31 January 2005

Single...With Children: The Hardest Job You'll Ever Love

Single With Children: Babies become young adults in blink of Mom's eye

Susie Parker
Publication Date: 05/11/05

Mothers Day 2005 has come and gone.

The degree of sentimentality attached to Mother's Day seems in direct proportion to the number of years you can count as a mom. It's obscene just how fast they accumulate.

Motherhood begins innocently enough with a series of unending, diaper-filled, colicky days. Sometimes I remember times when I didn't think my first born and I would ever advance to the next phase of development. On lucky days, I would find myself in the luxurious exhilaration of a 10-minute shower. Unlucky days would find me pacing the waiting room of our pediatrician's office with a screaming child suffering the pain of another ear infection.

Soon, her brother followed and long, lonely days were punctuated by juggling the activities of an infant and a 3-year-old. The track started moving with more speed.

The transition from being a new mom with a new baby to a more experienced mom with a new baby and a preschooler, can best be illustrated in pacifier sterilization techniques: When Katie dropped her pacifier, no matter what I was doing, I would either pop a brand new binky in her mouth or carefully boil the fallen one in a pan of hot water for at least five minutes. By the time Justin was 6 months old, I would pick up the binky, make an inspection and, depending on my access to running water, either give it a quick rinse or simply stick the thing in my mouth to remove the dog hair and pop it right back in his. He was usually on the verge of a major meltdown by this point. Justin wasn't interested in my sterilizing method. He was learning a very important lesson of advanced personhood - it's all about instant gratification, baby.

I'm not exactly clear when or where we crossed the space-time continuum, but somewhere along the way, we wound up on the high-speed, broadband track, long before the term "Internet" was in our lexicon. There were times the mere act of "blinking" was a risky proposition.

There are moments when I look back at the beginning of this motherhood journey and wish I had spent less time wondering if I were in suspended animation and more time knowing it for the precious commodity that it is. I listened when people told me repeatedly that "they grow up so fast!" and I wondered what species of baby these people were raising because the ones I had were taking their sweet time about forwarding their development.

Though you could never have convinced me in the middle of it, my mind now often goes back to the very days I wasn't sure I would survive. Days of walking the floor, wiping down feverish foreheads, playing activity director through two bouts of chickenpox and long stints of entertaining croupy kids in a steam-filled bathroom and trying to convince two skeptical kids to pretend we were in some exotic, imaginary fog.

Nursing my kids as ear tubes were put in and tonsils were taken out. Routine vaccinations, field trips, class parties, school projects assigned way in advance but started and completed in the early morning hours before they were due. Casually being told at bedtime that I had been volunteered to bake 4 dozen cupcakes (with confetti, please!), the night before they were expected, in the pre- Super Wal-Mart days, when the only thing still open was a convenience store.

If you are a mother of a child at least 10 years old, I would bet that, just like me, you could claim you have been there, done that and collected a couple of T-shirts, maybe even decorated with tiny handprints pressed in paint. If you are a mother, I bet those memories elicit two overwhelming thoughts: "How did I manage to get through it all?" followed by, "I'd give anything to do it all over again."

I hope your Mother's Day was filled with the kind of memories that made your heart feel warm, even if those same memories made your eyes leak, just a little.

Readers can e-mail Susie Parker at susiewrites@gmail.com or write to her c/o Amarillo Globe-News, Features Dept., P.O. Box 2091, Amarillo, TX 79166.

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