How I Become This Mother

How I Became This Mother

I always played the mom when we played house in Kindergarten. And I was a stickler for the rules. I bossed my five-year-old friends around as you might imagine I would; I ruled with a plastic spoon. I picked favorites. Those kids got to work in the play kitchen. If someone I didn’t like wanted to play house with us, she would inevitably end up grounded and be sent to her “room” for most of recess. Sometimes I pretend spanked her, never really touching her.

Thinking of that now makes me want to vomit.

A friend of mine had a baby the summer before eighth grade. I still didn’t know how sex worked exactly, so for her to be pregnant felt other-worldly. Very Mary, mother of Jesus, because how else would a 13-year-old girl-child come down with child. In the locker room, as we discussed yet another tantalizing article in YM, I was the genius who decided oral sex must be french kissing because your tongues were in each others’ mouths. I don’t know what happened to that girl or her child. That makes me sad.

In rural Western Pennsylvania in the 90s, girls regularly got pregnant in high school. I suppose they still do, but to me, raised to think sex before marriage was the worst thing, the unforgivable sin, the number of swelling bellies passing me in the halls felt like an epidemic. And oh, how I judged.

My mom had me at 19. Her mom had her at 19. Her mom had her at 19.

So when I turned 20 with no baby on my hip, I got downright smug. Look at me. Look at all the things I’m accomplishing with my life. Nevermind the fact my anxiety at attempting to achieve all these things caused me to cut myself in the dark of night. The fact that I wasn’t one of them was a point of pride. They say pride always comes before the fall. They’re right.

I decided maybe I didn’t want children at all. Having recognized maybe I wouldn’t win that Grammy, I decided I’d be a field reporter. I’d travel the globe. I’d see things, do things, report on the people and places around the world. I’d win awards. I’d make something of myself. I’d be somebody.

My daughter changed my life plan.

I was going to be the best mother. We’d have one of those relationships they make cheese movies about; we’d be Lorelai and Rory but without the guy drama on my part. No, I’d focus on my daughter. I’d do this one thing right. I’d do it perfectly. Perfectly.

And then I got sick. And scared.

I thought about the struggling relationship I experienced with my own mother. I thought about the struggling relationship she experienced with her mom, and she with hers. I looked at my situation, sick and on bed rest and unable to work, and I thought of all those teenage moms I judged. As the Karma Train ran me over, I felt so alone.

Then she was gone. I wasn’t one of those moms. Instead I was completely other. They, instead, judged me.

I judged me.

Sometimes I still judge me. I’m working on it.

There are moments when I see myself as the mother I dreamed I could be in between all those different phases of growing up. Moments when we’re sitting on the couch reading books after a trip to the library. When they feel comfortable telling me anything, asking me anything. When my daughter visits and their voices echo off the walls of the house we’ve made a home. When we’re all in sync and everything feels like this was how it was meant to be.

But it’s always there. Hanging on for dear life. Poking me in my heart. This could have been different. This should have been different. You should have done better.

My motherhood hangs heavy with the nuances of loss and love. Some days I can rectify decisions, and some days I’m left questioning where exactly I went wrong. All I know to do now is to love all three children with all of my being.

It’s all I have to give.


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The Tooth Story

The Tooth Story

I dream of teeth falling out of my head. Crumbling into my hands, my gaping mouth a dark hole. Dreams about teeth falling out apparently have to do with change or fear over losing something important or, ahem, sexual repression.

In these dreams there is no blood, which is how I know that they are, in fact, dreams and not real life. When teeth fall out of real, live, non-dreaming human heads, there’s so much blood.

I suppose I’m ready to tell the story of how my oldest son lost a permanent tooth here on the blog. I told it on Instagram and Facebook, but recording it here makes it mine and permanent. In order to make it mine and permanent, I had to stop gagging every time I thought of what happened.

I succeeded in reaching that point tonight when my lovely oldest son yelled from the living room, “Mom! I LOST A TOOTH!”

And I yelled back, “IS IT ONE YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO LOSE?!”

And he replied, “I THINK SO!”

I met him in the bathroom and did a quick scan of his mouth. Yes, a baby tooth. One that should come out. One that can come out and not need replaced. One that still results in a lot of blood. Like, too much blood.

“Buddy, were you messing with it? Like trying to pick it out?”
“Yeah, it was loose and bothering me.”

We like to force teeth out around these parts.

A few weeks ago, I told BigBrother he could go play at the neighbor’s house. This happened way back before winter returned to the area, so kids actually got to do things like play outside without getting frostbite. LittleBrother stayed at the house because he was burying money. No, really. He had a giant shovel and was digging holes to bury money to find again later with the metal detector.

We know how to have a good time here.

I was in my office with the window open, because again, spring seemed all but arrived. My husband had just walked outside to see how much damage LittleBrother was causing with the shovel when a group of children ran into our back yard.

“Your brother lost an adult tooth!”

I should say right here that I did not panic. I did not think the child lost an “adult” tooth. Any time he feels a loose tooth, he panics and asks, “Is this a permanent tooth?” And I watch him wiggle it, gag, and inform him that no, it’s a baby tooth, and all will be well. So, right at that moment, I’m figuring my oldest son is living up to his dramatic tendencies and that the Tooth Fairy will make a visit some time that night.

My husband, arriving in the back yard, says he’ll walk over.

The kids reply, “Oh, there’s a lot of blood.”

So my husband gets in the car and drives over. I continue working, again thinking nothing at all could possibly be wrong. Maybe he’ll have a bruise if he bonked heads. Life will go on.

I hear the car come into the garage and I meet them at the door in the mudroom.

“Is it a permanent tooth,” I stage-whisper ask.

My husband, holding his arm around our son’s shoulders to keep a bloody rag in his mouth, nods yes. I immediately grab my phone and call the dentist’s office where my mother-in-law works.

“It’s an emergency.”
“He lost a permanent tooth.”
“Put it in milk. Hold on.”

And I hold, standing on the front porch, glad that I took the time to get dressed and make myself presentable as it seems we’ll be leaving the house shortly. LittleBrother walked by with a shovel.

“Yes, put it in milk and get here now.”

As my husband took the bloody tooth, WHICH BY THE WAY WAS GIGANTIC, and put it in a Tupperware container that seems made specifically for milk and teeth, I worked to calm down my oldest son. First I had to assure him that we weren’t mad. I knew that’s what he was most upset about; he doesn’t like to disappoint anyone. Ever. Then I had to reassure him that his Nina would work with the dentist to fix it. I didn’t know what that meant at the time. I just figured they could and would fix it. He finally stopped crying.

I zoned out on the ride to the dentist’s office because my husband was speeding as time is of the essence in tooth-replacement. Once it starts to clot, you have less of a chance of the tooth “taking.” So I gagged on Twitter and read social media report emails and turned to check on the gap-toothed boy every now and then. LittleBrother sat very quietly.

Once at the dentist’s office, they got him set up in the chair. The thing to mention here is that because of my mother-in-law, my children have no fear of the dentist. He just laid back in that chair like he was going to get his hair done and that was that.

Do you want to know how they replace a tooth? After numbing the gums, they just SHOVE IT BACK IN THE GAPING HOLE.

How I didn’t pass out, I don’t have a clue.

They then installed a set of four temporary braces on his bottom front teeth to keep it stationary while it adheres back into his mouth. He’ll need a root canal at some point. He didn’t flinch at any of this, didn’t whine or cry at any of the pain. Meanwhile, I’m woozy writing this just now.

My mother-in-law went out to check on LittleBrother who had stayed in the lobby to watch TV. She brought him into the room and the kid was as white as a ghost. He was scared for his brother. He then crawled up into the chair with him and said, “I love you.”

Listen. I’ll take a little lot of mouth blood, gigantic missing teeth, Tupperware containers of milk, and shoving teeth back where they go just to see a little bit of brotherly love up in this piece. But I’d really rather not do that one again. So maybe if they could just work on the brotherly love without the blood, that’d be swell.

And yeah, we’re done with trampolines.