I’d always wondered about what kind of mother I’d be. It was one of the scariest parts about being pregnant, right up there with giving birth. And it turns out, just as I’d suspected, I’m not the greatest mother in the world.
Because I commute and Eli works a mile from our house, he
drops Joey off and picks him up from school. And because Eli’s job is a little
more flexible than mine, he is usually the one to go pick Joey up when he is
sick at school or stay home with him when he has a fever. He has taken Joey for shots and blood draws
and x-rays. He knows the kids in Joey’s class by name, and some of the parents
too. He signs us up to bring things to school parties and even knows when the
parties are going to happen. He knows who the biters are.
Meanwhile, I am constantly surprised by how much I don’t know. Like when we’re in a store or at the park and some adult or kid I’ve never met before comes up and asks me if I am Joey’s mom, and starts talking to my son because they know him. Or when I pack his lunch in the morning and am scolded by Eli for including goldfish crackers because those are for “snack” only. One time when Eli had an early meeting I had to do the whole morning routine by myself, and I dressed Joey for school in his blue tee shirt with the alligator on the front. When we got to school another little boy had the same tee shirt on and when I told Eli about it later he said, “Yeah, I know. Zachary always wears that shirt which is why I never put Joey in that one for school.” I also had to ask Joey where to put his lunch bag once we got to school, but I whispered it so as not to advertise my ignorance.
I forget to pack a swim diaper on Wet and Wild Wednesday’s in the summer, I send whole grapes and apples in Joey’s lunch and get notes back from his teachers reminding me to cut them up. He had to wear socks on his hands one day during recess when I forgot to send his mittens to school. I go places without bringing juice boxes and extra diapers and changes of clothes and only think of it when Joey throws up all over himself or suddenly begins dying of thirst. Once I was scheduled to go into work late so I kept Joey home with me in the morning as a treat and when I dropped him off at ten I was spoken to by the director about how dropping children off late is disruptive to the morning classroom routine.
I set bad examples like tossing pieces of broccoli at Eli during dinner, or filling my mouth with as much corn off the cob as I can hold and then pretend-sneezing it across the table. I teach Joey to recognize music by bands like Weezer, Foo Fighters and The Chili Peppers and then am surprised when he sings along to lyrics that are completely inappropriate for a toddler’s mouth in the car in front of my parents. I pray that he will never learn to spell because then I won’t be able to communicate with Eli or other adults. I haven’t found a different way to speak, I’ve simply begun spelling the inappropriate words.
I feel stupid whenever I try to help out with the things that Eli usually does for Joey or when I fuck up and forget to do laundry when he has peed through all of his pants and he has to go to school in the light blue girly sweatpants that are strictly last resort clothing, and never to be worn in public. I occasionally have days of self loathing when I judge myself and decide that I suck as a mother and I feel guilty that I am not actively trying to find ways to stay home with Joey anymore because I love my job. But I figure that as long as one of us is a good mom, Joey will be fine. So what if his good mom is his dad?