Thursday, November 19, 2009

So, I was going to be all slick and have a link for y'all to a PARENTING site that was going to PAY ME for an essay about traveling with the kids. LIKE A LOT OF MONEY YO.

On Monday it was accepted. On Tuesday they wanted an author bio and a photo. And on Thursday I got a note saying a whole bunches of accepted pieces had been cut because the new editor started this week and wants to "go in a new direction."

Which I have to say REALLY IRRITATES ME. As does the whole lack-of-making money thing. I want to know I could live on more than pocket lint if I had to support myself and PARENTAL INTERVENTIONS do NOT COUNT (not that I am complaining, mind you.)


Here it is. The odds of me finding another outlet for this piece are slim, and anyhow, only like eight people read this blog anyhow (Hi, Mom!) so screw 'em.

Pay me in comments.

I Am That Woman
by APvB

Once upon a time, my husband of one day and I got on a plane, giddy with our new marriage, and toasted each other with champagne on our way to Capri. Giggles and bubbles--at least until the nightmare of every traveler materialized in the seat next to me: a sticky, screaming toddler began tugging at my arm, climbing up and jumping down, over and over and over again.

His mother was pregnant-- very pregnant. I did my best to ignore her and her child (at the time, it seemed like the polite thing to do). At some point over the Atlantic, she crouched on the floor, rocking back and forth, trying to coax her son to sleep, saying "Mommy needs to sleep too, Mommy needs to sleep too," over and over again. She sounded near tears.

Despite my giddiness, I saw. And I swore to myself that that would never be me.

Four years later, my husband works a corporate job where he gets ten days of vacation a year. We live a thousand miles from my family. We have two children under two: Annaliese, twenty-one months, and Caspian, four months. And my grandfather is ninety-two and anxious to meet his great-grandson, the first male of the family since 1919.

"I can't go," my husband says.

"No problem," I say. "I'll take them."

So the plans are made: two non-stop flights (with lengthy car trips on either side, since no one actually lives near a major airport.) A week at the house of my childhood, where my daughter will feed sheep with my mother and Caspian will bob along in the Bjorn as relative upon relative descends to see the children, the first children of the new generation.

And it goes well.

Sure, I'm the only one to wake up with children for a week, so I'm more tired than usual. And Annaliese clogs my mother's toilet by flushing mounds of toilet paper, and I forget the all-essential Bjorn at my father's house, and Annaliese falls and scrapes her chin open-- but it goes well. Annaliese pulls on her new boots and goes out with her grandmother every day to feed the sheep and pet the donkeys. Caspian manages to go to sleep without his missing pacifier. And we spend a precious half-hour with my grandfather in a hospital, where he dandles his new great-grandson on his knee.

The week has passed, and all I have to do is get me and my brood home.

I prepare like a general. The car is packed the night before. The diaper bag contains a new coloring book, diapers, wipes, a bottle since Caspian refuses to nurse on plane rides, three new pacifiers, snacks, and clean outfits for both the children. I stick my cell phone and my wallet in the outside pocket, since I'll be holding Annaliese's hand and carrying Caspian in the airport, which means I have the mobility of an overburdened mule.

"All I have to do is get home," I tell myself.

We rise early. I don my new Anthropologie boatneck shirt and the dark jeans that make me look skinny. I strap the children in their carseats, convince my mother to drive, and then we brave the nation's traffic; it takes us over two hours to arrive at the airport, but arrive we do, in plenty of time, with no one crying.

A good start.

My mother hands a porter some bills and he helps us load a cart with the mountains of luggage and the two carseats. I strap Caspian into the Bjorn that my father had driven fifty miles to return and ask my mother to hand me the diaper bag.

"I love you," she says, and kisses my cheek. "You have your cellphone?"

It's in the outside pocket of the bag, which I am wearing. "Yes," I say in a of-course kind of voice. And then I am grabbing Annaliese's hand and walking in front of traffic after the porter. I am sweating. I am nervous. All I have to do is get on the plane. I don't see my wallet sticking out of the diaper bag's pocket, but I hardly have a complete view, laden like a packhorse with a baby blanket draped over the diaper bag, and so I tell myself not to panic.

But then I can't stand it anymore.

"Sir!" I call to the porter, and he stops. I kneel, Caspian's head bobbing in front of me, and remove the blanket. To see my wallet is not in any of the pockets. And neither is my cell phone.

"No, no, no," I say under my breath, and the sweating picks up. Caspian doesn't like being suspended upside down, so he begins to wail. Annaliese wants to go see the baggage claim. "Just wait!" I tell my children, and I check all the pockets once, two, three more times.

Pacifier, granola bar, crayons; check. Wallet, cell phone, all forms of identification... no.

It's then that I panic.

It turns out that, if you happen to have a few twenties tucked away to pay the checking fees, you can actually board a flight without any forms of identification. You have to go through increased security, of course, answering questions about in which county your car is registered while holding a squirming toddler on one hip and the baby hanging from your front. No one will offer to hold your child while you fill out a form with one hand, but the official does say he'll excuse your chicken-scratch handwriting.

We get on the plane. It is eleven o'clock in the morning and I feel as if I have been run-over. We sit in the back, where we always sit now that we have children, as if the smell of the toilets is all we deserve. We sit on the entirely full flight, Annaliese in the middle, Caspian and I on the aisle, and an elderly man in the window seat. There are three teenage boys behind me, and I hope, I hope, I hope that I don't have to nurse Caspian on the flight.

Raisins and Cheerios are dispensed. Annaliese gets busy sticking her new stickers on every available surface, most enjoyably on the headrest of her seat (she's standing, of course) and flirting with the teenage boys behind us. Caspian sits peaceably enough on my lap.

I think, just for a moment-- "this is the children's nap time. Wonder if they'll fall asleep."

And then I am getting Annaliese strapped in for the ascent. It's not easy-- she cries, writhes in protest, but I say things like "You listen to me, Missy," and then I give her new stickers. She sits. The plane takes off.

It doesn't take long to go entirely to hell.

Caspian screams. He refuses the bottle. I offer him breast, his feet hanging into Annaliese's lap; he accepts, but she can't stand to have her brother's feet touching her, and so she squeals in protest. Then she spills her Cheerios. I switch sides; she smacks his head. The drinks cart comes wheeling up the aisle, I move Caspian, his head slips, and the retiree sees my nipple. A smell arises; Annaliese has pooped. There is no room to change her diaper. I look around for someone to hold the baby-- maybe we could do it somehow in the bathroom-- but no one will meet my eyes. Caspian has fallen asleep; Annaliese wants to read her A-B-C book. I read with her for awhile but then the baby wakes up and I am rocking him, patting him, dropping the pacifier which the teenage boys retrieve for me. I wipe it on my Anthropologie shirt and see Annaliese has left boogers on my shoulder. She asks the retiree to read, saying "read pease?" but he tells her he doesn't have his glasses. It really smells. I am letting my daughter sit in her own waste. I am a bad mother. In penance, I let Annaliese put stickers on my face, anointed by the touch of her small fingers placing a calculator on my cheek, does anyone see how patient and kind I am being? The baby is crying again. He too has pooped. It has spread against all the laws of gravity up his back and through his outfit: onto the right hip of my booger-shouldered Anthropologie shirt.

It doesn't get better from there. More crying, one then the other, then both at the same time. A downright temper tantrum when I try to get Annaliese to sit down and strapped in for the descent; the stewardess yells at me; the retiree pretends to fall asleep. No one tells me how precious my children are. Caspian's Born-Free bottle rolls somewhere and the teenage boys behind me can't find it.

This is how my husband finds me at the baggage claim: I am the one with boogers and poop on my shirt, with a wailing child on my hip and a baby hanging from my front, with a heap of luggage next to me because he was late and I had to take it off the carousel myself. The children smell. Annaliese's boot has fallen off.

The moment he appears, I burst into tears.

Much, much later, the children are changed and fed and loaded in their installed car seats and we are heading south on the interstate. "I was that woman," I tell my husband as we speed south in the sound of blessed silence, for my children, my precious children, have fallen asleep. "I AM that woman," I say.

Nearly two years into motherhood, I still find it hard to believe.


Anonymous said...

Aaaahahahahahahaaahahaha.....I laughed so hard...I loved this! Great, Lex, just great!

You are that mother.

We all are :-}


laili6 said...

I was pressing the random blog button when I came across your post. Awesome article, super funny, well done.

Anonymous said...

OK,I know I'm your Mom--but I absolutely agree with both comments---one of which, I just want to point out, is from a STRANGER!!!

Even though I'd read it before, I laughed again tonight. Babble's loss---
And I HAVE told you about the time you had a similar monster poop in a NyC subway and I had to change you on the ground,in the open,as the Wall Street commuters rushed by with disdainful faces and averted eyes---

Eliza said...

i am in class and just burst out laughing. that was hilarious but now my geology teacher is looking at me funny.

apparently plate tectonics AREN'T that funny??

Screw Babbel. That was hilarious

Frances said...

You are a brilliant writer-- which I have known since high school. I have full confidence that if you really had to-- you could get a job and support yourself. You had one, remember main street? However, being a mom is A FULL TIME JOB. And you are doing it beautifully. Don't be so hard on yourself.

Anonymous said...


CAITLIN! said...

That was a really great essay Alexe, geez I knew you had a miserable time on the flight but not *how* miserable, yipes. No way to change the baby on the seat tray, huh? :-) Now I want Kagan to take a trip with the kiddoes while you take bubble baths and eat bonbons!