Spider Bites and Love Webs

Posted: July 26th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Friends and Strangers, Kate's Friends, Miss Kate, Other Mothers, Paigey Waigey Wiggle Pop, Parenting | No Comments »

The greatest truths are spoken in the kitchen. Don’t you think?

Like yesterday. I was with two Mama friends waiting for some mac and cheese to cook. Our five girls were playing in the next room. And my friend, who I’ll call Molly, started riffing off Ayelet Waldman’s media-frenzy “love my hub more than my kids” comment.

Molly’s all, “I mean, if the girls and J were all standing at the edge of a cliff and someone had to go? I’m sorry but, ‘Goodbye, J!’”

That life-altering decision would come as little surprise to her husband, she explained. In fact, the two of them make sport of those kinds of things.

“Oh we play this game all the time,” she said. “Which could you stand to live without—mint chip ice cream?” holding one hand up in the air. “Or the baby?” raising the other hand, then balancing them back and forth.

Giving the pasta a stir she looks at us laughing. “Mint chip ice cream IS pretty good.”

It sounds crass, but Molly’s an all-star mother. And she adores that fine man of hers.

The thing is, those of us who work this Mama gig fulltime need this kind of emotional outlet. It’s like love leeching. Undistracted by conference calls, irate clients, and Friday bagel days, we’re immersed undiluted in the worlds of our children who we love so fiercely. To the point where it can gets sickening. You need a break, a little let-up.

Before having kids I’d heard parents yammer on about their hearts existing outside their bodies. They’d say they couldn’t watch Law & Order any more. The crimes they’d show against kids were just too painful.

I always found that a bit dramatic. And, in my pre-Mama days, frankly boring.

But then I had Kate. Not only did I feel some version of my heart living outside my body, I felt at times like it was wrapped in barbed wire. Some days it was being dragged down the street behind a speeding car.

Last week, during her after-school snack, Kate mentioned, “No one wanted to play with me today.” This news flash, delivered so off-handedly, made me want to turn from the table and barf.

When Kate was a wee babe-ish, I was in her room, rocking her in a chair that was positioned in manner that could best be described as a feng shui train wreck. I’m not sure what compelled me to cram it at the window alongside the crib, but there it was. And there I was. Wedged in and rocking.

Maybe it was the hormones, maybe the tragic feng sui, but as I sat there gazing at her small human-ness, I had the thought that some kid might tease her on a playground some day. That someone might be mean to her. And that nearly destroyed me. Tears and snot started dripping down my face.

Then, because it’s fun to sometimes push oneself to an even more painful level, I had the thought that she could get sick. I’m not talking bad scary sick, just like a cold. And that threw me over the edge.

I was shaking and snorting and wondering how we could hole up there in that room with the poorly-arranged furniture and live out our days. Safe from mean children, germs, the world.

And then, since none of these imagined atrocities were even upon us—or her, as it were—and I was handling just the thought of them so poorly, I started blubbering even harder. Dismayed by how poorly this all boded for my ability to cope as a parent.

As I said, it might’ve been the hormones. But it might also have just been my first concentrated dose of Mama love. It’s so huge it can be downright staggering when a wave of it rolls over you sometimes.

But blessedly, that love spigot ain’t turned to full blast 24×7. That’s what refusing-to-get-dressed tantrums are for, right? To give one a bit of perspective that, well, someone being mean to her on the playground might not be the worst thing ever.

I mean, in Molly’s game if you don’t pick the ice cream answer sometimes, you’ll just sit in a rocking chair weeping and forlorn with love all day. And that’s just not productive for anyone.

But hearing no one wanted to play with Kate—when friendlessness ranks high as an unimaginable hell for me—was brutal. There she was, eating her vanilla yogurt. Not being whiny or demanding or grabbing toys from her sister. Being so mild and wide-eyed and innocent.

Add to that, changing Paige’s dipe that morning, I noticed 20-odd angry red splotches on her legs. Marks that, after several friends inspected them throughout the day, I concluded were spider bites.

Some malevolent spider invaded Sweet P’s crib to prey on her while she slept! And now the poor girl was distraught, clawing at the itchy welts and looking, well, diseased.

I’m scared shitless of spiders, but if I ever saw the thing that did that to her, I’d punch it square in the eye. Damn baby biter.

Though I have to admit thinking that spider must’ve been psyched to’ve found Paige. One bite of that plump gam and he knew he’d hit the flesh-eating jackpot.

I went to a writing class Wednesday. The teacher, a divorcee in her 40s with no kids, writes mostly memoirs and personal essays. She mentioned she’d recently hit a dry patch. Not finding much life fodder to make the subject of a story.

Here she is, wrung dry. And I’m desperately—sometimes painfully—in love with three people, who all live under the same roof. I spend idle moments daydreaming about a third child, thinking it could maybe sop up some of this surplus of love.

With my luck though, I’d likely just produce more.

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