I never bothered to enter the contest for Mother of the Year. The competition is too stiff. But I have set some low-level hurdles for my children. The first one is this: try not to be the worst-behaved kid in class. My daughter has stumbled already, and we’ve only completed two days of school. In her first hour — yes, hour — of preschool, she was sent to time out. When her teacher asked her to clean up her toys, she pitched a fit and refused to help. All of this just forty-four minutes into the new school year. Later in the day, when I asked my daughter what happened at school, she said, “I don’t wanna talk about it, Mama.” When Daddy admonished her that evening, she again exercised her right to remain silent.
Whatever happened to sugar and spice and everything nice? Since my daughter turned three, I’ve started sprouting grey hairs like nobody’s business. She’s already criticizing my wardrobe — “Mama, you can’t wear that purple scarf every day” — and my dietary habits — “Mama, you can’t eat peanut butter every day”. I can only imagine what she’ll say to me when she’s thirteen.
Of course there is a silver lining. I don’t worry about anyone pushing my daughter around. She’s no doormat. And she certainly has no problem expressing herself. I can cross those worries off the list. There’s a silver lining for you too, dear reader. If you are the parent of a pre-schooler, chances are my kid is worse behaved than yours. My kid’s the one making your kid look like a saint. Worried your kid will be the naughty one? Don’t sweat it. My daughter has already claimed the title. So relax and enjoy the week. And don’t forget to enroll yourself in the contest for Parent of the Year. I think I’ll sit this one out.
So it’s Sunday afternoon, and I’m feeling very smug as I tap away. Here’s what I’m writing:
When I was a student in London, I had a literary aha moment. I was living in Bloomsbury, near Virginia Woolf’s former home, and I had just finished reading A Room of One’s Own. One afternoon, I stumbled upon Fitzroy Square and spotted a blue placard indicating the brownstone in which Virginia Woolf had lived with her husband in the early twentieth century. I sat on an iron bench at the center of the square and stared at the placard until the words grew blurry. In those moments, I thanked Virginia Woolf for dropping me a line that extended nearly the length of the twentieth century. Like the Indigo Girls, I felt this esteemed writer had “sent a letter to my soul.” Sitting on that bench, I thought, what if I could do that? What if I could drop a line to some wandering tourist a century from now? What if I could reach someone who needed reaching?
I stop typing to gaze at my growing stack of poetry books: Emily Dickinson, Philip Levine, Jack Gilbert…I think about finding a poem to read to the kids during dinner, and then I congratulate myself for my august parenting.
Suddenly, I am interrupted by my three-year-old daughter. She picks up a note I’ve written on a piece of scrap paper:
D: What’s this?
Me: It’s a note I wrote.
D: Who you’re going to give it to?
Me: No one. It’s a note to me.
D: Who’s it for?
Me: It’s for me. I’m going to keep it. Sometimes we write things for ourselves – notes, lists, or other stuff… Isn’t that silly? Maybe one day you’ll write notes for yourself too. Wouldn’t that be cool?
D: I have a lollipop on my shirt.
I think this was God or Gaia or Woody Allen sending me a message: You’ve got a lot to learn, lady. Climb down from that pedestal. And don’t go breaking your arm patting yourself on the back either, wunder-mama.