I helped give a baby shower this weekend for a friend who is expecting her second son. There must have been trace amounts of progesterone debris orbiting my head because I was delighted every time she unwrapped a onesie. Jill’s most craft-y friends were the ones giving the shower, of course. And then there was me. I do not have any of the following skills: quilting, macramé, food sculpture, memory book design, freehand calligraphy, fancy scissoring, flower arranging or flourish-y dollopping. My contribution? Iced tea. And a riveting personality.
When it came time to unwrap gifts we all instinctively sat on the edges of our seats to watch for our present to be opened. Everyone ooh-ed and ahh-ed. At one point the baby’s name was revealed by the unwrapping of a personalized painted canvas that had paper particles arranged in the shape of the baby’s first initial — glazed entirely with unicorn oil. By cherubs. Everyone agreed they loved the baby’s name — Caden — but the gift itself got more buzz. My gift, on the other hand, was stitched from profane materials like cotton and bought at a retail establishment. To soften the blow, I allowed myself to feel smug about a prophetic moment the week prior when I had guessed the baby’s name before anyone else knew it. Well, OK, I was aware it started with “C” and I had already guessed the other 357 names that begin with C, but still. There are some things in life you just have to claim as your own.
As the hum of the present wrapping grew to a fever pitch, I noticed my friend sitting next to me get up and sneak over to the gift pile. My pregnant friend/guest of honor Jill was sitting in an armchair with gifts strewn around her like boulders on a mountainside. Kim was moving two of the boulders around to the back of the chair-mountain, hiding them. Then I noticed: the gifts were pink.
“I thought she was having a girl!” hissed Kim when she got back in her seat. “I started thinking something was wrong when I saw all the blue!”
And suddenly, I felt better about my iced tea. This was awesome.
“It’s a really cute outfit and a baby doll,” she continued, and I was a little sad because I love baby-doll packaging and this packaging, I knew, I would never see. Kim had stuffed the gifts under the chair like a time bomb.
If I didn’t feel this way so often in my own house with my own children, this moment of mixed-up-ness would have been a lot funnier. Not that I get my kids’ genders mixed up; it’s that I miss things because I haven’t been paying attention.
I’m especially terrible when it comes to preschool. I like to think education is important to me and that I will be 100% attentive at every stage of the process. But I can’t seem to get my act together — to acquire a nap mat, for instance, at some point in the summer; or to help Drew complete his homework of a color-by-numbers school bus; or to observe the snack sign-up sheet on the door on the way out of the classroom; or to poop-train him in time for the first day of school. Why can’t I just get this stuff done? Am I paying too much attention to my own stuff?
I was getting Drew’s backpack ready for school at about 11 p.m. Sunday night when I pulled out a white paper lunch sack with “things about me” written on it. What was this? I tore open his folder where I found the take-home sheet that was supposed to be read by at-home (physically and mentally) parents. Flash forward 30 minutes to me digging through his toy chest until 11:30 p.m. looking for items that “best represent him” so he could have something for show and tell. The first show and tell of his life.
(Or was it?)
I’m sure Drew was just as interested as all the other kids to see what was in his sack the next day and really learned a lot about himself, or at least a lot about how his mother sees him: Drew likes playing with BUBBLES! Drew likes playing on his SOCCER TEAM! (Team pic included.) Drew likes BOOKS and the movie TOY STORY! (Toy Story book included! Double whammy!)
My kids get the short end of my mental stick, and this is backwards. It’s like a dream where you just can’t run fast enough or scream soon enough; I’m a slow-motion mommy, and preschool is just the tip of the iceberg. There are moms who let exercise go when they have kids, or healthy eating, or dressing to appear attractive, but ever since I became a mommy I’ve struggled not to let my mommy-ing go. Everything else has gained a strange importance. It’s like fixating on a stray hair when the bride is coming down the aisle. Who does that?
By the way, my friend Kim was the one who suggested I blog about her little mix-up, so it’s all good, in case you were wondering. Maybe that’s the kind of attitude I should adopt too — the willingness to be open about my failures. But these failures I can’t exchange for something more bluish, more boyish.
I wish I paid better attention to my kids. I wish I was a mommy first. And I wish I knew why it’s so hard for me.
For more from Julie, check out wetbehindtheearsblog.com.