Thursday, March 05, 2009

Did You Ever Think You'd Say...?

For no reason in particular, I have been looking back at my 25 years of being a parent and I cannot believe the words and phrases that have jumped from my lips over the years in this job. I have also acted in ways and performed duties that I never, ever pictured myself doing pre-motherhood.

I mean ask yourself: When you were a free-wheeling single person, hip or edgy, did you ever think you would one day say "poopie?" As in, "Honey, did you make a poopie in your pants?" or "Don't touch the poopie!" Back when you used the F-bomb as a noun, adjective, verb and adverb at will, could you have guessed you would be using the "P" word as a noun, adjective, verb or adverb dozens of times a day? For years?! But there you are, or were. And if you are well beyond needing to employ that word in your daily vocabulary, don't get complacent about that fact. Because one day you will be a grandparent when your former poopie-provider begets one of their own, and you will need to pitch in when the child's nether regions explode.

When you were first married, perhaps mulling over the idea of becoming a parent, did you ever watch seemingly intelligent adults carrying their infants around on their hips and asking them -
usually in a high-pitched voice - the following kinds of questions: "Should we buy this bread?" or "Mommy wants a coffee... do you think mommy should get a coffee?" or "Daddy wants to go to the car wash now. What do you think? What do you think?" And when you observed this, did you wonder why these parents were asking a bald, toothless, drooling tiny person their opinion? Did they really think the baby was going to pipe up with an answer, like, "No, no bread. You really need to cut back on the carbs, mom." You may have smugly promised yourself not to ever engage in that kind of insane banter. And then inexplicably found yourself having a million such conversations with your own infant and toddler: "Mommy's going to check her email now... do you want to watch? Do you? Do you?" The kid's a captive audience, and it's an excellent way to not appear like a crazy person talking to yourself; people look and see that you are actually speaking to a baby, so on a very odd level it's acceptable. Even if the questions and statements directed at said baby are well beyond that small being's comprehension. For the life of me, I never pictured myself as one of those parents who would be sniffing their teenage son or daughter from stem to stern. Like a hunting dog. "Come here," I say when my kid gets home from a night out. I start with the hair sniff, then work south demanding they open their mouth so I can take a whiff, trying to determine if there is alcohol or smoke - nicotine-tinged or sweet - on their breath. I breathe deep of their clothes for the same odors. I look ridiculous and trust me, my kids agree. But you have to do it, am I right? The same way -- going back to the beginning of this column - you have to actually pick your child up, or kneel at their tush - and thrust your nose onto the hind-end of their pants to smell if there has been an "accident." Same sort of theory when they're teens. If a mess is there, you have to clean it up. Unknowingly wearing vomit on your shoulder; standing in the chilly spring rain to watch your nine-year-old play baseball; hiding tiny teeth in your sock drawer; blotting chocolate off your child's face with your own saliva; going from rocking out to the Allman Brothers to the Jonas Brothers, or eating out of a jar of pureed bananas to show a wee one how it's done... these are just some of the things we may never expect we will do before becoming a parent. Yet, we do and we are. And just as we never pictured ourselves uttering what we do, touching things we normally would have no business touching, we also may not have counted on being able to love another human being with depth that we bestow upon our child. It almost makes up for those years of smelling things we hoped never to have smelled. Almost.

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