Sunday, May 11, 2014

The Duplicated Mom

If you even seen the movie "Multiplicity" with Michael Keaton and Andi McDowell, then you are familiar with the magic that Doug Kinney discovers for his overworked, stressed self.  A duplicated him.  The ability to make a copy of himself to keep all the balls in the air.  Then another and another.

It is one of my favorite movies.  "My life's a shambles.  I need pie."

So it is with motherhood, where Original 1st Time Stressed Mom was on top of everything all the time.  When Maggie came home from the hospital I couldn't figure out when I was supposed to shower.  She did sleep but ever-vigilant to my firstborn, I needed to listen to her sleep and I couldn't do that with the shower going.   Everything was on high alert for that kid even when it wasn't the least bit necessary.  When teeth and toddlerhood came along she didn't eat hot dogs.  Are you kidding me?  What's even in those things?  No, it was fruits and vegetables cut into microscopic pieces to ensure choking wouldn't happen.  Food that fell on the ground would never, and I mean NEVER, be put in that baby's mouth.  So many outfits in a day.  Drool?  Change.  Spit-up?  Change.  Miniscule drop of apple juice on her perfect little dress?  Change.

Along came #2 and my mothering methods got a little watered down (i.e. not showering was no longer a viable option every day).  He was the baby that woke up ready to attack the day, and so after I fed him and his sister I would jump in the shower while Maggie kept an eye on him.  Why she was already like a little mother with her smothering hovering, so what was the harm in letting her keep an eye on him?  Unlike his sister, though, Will was introduced to and loved The Hot Dog and if you cut them into small enough pieces you had an easy, winning lunch plan.  And should it fall on the floor?  Wiping it on your pants leg seemed more than sufficient to rid it of germs.  As his Dad always said, "The best way to keep a kid healthy is to expose him to as much germs as possible."  In our case, that would include dog and cat germs, a hamster for awhile and then a parade of reptiles.  And changing clothes?  He was a boy.  What was the point?  He woke up looking for dirt.

When #3 came along, I pretty much had figured this mothering thing out.  Mallory got Relaxed Mom, It'll Be Fine Mom, Let's Not Get Our Shorts In A Knot Mom.  She was the kid that was always on the go with me, and when she would melt down I'd pat my shoulder and she would lay her head on it and stick her thumb in her mouth.  She had plenty to protest as a baby and toddler but she just went with the flow.  If I watched her sleeping it was in the rear view mirror as many of the naps she got were in a car seat.  When I decided to cook asparagus for lunch and chop it into bite-size pieces to see if she'd like it, she inhaled it.  Her preference, though?  VanDeKamp's fish sticks and Kraft Macaroni & Cheese.  By the time she was born, we weren't so broke and Gap had a whole line of baby clothes.  Stylish was her middle name.

There are fractions of every stage of my motherhood in each of them.  Maggie is anal about punctuality, Will believes all lunches are meant to be leisurely, Mal often thinks time is an ishy endeavor.  Maggie developed an allergy to most fruits (maybe overload years ago?), Will still eats hot dogs, Mal recently asked for fish sticks and mac & cheese.   Maggie never outgrew her fondness of naps, Will is still the child who wakes up happy, Mal, the night owl wandering around for a nest as if her own bed isn't even an option.

I faked a lot of things in that career because even when people told me how damn hard and never-ending the job was I thought it was more due to their own ineptness than actual difficulty.  I would soon learn otherwise.

There are some things, though, that my kids got in equal measure.  I never relented on manners, and could easily stand for five minutes with a shy child while they gathered the courage to say "thank you" to a stranger.  Once I said "no" it was no longer negotiable.  I loathe laziness and never allowed them to be slackers.  I wanted them to believe in a power higher than themselves.  I did not tolerate them being mean to each other.

"You know how when you make a copy of a copy, it's not as sharp as... well... the original."

Those three copies are the pieces of my often puzzling, haphazard journey of parenting, and though my mothering changed through the years, the states and the circumstances, they, thankfully, each remain quite original.

And when the history of our dysfunction rears its ugly head I do the most self-serving thing of all.

I blame their dad.

You bet I'm a mother.


  1. Children learn what they live .
    Your kids are Brilliant !
    Awesome accounting of some great years out of your busy life.