Friday, July 5, 2013

Unhelpful Things People Say to Mothers: Part One In What Will Probably Be an Infinite Series

There I was, at the pool with my three-year-old daughter, Iris.  Iris was in the middle of a kicking, shrieking, flailing, snotty-faced tantrum that would rival the head-twisting-pea-soup-spitting scenes in The Exorcist.  All over a snow cone. 

Or, more correctly, over a foul concoction of melted ice, bright red syrup in a flavor called Tutti Frutti, and the bugs that had died in an attempt to get a taste of it. 

Or, most correctly, over the fact that I had just made the executive decision to throw away the foul concoction rather than let Iris drink it.

This was preceded by a tense two and a half minutes of wrestling over the styrofoam cup that contained the foul concoction.  I tried to pry the cup from Iris’s hands while she tried to pull it away from me with a grasp that threatened to puncture the sides of the cup and screeched that it was HERS and she was going to DRINK IT before we left the pool and she WANTED IT and I was a BAD MOMMY!!!!    

While thunder boomed in the background, ending all fun at the pool for the day, and it began first to sprinkle and then to drizzle, I struggled to get Iris’s arms into her cover-up so I could put her in her car seat without getting it sopping wet. 

Me:  (hissing at Iris through gritted teeth and forcing one of her arms through a sleeve) Iris, we need to get your cover-up on!
Iris:  (yanking her arm repeatedly to try to get it out of the sleeve while screaming so hard snot flies out of her nose) I WANT MY ICE CONE!!!
Me:  (grabbing her other flailing arm to put in in the other sleeve)  Well, it’s gone already, what do you want me to do?
Iris:  (flapping her arm out of my hand) YOU DON’T THROW MY ICE CONE AWAY!!!!!!
Me:  (taking a deep breath and attempting to be as calm as possible) Iris, please let me put your cover-up on, honey.
Iris:  (sob)  DON’T EVER.  (heave)  THROW AWAY.  (sniffle-snort)  MY ICE CONE!!  (sob)  YOU THREW.  (howl)  MY.  (wail) ICE  CONE!!! 

I had already tried hugging and comforting her, letting her know that I understood why it was so sad that she couldn’t finish the snow cone.  Which didn't work.  I had also tried being stern and telling her that she needed to settle down or she would be put in time out and/or she wouldn’t get to come back to the pool.  Which worked less.  I had also already bribed her with an ice cream cone from McDonalds if she would just quiet down.  Which actually had the opposite effect, prompting Iris to scream at me, "I DON'T WANT ICE CREAM FROM MCDONALDS I WANT MY ICE CONE!!!!!"

Anyone who was watching could see that I was having, to put it mildly, a difficult time handling my child.  Actually, anyone within a two-mile radius could hear that I was having a difficult time handling my child. 

I was nearly in tears, myself.

Which is when a little old lady walked past us on the pool deck on her way out to the parking lot, wearing a little, clear, plastic rain hat to protect her beehive of steel-grey curls.  She paused and smiled down at where I was crouching and wrestling with the zipper on Iris’s cover-up as Iris continued to screech and writhe.  And do you know what that little old lady said?  She said, “Cherish this time.  It goes by so fast.”

I didn’t say anything.  I would say I was too stunned to say anything, but the truth is, I was actually too polite.  Because what I WANTED to say, what immediately popped into my head was, Lady…that right there is a good way to get punched in the boob.” 

Look, I know she meant well.  And it’s not like I’m unaware that, at some point in the future, when Iris is all grown up and I am gray and wrinkled and struggling to see over the steering wheel of my car, that I might look back at this time in my life with some sort of delusional nostalgia.  Perspective is, after all, everything.  But, while my daughter is having the tantrum to end all tantrums?  Maybe I’m just not in a cherishing mood.

And, if that little old lady really wants to know how fast the time goes, she needs to come to my house at 4:30 in the afternoon, when Iris and I have already played every game and colored every picture and been to a play date and watched as much television as I’m going to allow and walked the dog together and I have to work on fixing dinner and Iris decides that right then is a good time to practice her squealing runs across the family room or raid my purse and color her dress with my lipstick.  I will gladly hand Iris over to that little old lady and let her deal with it all. 
And then?  Then that little old lady can tell me all about how very very quickly all this cherished time is passing.


  1. Best turn of phrase: "Delusional Nostalgia" ... note to self, use at least once today.

    Great post!

  2. Your story is least to me maybe not to you so much! The one thing the little old lady failed to mention to you, is that one day you will be a little old lady with grandchildren and the cycle will begin all over again!
    Love, your "other" mother

  3. I remember far too well what it was like to be in that situation to EVER encourage enjoying a moment like that. Good grief.