I have a confession to make: I judged other mothers when they couldn't control their small children. I even judged family members; ask my sister Kathy or my sister-in-law Jody. I thought that they just didn't have this parenting thing down like my husband and I did. I thought that if they would just use a little discipline, a strict sleep schedule and a limit on sweets their kids would straighten up and fly right.
Flying right in my book was not throwing themselves on the floor of the grocery store when their mother wouldn't buy them M&Ms. It meant that their tongue stayed firmly in their mouths, and not stuck out at their mothers. It meant that they were groomed properly: no hair that looked like it was brushed in the blender, no crusted snot at the base of their nose, no visible tartar on their teeth (okay, I am married to a dentist…this matters). It meant that they looked and acted like mini versions of the accomplished adults that they were going to be.
My first two children fit perfectly into my mold. I proudly paraded them around town accepting all of the accolades that came my way. I will never forget the librarian telling me that my children were always a welcome
About this time our family decided to adopt a baby from China. I envisioned a delicate, dark-haired angel that would fall in line like her brothers and sisters had. I knew that I was in trouble the minute I looked deep into Grace's coal black eyes. Mischief fairly sprang from her eyes and did a jig around the room. I was scared.
It didn't take Grace long to confirm my fears. Her baptism video shows a flailing satin clad one-year-old kicking her feet faster than a hummingbird flaps its wings. In the video she is waving to the crowd as I am wrestling her head over the baptismal font, water splashing everywhere. When the camera comes in for a close up of me there is a look of sheer terror and recognition in my eyes. I am now that mom…the mom that can't control her child
I am determined not to be that mom, so I do my best to stuff this wiggly, wormy, messy child into the mold that I had used so successfully on my older two children. I put her in time out; I put her in time in. I put her to bed; I put her to bed again and again and again. I limit treats; she eats sugar packets that she smuggled in from the local McDonalds. I comb her hair; she adds grape jelly to it like it is mousse. I buy her new clothes she takes them off…all the way off. I find discarded underwear like breadcrumbs behind her. Apparently underwear "bug" her. I have the only toddler in three counties that goes commando in dresses.
I get the stares that I used to give. I used to call it, "the look." which is a combination of one raised eyebrow, a turned down mouth, all knowing eyes and the barest shake of the head. The headshake is subtle, but it is there. It is used to confirm to the intended target that you are truly disgusted with her parenting skills and have all of the answers from the "Fantastic Parenting Manual."
The first "look" I get is from the clerk at my local grocery store. This is the same clerk that years earlier had nodded admiringly as my perfect children had obediently helped me separate my grocery items into neat groups on the conveyer belt. Didn't she recognize me anymore? I wanted to shout, "hey, it's me, over here, super mom. Don't you remember me? I do everything right. I win the mommy prize." I'm glad that I didn't shout that, because she would have had to add a second raised eyebrow to the look she was already giving me. The second raised eyebrow was adds, "cuckoo" to the "bad mom who can't control her kids: look.
The grocery store clerk didn't need to tell me that I was a bad mom that had slipped into cuckooville. I knew who I was, and where I now lived. If I had any doubts, I just had to look up at the face of the preschool teacher each day when I came for pick up. "She did what? Please apologize to the overweight janitor and let him know that I don't think that he looks anything like Santa Claus. While your at it, could you let the other students know that I am sorry for what they saw when Grace hung upside down from the monkey bars. It will be pants for recess from now on."
I always know when a Grace story is coming. The person walking toward me smirks and bends over with laughter as they say, "You won't believe what Grace just did, said, ate, showed me, etc." There was the time that Grace answered a text from my knit night group and told them that I was going poo-poo and it was too smelly for her to give me the phone. When a neighbor invited us for a cookout Grace not only accepted, but also suggested that the party be held at our house.