I can confidently say that I’ve left the insecurities of my youth behind. I can go to dinner with my much thinner friend and not want to sneak mayonnaise into her salad. I can flip through racks of pants at Target without mumbling profanities and curses at all the size-2 labels. It’s all maturity and progress…
…until I had a baby and realized that he was not so much stealing my milk as he was stealing my thunder. At a time when most women are concerned with the catastrophe of their vaginas and learning to function without sleep, I was plagued with the burning memories of a girl showing up to the party in my dress and looking better in it, the disappointment that eyes didn’t snap when I entered the room.
The transition from Pregnant Princess to Baby Prince’s lowly assistant was as swift and painful as labor. Pregnancy spoiled me so severely that I attracted flies and heaps of gifts. My formerly meek demeanor changed from “Oh, thank you for offering, ma’am, but I can load my own groceries” to “Damn right you best be pickin’ up my junk ’cause I cain’t be haulin’ this here stuff for nobody”. The attention to my every step morphed from mildly obnoxious to thrilling. I lost all my morals and began openly exploiting my ripened belly for perks. Suddenly I bartered with folks. You may touch my sacred bump with one hand so long as you come bearing gifts or favors in the other.
Approximately two seconds after the last slippery push, I faced a child and a room of wide-eyed visitors with no interest in giving me a closer parking spot or running to the store at 3 am to fetch me some chicken. Oh, how the mighty
selfish have fallen! This downward slip from baby-growing phenomenon to mere baby handler has picked up speed as my boy has transformed from burping blob to a fleshy masterpiece of personality.
The first signs of my unimportance surfaced at home. After a monotonous day of wash-wipe-change-burp-cook, I scrounged up the energy to properly take care of myself. I rushed through the motions of my former routine as the baby napped. Thirteen long minutes later I had shaved one-and-a-half legs, washed my hair, remembered to sport deodorant, and even gone the extra step to blink through the black mascara wand. The rest of the afternoon I stopped at odd times to look at my presentable self in various reflective surfaces. Girlfriend, you are a champion. When my fiance returned home from work, I eagerly raced to the kitchen sink near the door. I would nonchalantly wash dishes as he entered. He would probably drop his jaw and maybe even his suitcase upon beholding what beauty awaited him. After a quick hello, he dropped his things on the table and practically bounded to our son, silently staring at the ceiling fan as drool puddled under his gummy chins. “Baby looks so cute today. Yes baby do. Mama did a good job dressing baby cute today!,” he gushed like a very giddy schoolgirl over the matching onesie and pants the infant modeled. I nearly scrubbed a hole through the hard, plastic bottle. Mama did a good job making MAMA cute today! You know what’s for dinner? CHOPPED LIVER!
For the better part of his first year, I grew accustomed to the social conundrum known as the Ghost Mom. Upon entering family gatherings or any social environment outside the home, my skin and clothes and personality and significance immediately vaporized, leaving only a shell of a former person. I drifted quietly behind the scenes, changing diapers and administering naps as people looked right up and down and through me. Upon entering the room, delighted squeals surrounded my son. People elbowed and stampeded just to touch his chubby baby foot and maybe, just maybe, elicit the Holy One’s giggle. Oh, you are too kind. Who am I kidding? You are blessed by my presence. Burp! Would you like for me to enlighten your peasant brains with my majestic cooing? Toot! Of course you would! I spent the time staring at my freshly painted toenails and hoping that Jesus was looking down and appreciating my efforts.
In recent months, my son’s magnetic presence has only been enhanced by his newfound mobility and moderate grasp of basic words and party tricks. My position has become one of a very burly bodyguard for The Justin Bieber. Responsibilities center around preventing the crazy fans from tearing off his clothes or kissing him to death. Strategically placed screens appear to the unassuming eyes as tools for reflecting sun from the baby’s eyes. Trained professionals know these are essential in privately transporting the star from arena to crib. He sits in the swanky backseat, sipping milk and practicing his signature hair toss while I nervously navigate the parking lot, scanning the perimeter for diehard fans: retired teachers, elderly men, other women with children, grocery employees.
This week we headed to the store in what we thought to be a routine trip. Milk, eggs, stop to sign autographs and credit card receipts, swift job to the car, check the trunk for Baby’s admirers in hiding, go home. As I parked the car and opened the door, my face scrunched. This was a clear indication that something was amiss. I continued around the vehicle and set about to free the pint-sized showstopper from his security-minded seat. And then it hit me. Wind. Chilly wind on my very free bosom. Upon further inspection I found that basics such as bra-fastening, clean-pants-wearing, and hair-brushing had been overlooked. I glanced down at my son, the consummate professional, with his shiny hair and color-coordinated ensemble, and for the first time in 16 months, I prayed for Ghost Mom.
As we wheeled through produce, I whispered sweet, alterior-motived nothings in my toddler’s ear. Give ‘em a show, big boy. Wow ‘em with your best moves. If they look at Mommy too closely, you will probably be taken away under suspicion of rampant drug use in our home. Let me see those Jazz Hands. And he did not disappoint. No fewer than fifteen people turned and approached to witness the dazzling Boy Wonder. He flirted with the elderly ladies as they stocked up on vitamin chews. He high-fived husky men who called him “Champ” and “Hoss”. He giggled with such brilliant pitch and melody that the girl stopped bagging our groceries to make him his very own Kroger name tag. I maneuvered the cart with my elbows to keep two hands firmly crossed over my chest. Success.
Just yesterday, we attended an Alzheimer’s Awareness event at my father’s work. After a long morning playing outside, I realized my pasty, white skin was splotchy and red from the sun. The underarm fabric of my shirt was a testament to my profuse love of sweating. We arrived to the event, parked a mile away, and I schlepped through the hot, sticky air with the boy on my hip. All the effort that went into preparing for human interaction melted. My only hope was that there was a giant, industrial fan I could hug or maybe smeared eyeliner and flaming hives had suddenly become fashionable. My father spotted us and commenced to introducing his pride and joy to the crowd, “This is my grandson! Hey big feller! Isn’t he precious?”.
So perhaps being thunderless, spotlightless, and generally ignored has its perks. In a move to further prevent myself from being seen when under the influence of Lazy, Sloppy, or Otherwise Homely, I am buying the boy some tap shoes and a top hat. Juggling and Mime Classes to follow. Entertain the masses, sweet child, while Mommy hides her shortcomings!
*To book The Boy Wonder for your next event, please contact Mommy Exploits Talent at www.mompleasedon’tmakeme.com .