Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Moms: A Special Kind Of Crazy

In the opening chapter of Allison Pearson's quite funny bestselling 2002 novel, "I Don't Know How She Does It," working mom protagonist Kate Reddy, in the wee hours of the morning, desperately tries to make a store-bought pie look home-made for the next day's bake sale at her daughter's school.  God forbid the other moms might suspect she didn't bake them herself.  That's a special kind of crazy. 

In Jerry Scott & Rick Kirkman's uncannily accurate daily comic "Baby Blues," in which they chronicle the lives of often exhausted, ever harried, yet wholly committed-to-parenthood parents-of-three, Wanda and Darryl MacPherson, Wanda is a full-time, stay-at-home mom, yet just as desperate as Kate Reddy.  In the strip that ran 7/20/2010, Wanda tells Darryl she needs 48 cupcakes for a bake sale today that her son has just told her about.  When Darryl suggests she could just buy them for the store, Wanda is outraged at the idea.  Sure, she could buy them at the store, she tells Darryl, "If I wanted to FAIL AS A MOTHER."  Once again, there's that special kind of crazy.

Last night, I was a poster mom for that special kind of crazy.

There I sat, bleary-eyed after a full day's work and having fed and gotten the kids abed, wanting to be doing anything else but what I was doing:  sewing.  Or to be more accurate, I was doing a piss-poor job of sewing. I took a sewing class in sixth grade, and remember well how I had to rely on my mother and her trusty Singer to complete the final project.  Clearly mom's skills did not get passed down.  I probably haven't done a project more complicated than mending a sock or sewing on an errant button since.  But last night, after my daughter threw a fit-to-end-all-fits over the prospect of having to wear a camp shirt in the morning, as required for all campers on field trips at her day camp -- I sewed.

I sewed like a mother possessed.

I sewed because my daughter has a thing about shirts that are too big; for awhile there about a year ago, there were only three shirts in her entire drawer she claimed didn't "bother" her.   After a shopping trip in which she tried on no less than nine shirts and rejected them all, I sought the advice of a therapist who is an expert in the field of child development.  Said therapist very sagely told me to drop the matter and let my daughter grow out of her phase.  She assured me my girl would one day don other shirts of her own volition, and that it wasn't worth the argument.

To my great relief, my daughter did eventually expand her shirt repertoire.  The selection of what shirt to wear each day has actually been going quite well, lately ....or had.  Until this damn summer camp field trip shirt made its appearance, and then there we were last night, back in wardrobe fitsville.

She hated the length.  She couldn't abide the sleeves.  And then there was the sheer wideness of the shirt, which seems to have been designed for a fourth-grader on the all-high-fructose-corn-syrup diet.  While I sewed, I cursed the camp for supplying kids not even quite in kindergarten with shirts sized "Youth - Small" when they very clearly need extra-extra small. 

I squinted to thread the needle again and again.  I stabbed my finger more than once with a needle's point.  As I sewed and sewed -- hemming and stitching and folding and safety-pinning to make the shirt less offensive to my girl -- the thought occurred to me that I was every bit as insane as Kate Reddy and Wanda MacPherson.

I could have told my kid, "If you don't wear the shirt as is, you can't go on the field trip."  But see, really, I couldn't, because both Late Blooming Mom and Late Blooming Dad had to work today, and there was no way my daughter was going to stay home.  And though I know I shouldn't be giving in to my daughter's fit, I shouldn't be making threats I can't keep, either. 

So there I sat, sewing and sewing, determined that my kid would show up properly clad for the friggin' field trip, like every other mom's kid, and so she wouldn't throw a fit when we got to camp, which would have been mortifyingly worse than the one she'd thrown tonight.  At least that fit happened in the privacy of home.  There's nothing worse than looking like a weak parent in front of other parents.  I much prefer to look weak at home.
Moms are, indeed, a special kind of crazy.

But then, so are kids.

This morning, the girl put on the shirt, albeit with a shirt of her own underneath it, to make it more acceptable to her fashion sensibilities.  And she did smile when she pointed to my amateurish, quite visible stitching on the shirt, and asked if I sewed it just for her.  But I have no illusions that my hand-crafted fix is going to make this shirt a wardrobe favorite just because I sweated into the night to get it done for her.  According to Late Blooming Dad, who picked her up after the field trip, she whipped it off the second she was no longer required to have it on her person.

But precedent has been established:  she wore the damn shirt. So when the next field trip rolls around, next week, my daughter is going to don that shirt again, without complaint. 

Okay, probably not.  But I can't deal with the fit that hasn't happened yet.  Here's hoping that the stitching at least holds up when I put the damn shirt in the wash ... or I'll wind up sewing it all over again.  Because that's the special kind of crazy I am.  Me, my mother (with her trusty Singer that night before my sixth-grade project was due), and all the other moms.


William V. Madison said...

This strikes me as exactly the kind of moment that you'd never remember -- at least specifically -- if you didn't keep this account of it. How remarkable are all the extra efforts, the sacrifices large and small, the sleepless hours that go into parenting, of which kids are seldom conscious, and yet they seem to slide into a blurry tapestry, years later. I know both my parents must have done something comparable, in their time, but darned if I can recall a single one. (And I've been trying for 30 minutes or so to conjure up an example.)

Actually, I'm glad my mother didn't keep a blog -- she'd only use it against me now! But I'm gladder that you do keep this blog. It's going to be just as fascinating in the far-off future as it is today.

Melanie said...

You are such an amazing mom. There are really no words... is that possible?

Anonymous said...

Thank you for highlighting the "special kind of crazy" that exists in all moms! It is, indeed, special!

Dysaun said...
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