Disclaimer: Please do not notify child services
The other day, I was talking to one of my coworkers about parenting. There’s really no good end to that sort of conversation. Somebody’s going to feel like crap afterwards, and that somebody is usually me. I second guess most everything I do as a mom. While I know I’m not alone, it can definitely feel like castaway island when I take stock of my various parenting mistakes…so many errors. While my friend was sharing a sweet story about how he grew slightly impatient with his little child as she was learning to potty train, I tried to make him feel better by recounting a time my kids still remind me of by saying, “Mom, remember when Grayson was sick?” They love to bring it up; they love to remind me of this particular failing in my parenting career. They’re sweet like that.
My oldest had it first, the ninja-like flu-bug that struck when least expected, and it was fine when it happened while he was spending the weekend at his dad’s house. I didn’t know there was a three-day dormant period where the virus would drag its infected self over puke buckets, Spiderman blankets, Luigi plush figures, and Incredible Hulk toothbrushes, eventually settling in the unsuspecting stomach of little Grayson. All day, the little boy was energetic and upbeat. I don’t remember him complaining about his stomach feeling anything other than invisible. I didn’t hear any complaints when he and his brother played Mario Cart or Disney Infinity. I didn’t hear any complaints when he asked for his third cup of milk. And I didn’t hear any complaints when he ate the abundance of Oreos that made him so thirsty. I do remember the boys being so cute and sweet, and me missing them so much after they had been at their dad’s for a couple of days, that I let them sleep with me in my bed that night.
I had taken some over-the-counter sleep medicine, so at 2 a.m. I was in full-dead-to-the-world-mouth-open-drool-happening-sleep. I was dragged away from my dreams of, well…not vomit, into the harsh reality of…vomit–black, Oreo-coated, milk-supported, virus-induced, projectile-vomit. I’ve seen those sitcoms where the parents are running to get a bucket, or the kid pukes in the car, but I’ve not seen a cinematic representation of a child puking across his mother’s chest, pillow, and hair in the middle of the night. That could only happen in reality, I guess. And in that moment of hyper-reality, who I am as a care-giver could not be stifled. My true self was awakened. I did not have time to put on my mommy-brain, and I did not have time to censor myself, to connect the right neurons in my brain to the right responses one should have when one’s 6-year-old is feeling unwell. In that moment, I had the opportunity to be my best self. Instead, I was the unpeeled, mini-alien monster that rips through that guy’s stomach in the 1979 hit “Alien,” starring Tom Skerritt and Sigourney Weaver. As my baby sat up next to me, pumping out black gut juice all over me and the bed, with his eyes trained to my face, my true parenting sense uncurled itself from my diaphragm and exploded from my mouth, “F*&(())!” I yelled it loud enough to awaken my oldest son. Within a few seconds, my brain was un-fogged, and I could discern the situation more clearly. “F*&(())!,” I yelled again while simultaneously picking up the vile little puke monster and staggering to the open toilet. Not a good look for me, to be sure.
After that overshare, my co-worker, hopefully, felt a little less awful about the lowered eyebrow he gave to his precious as she wet her pants. I’m certain he felt like he was doing a better job than me, even if he was too polite to express that thought. Despite my parenting failure, there were great things that came out of “puke gate.” I know to be on high-alert when one kid’s been ill, even if the other one shows no signs of that illness. Don’t.Trust.It. I know that Oreos + milk + virus = No Bueno (to be fair, I already knew that one). I also know that who I am, at my core, is still there–sometimes, through marriage, divorce, motherhood, time, maturity (seriously), and the everyday responsibilities that come with life, I can lose touch with that girl who would confidently walk into the club and be the first one on the dance floor. And that girl would have said “F*&(())!” if some kid, even her own, had woken her up from a dead sleep by vomiting blackness all over her. And, I learned that my kids like that girl; they like to revisit her antics that night; they like to relive her reaction because she’s someone they don’t get to see between swim lessons, homework, and bath time. I also learned that letting my boys see my mistakes and admitting those mistakes opens up an avenue of conversation that brings us closer as a unit. And I try to let that confident girl with the club swag come out every once in awhile, but I do make her watch her mouth.
Grayson recovered after a day or two of being with his foul-mouthed momma, eating chicken noodle soup, sipping 7-Up, and abstaining from Oreos for a few days. His brother recovered from the trauma of being woken up in the middle of the night by my shouts and the smell of regurgitated cookies. I recovered from being puked on, which, let’s face it, was way more nightmare-inducing than any word I uttered in the heat of the moment. I’m also happy to report that Grayson first said that word months before he heard me say it that night, so I didn’t say anything to him that he, unfortunately, hadn’t heard before–probably from that kid, Eddie, who he sits next to in his first grade class. Little Eddie probably hears that kind of language at home. Some parents are just bad influences…
So, the next time you have a low parenting point, just re-read this. I got you.