The boys and I have been involved in a film making project with several other families that has pretty much eaten up our lives for the past few weeks. The kids are learning a ton and having a great time, which makes it all worth it (I think), but the adults are not faring quite so well under the weight of twelve to fourteen hour days and some pretty rough working conditions. I’ll tell you more later, after time has worked it’s magic and I have regained my will to live.
It was my youngest son’s birthday a few days ago, during all this madness, and a twelve hour day was on the books. I got up early to heat up a store-bought coffee cake for breakfast, reminded him, with a big hug, that we’d be having a few friends over for a celebration next week, I love him very much, and could he feed the cat.
Somewhere during the long hot day, I mentioned that it was C’s birthday, and another one of the moms suggested I run out and get some cupcakes so we could celebrate together and he could blow out the candles, you know, the way you like to do when you are newly eleven.
“Oh, that’s so sweet,” I said. “No, it’s ok.”
“But it’s his birthday,” she told me, managing to make it sound kind, not accusing. She was in charge of the project and wanted me to know that it was alright to take a few minutes out, for C.
“Yeah, I know, but he’s fine, really,” I answered, sort of missing her point, now that I think of it. “He’s having a little party next week.” That was true, but the real reason I was brushing her off was that, with all the food allergies and aversions in this group, serving cupcakes, or anything other than an epi-pen, was simply a bigger hassle than I was up for. Plus, I knew we were on a tight schedule and that, by the end of the day, everyone would be more than ready to pack up and go home.
“You’re sure?” She asked.
My youngest son is pretty low maintenance, probably due to having me as a mother. I maintain that this will serve him well, even if it’s sort of a drag in the early years. Some may call that rationalization on my part (BINGO!), but I consider it a public service to raise a kid who does not think the world is his oyster. (Sorry, Louise Hay.)
“Yeah, thanks, I’m sure,” I answered, sucking down some more coffee.
And that was that.
At the very end of the day, we were all sweaty and bleary eyed, when a big tray of cupcakes appeared, complete with shimmering candles for my boy to make one special sure-to-be-granted birthday wish. Kids and grown-ups gathered around, belting out the appropriate song to his shy smiling face.
He was so happy.
And so was everyone else. Forget the the loaves and fishes, coming up with vegan, gluten free, sugar-free, nut-free cupcakes at the last minute , now that’s a miracle. For a moment, I had forgotten that it feels really good to sing loud and cheer at the end, it just does, and it feels good to wish someone well.
Turns out, it was just the lift we all needed.
I found the mom, my friend Keren, who had made the moment happen, and hugged her. It was a little thing she had done, sure, but it was also big. Her kindness didn’t reflect poorly on me, far from it. Gestures like that make us all look good.
While men wage wars, we wage community.
We read a lot about mommy wars and alpha moms. The media paints a picture of women who are hell bent on raising the bar so high, the rest of us can only stare up at it, slack-jawed, downing a Redbull with one hand and giving her the finger with the other.
Oh yeah, apparently, we have it out for each other.
By the way, I get that I’m part of the problem. I write about these very people on this blog. I do it because it can be fun to laugh at the lengths to which we all go, or won’t go, to be good at momming. I write about it because the stakes are so high and because I am wildly insecure.
Plus, I can be an asshole, so there’s that.
But I just want to make a little space here for the truth. The truth is that, while there was absolutely that time the lady at the DMV gave me the stink-eye for breastfeeding in line, there was also that time when a friend took my son into the waves to play so I could sit my tired ass in the sand with my newborn, feeling that postpartum mix of wonderful and horrible.
Did this threaten me and make me resent her joie de vivre? Hell no! I wanted to give her a foot massage and a Margarita for doing the one thing I just couldn’t, at that moment, do.
Or like when I had the flu, and that mom I thought was sort of bitchy (ugh– how she always finds ways to remind me that “she has a very demanding career”), offered to pick up my fourth grader and keep him all Saturday so I could sleep, a favor my son repaid by barfing all over the back of her Escalade.
Get this– when she told me about it, she was actually laughing. God bless her.
Or how about when I turned away, just for a second, and that mom with the PhD and yoga butt flipped my gasping toddler upside down, and out fell the windpipe-sized Lego guy, and I wanted to mouth kiss her there on the spot? Did I feel like an idiot? Yes. Did I wish she didn’t always have to be all show-offy and super-mommish? Lord no.
I think you catch my drift.
I am so grateful to the mothers who step in when my ass needs saving, and it happens all the time, with problems big and small.
We are so lucky to have each other.