly, she really seems to like it. I figure if I throw her in there with a chew toy and bully stick, I can get a couple hours a day of solid me time.
But in case that doesn’t work out long term, I hired a regular babysitter. Finally. She comes a few days a week in the mornings, and I already feel like a new person. I like her so much that I didn’t even fire her when we were out in public together and someone mistook her for my daughter. She’s twenty fucking four.
Anyway, I don’t have a creative, cohesive way to end this post because as you probably noticed, I didn’t have a creative, cohesive way to begin or middle it, either. This was a bonafide word-vomit, and for that I’m sorry I’m not sorry. It’s been 2 years and just far too many thoughts are wrangling for attention, that simply taking the first step of logging into WordPress and banging the keys felt something like finding myself.
People keep asking me if I’ve made any new friends here in Westport. But listen guys, it’s always hard when you move to a new place. And even harder when there’s a global pandemic. And even HARDER when you’re the kind of person who uses the global pandemic as an excuse, when really it’s just that you’re awkward and you hate meeting new people and talking in general and doing stuff that isn’t on your couch or phone.
Regardless, this week I actually started to make some social headway.
During Nora’s farm class (shut up) I was chatting it up with a bunch of moms who seemed refreshingly normal. As we watched our kids chase roosters around the chicken coop (yeah I’m just as confused by my new life as you are), one mom commented that every time she leaves the class, her son’s socks, shoes, and ankles are caked in mud.
I nodded knowingly. It’s absolutely never not often that I feel like I have worthwhile mom advice to give, but for once, I had it and I owned it.
Me: “So, I had the same problem with Nora. I finally got smart and put her in tall rain boots for class. So only the boots get dirty. Then after class I take them off, put them in a plastic bag, and have a clean pair of sneakers for her in the car.”
Other Mom: “Oh my god brilliant! A clean pair of sneakers! I always have a change of clothes in the trunk, but it didn’t even occur to me to have clean sneakers!”
“Oh yeah, the clean sneakers are key,” I replied, while mentally collecting my parenting trophy.
Other Mom: “Seriously, why didn’t I think of clean sneakers? Every week I’m here chasing him around, making sure he doesn’t step in THAT, and bring THAT into my car.”
She pointed to a gigantic pile of caked mud and animal poop. Just a huge steaming pile of shit. A mountain, really. It was as if every animal on the farm– the sheep, the cows, the alpaca, even the lone Nubian goat– had made a pact to ONLY shit in that one designated spot.
And of course, at the exact moment we all turned to look at said shit-pile, Nora sauntered right on over to it.
But I wasn’t worried.
Other Mom: “Uh oh, watch out for your daughter!”
Me (laughing): “Nah, she’s fine. She’s just checking it out. As much as she loves stepping in a good rain puddle, she does NOT like things that are straight up gross.”
And as if right on cue, Nora then turned around, a complete 180, and walked as far away from the pile as possible.
Other Mom: “Wow, good for her! And good for you! You really know your kid!”
Me (admittedly smug): “Yeah, she’s pretty good about–“
And that’s when I heard the rushed pitter patter of little feet and swung back around to see Nora sprinting across the chicken coop with Forrest-Gump like determination– straight toward the steaming pile of shit.
It turned out she hadn’t walked away because she found it disgusting, she had walked away because she wanted to give herself A RUNNING START.
I yelled for her to stop, but she just waved her hand at me and screamed back, “IT’S OK MOM! I HAVE MY BOOTS! I CAN’T GET DIRTY!”
I flashed back to the conversation we had in the car on the way to the farm. She did not want to wear her boots. But I had explained, over and over, that it’s a good idea to wear the boots, because if she wears them she can step in mud and SHE WON’T GET DIRTY.THE BOOTS WILL PROTECT HER. This reasoning had made her very happy and compliant, and I had awarded myself approximately 785 gold parenting stars.
Before I could intercept, Nora completed her sprint and took an Olympic-style pole-vaulting leap into the fresh pile of animal dung. She soared through the air with the confidence of a superhero, armed with the certainty that her magic boots would act as a full-body protective cloak.
The entire farm watched in shocked silence as, upon landing, Nora’s feet gave out from under her, and her tiny little tod-bod sank into the dune, which completely enveloped her, quicksand style, in shit. Even the hairy, 500-pound hog, half asleep in a mud puddle, was repulsed.
As soon as Nora discovered that her magic boots had not performed their mommy-promised protective powers, the high-pitched, bloody-murder screams commenced.
While hyperventilating and snot-sobbing like me on election night 2016, she somehow managed to extricate herself from the dung mountain. She surveyed the lumpy streams of crap covering HER ENTIRE BODY– her shirt, her pants, her hands, her face. Everything drenched and dripping in feces.
She ran toward me, arms outstretched, hysterical, screaming, “MOMMY HELP MEEEEEEE!!!!!” She was clearly traumatized and desperately seeking solace, so I did what any parent would do in this situation.
I ran the fuck away from her.
She was covered in shit, you guys!!!
The pack of moms stared in disbelief as Nora chased me around the chicken coop and I literally hopped the fence to avoid her. One of them half heartedly offered a change of clothes, but I assured her “No no, that’s ok, thank you– I have clothes in the car, obviously. You’re not a mom unless you cart around a change of clothes, right?!” (casual laugh).
I had no change of clothes.
Keeping a good 5-foot distance ahead of her, I somehow managed to verbally coax Nora back to the car, where I promptly covered my hands in plastic bags and stripped her down naked right there on the grassy knoll. I then bathed her with baby wipes as she stood there screaming, her pale little wrinkled tush blowing in the 50-degree breeze. I should mention that we were parked roughly 30 feet from a gardening event attended by approximately 15 senior citizens, all of whom were watching this scene unfold. Plastic-bag-hands covered in shit, I waved.
After what seemed like an eternity, I finally got Nora decently clean, shoved her clothes in a garbage bag, and threw her in the car seat. She rode home buck naked and wailing.
The nanny of a kid I barely know in Nora’s music class approaches me.
Nanny: “Hi Nora’s Mom! Spencer is having a birthday party next Thursday at Gymboree. It’s in the afternoon. Can Nora come?”
Me: “Oh– yes, that’s perfect! Nora’s with her nanny in the afternoons, and they’re always looking to meet new people, so that will work out great! I’ll give my nanny the information and I know she’ll be more than happy to bring Nora to the party.”
Nanny: “Great, I’m so glad Nora can come!”
Me: “Of COURSE! She looooooooves parties! Thanks so much for including her!”
Nanny (looking at phone calendar): “Oh wait sorry, I mixed up the time– the party is not in the afternoon, it’s in the morning. So YOU can bring Nora.”
Other Mom (to me): “Well that was a fun class!”
Me: “I know, I agree! And I’m so glad that [your kid] and Nora are really becoming friends now.”
Other Mom: “Me too! And speaking of, I think it’s time we actually learn each other’s names!”
Me: “Oh! Ha, yes, we should– I’m Emily.”
Other Mom: “Nice to ACTUALLY meet you! I’m Cheryl.”
I fucking know, Cheryl. That’s why I’ve greeted you with “Good morning Cheryl!” every day for the past 3 months.
Last month we officially joined a Kiddie Gym, and I’ve been taking Nora there almost every day. Due to my social anxiety (which results in an inadvertent yet epic resting bitch face that I am completely oblivious to until a homeless man inevitably sees me on the street and screams “Smile, sweetheart! Life’s not so bad!”), for the first few weeks I pretty much kept to myself and probably wasn’t giving off the friendliest vibes to other moms.
Then today I decided that I’ve become more comfortable with the familiar faces and perhaps it’s time to try to be social and (gasp!) maybe even make a friend.
So this morning Nora was climbing the mats with a toddler boy who started getting a little rough, and his mom, who seemed pretty cool and normal and like someone I could totally be friends with, stepped in…
Boy’s Mom: “Nick, honey. Be gentle with the little girl. She’s just a baby!” (turns to me) “Sorry about that, he doesn’t know his own strength. We’re working on it.”
Me: “Oh, no worries at all! And it’s fine, Nora’s tough. I’m just impressed you knew she was a girl! Everyone always assumes she’s a boy.”
Boy’s Mom: “Oh, no, no! I’ll never make THAT mistake again!”
Me: “Oh did you think some short-haired baby girl was a boy and the mom had absolutely NO sense of humor about it?”
Almost every day, Nora and I go into the same corner store as part of our morning routine. Everyone knows us there. And every single time we go in, the guy working the deli counter smiles at Nora and says “Ah, hermoso!”
Now, I’m no Spanish expert (despite having taken Spanish in middle school, high school, and part of college…) but I’m pretty sure “hermoso” means beautiful for a boy, whereas if you were to call a girl beautiful, you would say “hermosa.”
So either the deli guy thinks Nora is a boy, and has thought this for 9 months now, or he is simply using the word “hermoso” as a gender-neutral term. Since my Spanish knowledge is spotty (#ivyleagueeducation ), I really couldn’t be sure.
So today we conducted an experiment. I put Nora in the girliest, most unmistakably feminine outfit she owns:
We enter the store:
Deli Guy: “Ahhhh! Hermoso! Is very nice dress! Pretty butterflies!”
Me (relieved that he is obviously using ‘hermoso’ interchangeably, and has known all along Nora is a girl): “Aww gracias! That’s very nice!”
I meet a girl in the lobby who is also a new mom in the building. She has a 10-month-old son and when she finds out I’m around in the mornings and on Fridays, she asks for my number so we can get together with our kids. We exchange numbers and begin commiserating.
Girl: “Isn’t being a mom like a million times better than being pregnant?”
Me: “Oh my god YES. I say that all the time! I was a MISERABLE pregnant person.”
Girl: “Me TOO! The worst! I was SO tired the entire 9 months.”
Me: “Yup. And achy and short of breath…
Me: “And couldn’t sleep, totally nauseated, so irritable…”
Girl: “Oh my god YES. SO irritable…”
Me: “Hot flashes…”
Girl: “ALL the time!”
Me: “And like the bedwetting– what’s THAT about?!”