My two nieces just left to head home to Tennessee. They were here visiting me for ten days. Truly, I deserve my post-niece visit coma. I don’t want to imply that my nieces are disobedient terrors, they most certainly are not. I am just not accustomed to being “on” for 18 hours a day, answering questions like I’m competing on Jeopardy, feeding, organizing, chauffeuring, cleaning, managing, protecting, listening, et al.
I started calling my younger niece by a Japanese-sounding nickname, Ken-i, because every sentence she uttered for ten days, all two million of them, began with the words, “Can I?” Holy crap, how do parents do this full-time? Are people given extra-strength, military-grade vitamins the rest of us don’t have access to when they become parents just so they can keep up with their kids? Are they getting regular intravenous injections of super-strength Red Bull? Does the childbirth process give you some sort of motherhood gene mutation so you can hear things whispered five rooms away, cover a quarter mile in three steps, and parse out food for two into seven satisfying portions? If you are parenting and doing it well, you deserve a freaking medal. I mean that. A freaking gold medal.
I am not a parent. I did not get the “mommy chip” embedded in my brain at the factory. The concept just never appealed to me. I have never once asked to hold someone’s baby. If you’ve got a puppy, I’m all over you like crispy on Southern fried chicken, but babies? Not so much. I have never goo-gooed baby talk. I don’t get it. Never did. Still don’t.
I must make an announcement. To all those people I met during my life who, even without knowing me very well, declared it an absolute certainty that I would change my mind about becoming a parent: You were wrong. You were presumptuous, boorish, and most importantly, you were wrong.
My mom never really sold the job as desirable. Being a mother, according to my own mom, was difficult, heartbreaking, and chocked full of self-sacrifice and endless chores. By the time I was a teenager, I was convinced my mom was campaigning for honorary Jewish Mother status. I am telling you, she could have been a contender.
She didn’t mention an up side so even though it may have been inaccurately lop-sided, this was the view of motherhood I got during my formative years, kind of a donkey-meets-plough thing. Not pretty. Not much of a recruitment poster. So, I made certain that I did not accidentally dance the mama mambo by judiciously, obsessively, zealously swallowing a birth control pill every morning for forty years.
When you’ve had more than one gynecologist tell you that you have a “good, wide, birthing pelvis,” you tread lightly. When you’ve had multiple surprise “menopause babies” appear in your family tree, you get cautious. When you have a boyfriend insist that you must make babies together because they’d be gorgeous, you dump his ass.
My point is, parenting is not for everyone. It is not one-size-fits-all. It is an enormous, life-long responsibility requiring a particular set of skills and values. I know that you can learn some of these skills, but there has to be some desire and aptitude present. It is as silly to insist that every woman be a mother as it is to claim all men should be porn stars. Just because you have the equipment. . .well, you know what I mean.
If you are a parent and you are doing it consistently well, you are a god-damned national treasure. You should be recognized with a ceremony, and hoopla, plenty of hoopla. I don’t know how you do it. You must have reserves of patience, energy, adaptability, and motivation I can only dream of.
This isn’t much in the way of acknowledgment, but if you are a parent and you are doing it consistently well, I salute you. I applaud you. You are doing an important thing. You are a rock star. Now go take a nap. You’ve earned it.