By Laurie Esposito Harley
Written in 2009, when my children were 8, 5, and 1.
I’m above average. Instead of having 2.5 children, I’ve gone the extra mile and had a whole 3. When my first daughter was born, and I was given the sparkly new name of “Mom,” I found out how ridiculously difficult being a parent is. It’s the hardest job I’ve ever done… and I’ve been a waitress! But this mom gig is so much more fun than waitressing and the pay of love and kisses is worth much more than any $2.00 tip.
Then my second daughter came along. I was warned of the difficulties of 2 vs. 1. But I found that #1 helped out with #2. She’d bring me diapers, help entertain, and find the elusive matching baby sock.
Then I became pregnant with #3. People said that as parents, we would now be outnumbered. Plus a person only has two hands to hold and two knees to sit on. But again, #1 and #2 are more than willing to help with #3, a boy. And, even though it’s not easy, I am capable of holding three children in my lap. But this is just a minor example of where the demands of parenting prove to be difficult.
There are some days that I barely get all three fed and the breakfast dishes cleaned when I hear little voices repeating the daily chorus of “I’m hungry.” I give them an option. Do you want this or that?
#1 shouts, “This!”
#2 shouts, “That!”
#3 shouts his favorite word, “No!”
Of course they don’t agree. I fix this and that. #1’s plate gets this. #2’s that. #3 gets both this and that ’cause he eats just about anything. I turn to get drinks. I have not even made it the two steps from dining room to kitchen before I hear: “Eww. I don’t like this.”
But you asked for this! I say. But you shouted for this! I plead. There’s inevitably an excuse. But this “this” has cheese. Or… but I only like Daddy’s “this,” and this is the other kind of “this.” Or… but today’s Tuesday and I never eat what you put on my plate on Tuesday.
Meanwhile #2 is emphasizing how yummy everything is and how good she’s being for eating it all. Today. #3 has eaten three helpings in a flurry of motion and now he begins the process of throwing the remaining bits on the floor or tucking them into his shirt. As I return to the kitchen with #1’s plate, I hear her call out, “Mom?” She points out sweetly that she’s thirsty.
Well, if you had eaten what I gave you then you would already— Oh, it’s no use. I quickly whip together a completely new lunch option for #1 and place it in front of her. As I turn back to get the drinks, I hear #2. “Hey! I want some of what she has! And I’m thirsty.”
And it goes on like this. And it drives me crazy. And I want to pull my hair out. My hair. My hand instinctively goes to my head even as I write this. I can’t pull my hair out. I’ve already cut it off.
My daughter (#1) had a spontaneous brain bleed on May 29th and almost died. Her head was shaved for brain surgery. My husband and I cut off our hair in support of her. Wouldn’t you if your baby looks up at you… tears in her eyes from the pain, tubes and wires entering and exiting her, a soft white wrap on her hairless head… and she looks at you and asks why? why did her hair have to be cut off?
We’ll grow it back together. We’ll scratch like crazy as it grows in. We’ll wear matching bandanas and complain all summer that a hat on your head is “way hotter” than a head full of hair. And when our hair does grow in, we’ll go the salon together and make a day of it. Because she’s my daughter. And I’m her mom. And the same goes for #2 and #3. They’re my babies, and yeah, it’s tough, but we have each other and I love every minute of it.