No, You Can’t Have a Sip

My mother, by her own admission, pretends to be an alcoholic every Sunday.  She contemplated converting to Catholicism, not because Pope Francis was such an inspiring faith leader, but because forgoing the wine during communion is much more commonplace in the Catholic church, as opposed to the Episcopal. Why is she not so inconspicuously shooing it away in the first place?  Germs.

Growing up, my mother forced me and my brother to dip our communion wafer in the wine, rather than take a full sip, hoping this would somehow cut down on the transference of germs.  During flu season, she would tell us to “just pretend” to dip.  Basically, my brother and I were encouraged to be deceitful while in the midst of taking the sacrament of communion.  

Germaphobia was systematically ingrained into us from an early age, and it wasn’t relegated to Sunday mornings. There were no “quick” trips to a public bathroom in my youth.  A visit to a public restroom meant a solid 15 minute disinfecting of the stall, which culminated with a layering of toilet paper over the seat, a feat executed with the precision of a master quilter. Nothing was eaten at a potluck event until my mother found out who prepared each dish and made an informed determination in regard to their personal hygiene and current state of health.  

My brother and I were not exempt from this judgement.  Whenever we asked her for a sip of her drink, my mother would take a final sip for herself, and then tell my brother or me that we could “finish it.” Her own children didn’t make the cut.

For years I made a point not only to repress any budding germaphobia I feared I might inherit, but to express my teenage rebellion through swapping spit with anyone I could – but not in the way of the wealthy floozy in a John Hughes film.  No, I shared chapstick with classmates, brushed my teeth with borrowed toothbrushes at sleepovers, and was even known to take half of a friend’s already chewed gum if it was her last piece and I needed a “freshening.”  My rebellion reached troubling heights when I began to sit down on public toilet seats with reckless abandon.  These teenage shenanigans carried me well into adulthood and I felt confident that I had dodged the germaphobia gene.  Until I had my own children.

Kids are gross.  They are adorable, precious gifts who bring a joy you never knew existed, but they are disgusting. When a child’s nose runs, she doesn’t blow it with a tissue, she wipes her forearm across her cheek so that the snot may now blanket the entirety of her face.  Toddlers believe that a single square of toilet paper is suitable for wiping their behinds and are basically inept at washing their hands – a fantastic combo. Have you seen children under the age of 7 brush their teeth?  It basically entails making faces at themselves in the mirror while they lick bubble gum flavored toothpaste off a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle toothbrush. I may have given birth to these kids, but I’d be a fool to let one of these petri dishes take a sip of my water.

Plus, kids go from zero to 60 in less than a minute in the sick department.  One minute they are jumping off the coffee table and the next they’re barfing all over your kitchen floor.  You never know when those little soldiers are going to fall down, so it’s best to just always assume that they are harboring some sort of bacterium.  

Motherhood means living in constant fear that your children are going to be sick.  Watching your child act listless with a fever is terrifying, and listening to her cough all night literally hurts your heart. Plus, the odds of parenthood mean that your child will be puking on the one night you have plans this month.  Let’s be honest though, having a sick child means you live in a constant fear that your husband will catch whatever they have, which means that you will have to run your household while taking care of a man on his deathbed with a cold, even if you yourself are rocking a 101 fever.  

As a result, the mere mention of a cold or stomach bug fills me with an overwhelming sense of dread and I will anxiously countdown the days of the incubation period, praying my children do not fall ill.  When my daughter mentions that someone left school early, she is met with a litany of questions.  Did the office call them down or did they go to the nurse?  Did they say they felt sick?  Did you play with them today? Yesterday?  Have they looked in your direction in the past week?

Since my children also seem to be aspiring to win a world record in public bathrooms visited, a trip to a new store or restaurant inevitably turns into me trying to stave off a germ-induced anxiety attack while I say “don’t touch anything” a minimum of 37 times.  My older daughter once crawled under the door of the stall before I could stop her and I had to spend the next week convincing myself that a bath in lukewarm bleach would be a touch excessive.

Perhaps I’ve known it for a while now, but it took a fairly recent visit to church to discover a truth about myself. One might say I had an epiphany. While sitting in my pew, I watched some congregants drinking wine from the chalice, and, horrified, thought, “What are these heathens thinking?  It’s flu season for God’s sake.”  A revelation – I have officially become my mother.  The only difference is that I am not generous enough to pull the “finish it” move.  I prefer to go the “no, this has alcohol in it” route.  I mean, let’s be honest, there probably is.     

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Mommy’s Facebook Felicitation

If a mother cuts the crust off her child’s grilled cheese and doesn’t post a photo of it on Facebook, did it actually happen?  

You can’t log in to Facebook without discovering how inadequate you are as a mother – nay, a human being.  Guess who ran 8 miles before work?  Guess who cooked a macrobiotic meal for her four children?  Guess who crafted a bidet for their master bathroom made entirely out of re-purposed ocean waste?  The easier question is, guess who didn’t.  You.  As a result, a casual stroll down your news feed may make you feel anything from inadequate to enraged at the audacity of that bitchy braggart mom. The thing is, I suspect that a lot of Facebook posts aren’t as much about bragging as they are about our desperate human need to have someone – anyone – appreciate us. A need that motherhood basically rendered permanently unfulfilled.  

I was lucky enough to grow up surrounded by polite human beings.  I’m not saying strangers on the street were offering me kidneys, but I have, for the most part, experienced life in communities that seem to value basic human kindness. My mom thanked me for loading the dishwasher (even though she probably had to tell me to do it seven times), strangers thanked me for saying “God bless you” after they sneezed.  Teachers thanked us for pushing in our chairs before leaving class. All fairly minuscule occurrences in one’s life, yet I was acknowledged and appreciated for them.  As a result, trivial offences such as not thanking me if I hold a door open for you send me into the kind of fiery rage a more reasonable person reserves for occasions resulting in blood loss or dismemberment.    

And then you become a mother.  And your entire life becomes the equivalent of not getting a wave from a driver you let pull out in front of you.  Being a mother means doing more for a human being than you ever imagined possible, let alone have done before.  I may have held a friend’s hair back as she puked after a party in college, but I certainly never willingly held out my hands as a welcoming receptacle for the vomit.  I most assuredly did not stay up for the rest of the night cuddling said friend until the next bout of barfing occurred…all over me.  Yet, you know what drunk friends are really good at?  Thanking you.  You throw a blanket on them before they settle into a fitful sleep and you are rewarded with simply dozens of slurred “thank yous”.  But the precious toddler you just changed the sheets for 3 times in one night?  The one whose back you rubbed until you’re fairly certain you’ve acquired carpal tunnel?  The one you made jello for at 3 am? That kid’s lips are sealed.  

As a mother, it is my job to help my children acknowledge and appreciate generosity and kindness. In other words, to not be complete assholes. I am constantly reminding my girls to say please and thank you.  If, on a particular occasion, they need more reminders than usual, we have a private discussion about the subject. My husband and I are trying our best to not raise a couple of complete ingrates, and we’ve been fairly successful…when it comes to someone other than their mother. Because gratitude very rarely comes Mommy’s way. I can remind my girls to thank me seventy-five times a day, but they still will probably forget to show any gratitude when I bring them a cup of water an hour after they should have been asleep.  

And so mothers turn to Facebook to fill our void.  Your children didn’t appreciate the dinner you prepared for them?  Post it  – you’re bound to get a few likes.  Your children didn’t kiss your feet for planning and throwing them a successful birthday party?  Post it- with pictures – and you’re bound to get some “Gorgeous!” comments.  Your children didn’t express utter reverence when you and your husband made them the coolest freaking Halloween costumes ever?  Post it – with pictures – on Facebook AND a blog you started – and you’re bound to earn some adoration elsewhere. (Ahem).

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So the next time you are tempted to roll your eyes and are considering writing a snarky comment that says, “congra-feckin-lations” under some supermom’s post, reconsider. Maybe she just needs someone – anyone – to appreciate her.  Or maybe she’s an arrogant little bitch who wants to remind you how much better she is than you.  What do I know? Go with your gut.