Yesterday I was outside with the kids watering my plants. Since the pandemic began, I have become quite the little gardener, and in the late afternoons I bust out the hose and get the kids into their bathing suits and just spray the crap out of all the plants and the kids before dinner. Ain’t gonna lie -- it’s kind of therapeutic to just light that shit up at the end of a long day.
Anyway, yesterday my older son was rollerblading in the neighbor’s driveway, and my two-year old was filling up his little Captain America watering can and running back and forth through the spray from the hose. The garden is on the side of the house, and at one point he ran behind me towards the driveway when I suddenly heard a dull thwack. As I turned around I heard a young man walking by on the sidewalk who saw my son trip over the hose and take a faceplant straight into the pavement. “Oh SNAP,” said the young man. My little guy, who is an indestructible force of frenetic energy popped right back up, declaring “It’s ok, mommy!” And before I could even check if he was ok, he was up and running again through the sprinkling water from the hose. I couldn’t help myself – a little smile crept up on my face. And then the guy on the sidewalk who saw him fall started to chuckle. “Yo, that kid is cool,” he said. “That little homie is alright.” I could not stop laughing.
My kid is at an age where he is constantly falling. He wears all of his older brother’s hand-me-downs, so none of his shoes fit exactly right. Plus, he’s always running. He never slows down. And he’s two.
Another time he was helping me water the garden when he slipped on the wet grass while carrying his watering can. For a moment I saw him teetering, on the verge of getting his balance, but the recovery was fleeting. His feet flew out from underneath him and he landed flat on his back, and the watering can poured out all over him. For a moment his face fell and it looked as though he was going to cry. “Mommy, all wet!” he simpered. But I brushed him off and told him that getting wet is fun (lies! All lies!), and he was good to go. But I couldn’t suppress my amusement. My older son was horrified. “Mommy, are you laughing at Jack?” I tried to hold it in, but what can you do? He landed straight on his back and dumped an entire watering can all over himself! I had to laugh.
I have a problem. I LOVE IT when people fall. I know that it’s not nice, but I literally can’t help myself. When someone falls, it just involuntarily activates something in me and then there’s absolutely nothing I can do to keep from laughing. It’s my joy in life, and even though I feel bad, I just can’t control myself. Even, apparently, when the person who falls is two years old.
One year when I was in college, my girlfriends and I decided to exchange elaborate Valentine’s Day surprises for each other. My friend Naomi decorated my room with paper hearts, each one featuring something that I love. One of the hearts just said “People Falling,” and another just said “Things Falling On People.” All I have to say about that is, guys, get yourself a Naomi – someone who understands your heart’s true desires.
Recently though, my little Jackie took a fall that didn’t make me laugh at all. I took the kids to the lake by myself, and I was incredibly proud that I got all the beach toys and towels packed up, lunches made and loaded into the cooler, and both kids sunscreened up and ready to go. I carried all of the lawn chairs and bags down to the water. Both kids were thrilled to be swimming, and they were in great spirits all afternoon. Even changing a poopy diaper in the sand couldn’t bring me down (yay). But I made one critical error -- we stayed too late at the beach (is this your first time here, mom?). As we were walking up from the water, I realized that things were about to go haywire. The kids were tired, a little sunburned, and hungry. Jack took off running and wouldn’t slow down. I was carrying at least seven hundred bags of beach toys and wet towels and bagged-up sandy poopy diapers, plus I was wearing flipflops. I yelled for him to stop, but he just laughed and ran even faster. I raised my voice a few notches, and made my tone as serious as possible, but he had zero interest in listening to me. Within seconds he was approaching the parking lot where cars were pulling in from the highway. I dropped my nine hundred bags of sand pails and screamed dramatically for him to stop. When he didn’t, I took off running after him. Every person on that beach and in that parking lot heard me scream and luckily a man walking in the opposite direction caught Jack, and marched him back to me. “You better listen to your mom,” said the old man.
But Jack was on another planet. He was sunbaked and hungry and completely out of his mind. I thanked the old man, and grabbed Jack by the hand, telling him sternly that he was not to run again, as everyone around me stared at me (and, you know, judged me). So what happened next? Of course, as I was gathering up my nine hundred sand pails that I dramatically threw to the ground the first time he ran, he managed to slip his hand out of mine and took off running again. “Oh fuck,” I yelled, dropping the sand pails yet again. But this time he didn’t make it very far. He looked at me deridingly, laughed, ran about twelve feet, and then took a dramatic headfirst dive into the concrete.
There was an audible gasp from everyone who was watching this pitiful scene unfold. Jack, of course, stood right up yelling “OK, mommy!” (I’m telling you, he’s indestructible). But I was done. I grabbed our shit off the ground and picked him up under my arm like a goddamned football and marched off to the car, leaving a trail of dropped beach toys behind me that my older son picked up like he was the Hansel and Gretel of broken beach dreams.
A maintenance worker who was cleaning the bathrooms looked at us as we walked by and commented that he was one tough kid. Uh, thanks dude?
My son was fine, and everyone survived. But I was humiliated. I felt like my reaction was too dramatic and loud, and I was embarrassed that so many people saw just how fucking out of control everything can be. And on the other hand, I felt stupid that I didn’t react faster and that he was practically walking out in front of cars before I took off running after him. Mostly I felt dumb that I caused a scene, and I felt like everyone who was watching was thinking “this lady can’t handle those kids,” with a mixture of pity, horror, and self-righteous judgment. I wanted to crawl back into the lake and float away forever.
One of the things that sucks about being a single parent is that there is NEVER another person to help shoulder the burden of parental shame. When you fuck up – when you yell too loudly, or not loudly enough, there’s no one there to tell you that it wasn’t your fault. There’s no one to say that those mommy shaming onlookers should go fuck themselves. It’s just you, peeling your tired kid up off of the concrete, dropping sand pails and shovels and stepping out of your flipflop before plopping him into his carseat and closing the car door just a little too hard. When you have those moments, you don’t get to step outside and take a minute to get yourself together. You have to jump right into making dinner, and giving baths, and reading bedtime stories. You don’t get to give yourself a timeout.
Anyway, it’s not that I would change a damn thing about my situation. Lord knows I’m all good. It’s just that being a single parent has a way of amplifying everything, most especially your fuck ups.
Some days you laugh, other days you cry.
Oh, And Some Exciting News.
I have been working on some big ideas for The D-Train, and will be doing some bigger and more exciting things with this little newsletter in the coming weeks. Thanks for being patient while I live through a global pandemic and a revolution and the world’s shittiest divorce. Stay tuned for big, exciting things to come, you lovable motherfuckers, you.
Ps. Rod Stewart was a stone cold fox in the 1970s. “Oo La La” is one of the best song titles ever. And this is my jam right now. It’s Friday. Pour yourself a bourbon and dance around your bedroom in your underwear to this one.
And don’t forget to listen to The D-Train, The Playlist, a soundtrack for a shit show.