Friday, November 18, 2011

Wonder Woman: Wasting, Worrying, Waiting, Whining

Despite the images of can-do mothers that pop up in most television commercials (e.g. Kelly Ripa zipping around like the Stainless Steel Appliance Fairy on speed), most days I do not feel like Wonder Woman. Rather than boldly fighting crime in a brightly-colored metallic bodysuit, I slouch around the house in stretched-out Target t-shirts covered in mysterious stains while I meander through a seemingly endless assortment of minor annoyances and irritations with varying degrees of success and confidence.

So I guess in some sense I do feel like Wonder Woman, with an equivocation on the word "wonder." Mostly, I wonder why everything is so gosh darn annoying.

Here is a sampling of the current barrage of aggravations. In the spirit of Sesame Street that is currently haunting our house, these will be brought to you by the letter "W":

1.) Wasting - mostly food, but also time, money, energy, daylight, the bygone days of youth. For now, I'll focus on food. My daughter is not, as they say "a good eater." She also has a tenuous grasp on the meaning of the word yes. In fact, she has never once said the actual word "yes," preferring instead to say "I do" or "cool" when she wishes to answer in the affirmative. This tendency frequently turns meal times into our family's version of toddler tapas: small plates of food, all untouched. Or mostly untouched. Maybe I should say "uneaten," because the food is actually frequently touched. And sometimes thrown. But rarely consumed. Some days I look at the vast quantity of food we throw away and really do wish that we could box it up and send it to those less fortunate - or at least more hungry - than my daughter.

2.) Worrying - this is pretty much self-explanatory, although that doesn't stop me from chronicling my concerns extensively here and on Facebook. Never the most decisive person, my days have now become epic studies in doubt and ambivalence. From ibuprofen overdoses to language delays to strange rashes, children present endless opportunities to consider whether you are doing everything wrong while bringing another life (or two, or four, or ten if you are especially brave and/or fertile) down the same long, winding road of despair. Call me the Pied Piper of Paranoia. My advice: never google anything having to do with your children. Especially after they go to bed, with a glass of wine. (Them in bed, you with wine.) It also helps never to talk to other parents, unless you have previously established that their kids are as messed up as yours.

3.) Waiting - nothing happens quickly with kids, even though everyone loves to tell you how fast the years go by once you have them. I don't know what magical clock they are using to tell time, but in our house it takes roughly an eternity to get my daughter dressed and out of the house, or to coax her to sleep, or to wait for her to be done pooping, or to find matching socks. It can take her over an hour to eat a Triscuit. Supposedly before I know it she will be asking to borrow my car keys, but until that happens I feel like I am already practicing for those late nights spent tossing and turning in bed listening for the creak of the front door and the sneaky footsteps on the stairs as my daughter creeps in at - or well past - her curfew. I lie awake next to her while she tosses and turns at nap and bed times. I creep into her room at night to make sure she is breathing. I listen for the sound of my husband arriving home so I can sneak off to use the bathroom by myself. It seems like I am always waiting for something big or small or merely different to happen - sleep, first steps, first words, first day of school, etc. - knowing that as soon as each milestone does occur, I will probably be lamenting days past and telling everyone how quickly times flies. See #1 and #2.

4.) Whining - although I am probably the person in my house most guilty of this crime, it is not entirely surprising that my daughter is getting pretty good at it too. And although I limit my rants to a few standard themes (e.g. bad drivers, other mothers, why it is taking so long to get my damn book published, poor diaper design) my still mostly pre-verbal daughter has developed a repertoire of screeches that convey myriad displeasures ranging from the inability to get her shoes on the correct feet, Elmo suddenly disappearing from the TV screen, or running full force into a display of 2 liter Coke bottles at the grocery store. From the moment she wakes, to the moment she falls asleep, I am assaulted by the incomprehensible shrieks of a perpetually frustrated pterodactyl. People say that once she really starts talking I will miss these days. But I don't think so. Also see #3.

I wouldn't be concerned about the amount of time I wander through these different states of frustration, except for the fact that I once read an article in a psychological journal about how the precipitating event for major psychological breaks in otherwise sane and apparently happy individuals wasn't usually a major event itself, but rather the steady accumulation of small and seemingly insignificant irritations. So, for example, the husband who suddenly offs his wife after many decades of marriage doesn't necessarily cite some huge transgression on her part as the motivating fact for his act, but rather the fact that she had always insisted on putting the mayonnaise in front of the pickles in the refrigerator. Or squeezed the toothpaste from the top of the tube rather than the bottom. Or inadequately estimated the amount of food needed to feed a two year old.

This makes me wonder what I'm headed for, since it definitely doesn't appear to be Themyscira. Or imperviousness to hot or cold. Or the ability to hurl space ships through space. I can't even bake a cake and roast a chicken at the same time (a la Kella Ripa).

I don't envy Wonder Woman her Lasso of Truth. Ok, maybe I envy her lasso a little bit. And I don't need her bulletproof bracelets, nor even her invisible plane. Still, I would definitely trade in my Cardigan of Vexation for a Twinset of Tolerance or some Earrings of Equanimity - or maybe even just a wagon of willful ignorance.

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