The other day I was talking to Frank, this really nice guy I used to work with. I don't see him all that often, but when I do, he always asks after my family and wants to see pictures of Odessa and hear about what she's doing. And I always say the same thing: she's the cutest kid in the galaxy, charming, intelligent, etc. Sometimes I'll tell him a funny story about how she sometimes wakes up at 5 AM, gets Bryan's cell phone off the dresser and shines the light in his eyes to wake him up, or about the time she whined so much one day she made herself hoarse. Frank doesn't have kids, and when I tell stories like this he chuckles and nods as I talk, but he always wears a kind of bemused, slightly concerned expression.
So the other day when I saw Frank, I was finishing up the relation (which admittedly included some eye rolling) of how Odessa refuses to fall asleep unless her arms are wrapped like baby pythons around my neck and her face is pointed directly at my mouth so she can inhale my deoxygenated air. When I finished Frank looked at me with his head cocked to one side and said, "You know, I can tell you're a great mom--I mean, you even kind of look like one of those old paintings of Mary and Jesus. But sometimes when you tell stories about Odessa, you don't seem.... I mean, you're obviously a wonderful mom, but it sounds like you're kind of tough to please sometimes."
Wait, what? I don't seem what? Like the Virgin Mary? What?
Keep breathing, Jesslyn. A fake Daisy Buchanan laugh. Short, dismissive reference to "The Terrible Twos." Change the subject.
Here's the thing: being somebody's mom is challenging in the way that being the President of the United States is challenging. Everybody's got this picture of George Washington crossing the Delaware in their heads, and how the hell was Jimmy Carter supposed to live up to that? And everybody has a picture of a mother, too: their own mother, Maria Von Trapp, Clair Huxtable, Angelina Jolie, an African lady with a bowl on her head and a six month old tied to her back with a pair of pants. A goddamn 6th century icon of Mary, Mother of Jesus holding a tiny, disfigured man.
I remembered what Frank said to me this morning at 7:30, when the following Thing happened:
- I found a cockroach egg case clinging to the shower curtain and threw it in the toilet.
- Odessa saw me do this and promptly tried to go in after it.
- I picked her up and told her "No, it's dirty in there."
- She arched her back, twisted her face into a mask of agony and slithered out of my arms and onto the bathroom floor.
- She busted her bottom lip on the sink on the way down.
- After I checked that her brains weren't pouring out of her ear, I took five seconds as she sat on the floor screaming to close my eyes and take two deep breaths.
- Afterwards, I spent a half hour holding her in my lap with a cold compress applied to her mouth while she emptied her piggy bank onto our bed and reinserted the coins, several paper clips, a barrette, a wad of dog stickers and a slightly soiled Curious George BandAid.
- By the time I dropped her off at school, I needed a glass of wine. It was 9:06 AM. I settled for coffee.