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I plead guilty, your honor

Submitted by on Sunday, 1 June 2008 No Comment

Originally published March 25, 2007, thehive.modbee.com

Mornings are the worst for mommy guilt.

I tiptoe into Little Guy’s room and see his round rump up in the air – he sleeps on his knees, El wrapped around him, the stuffed elephant head and the curly blond one side by side. He’s so throat-catchingly beautiful that it causes the first knot of the day to clump up in my stomach. He’s just a baby. Babies deserve to sleep.

It’s dark, except for the nightlight, so I grope for his clothes, dreading the moment. No puttering left to do, I go to his bed and caress his back. “Hey, babes, it’s good morning time,” I whisper. He snuggles into my shoulder as I pick him up. No sign of smile until he’s diapered and dressed.

We head down the hall to Big Guy’s room, where the scene is similar. Except Big Guy knows enough words to protest. “No, Mommy, don’t wanna get up. Wanna stay home.” “Yes, love, so do I, but I have to go to work today.”

Big Guy can pretty much clothe and shod himself, but how quickly it happens and how snappish I get depends on how many times he stops to stare off into space. “Get your shoes on NOW or your feet are going to get mighty cold walking to the car,” I growl.

Second knot of the day. He’s been doing such a good job lately of taking care of his own stuff, and I climb his back because he’s not moving quickly enough. He’s only 3. Three-year-olds shouldn’t have to rush through life at warp speed.

Afternoons are the worst.

On days that I pack the same thing in all three lunches, I feel a lot better. The days I don’t take mine, the knot comes again. Here I am, enjoying this nice salad when my babies are stuck with leftovers. Little Guy’s been off macaroni and cheese lately. What if he doesn’t like his food and goes hungry?

Last week, I make the mistake of reading a draft of co-worker Donna Birch’s “mommy guilt” story. I get to the part about Xavier, her 5-year-old, dissolving into tears after an argument over a bath, and I’m ready to bawl with him and Donna. I glance at the pictures of my two, and dozens of  knots come. One for each time we’ve had a similar scene in our house.

I briefly considered taking the pictures off my desk, because sometimes a stray glance can bring a knot. But I keep them, because for every time missing them has made me sad and guilt-stricken, there are a hundred other times when their little faces have brought a smile in the middle of a crud storm.

Oh, God, it’s a quarter til. Five things left to do and 15 minutes to do them in. If even one parent shows up early, Big Guy will think I’m late and worry about when I’m coming. Dang it, computer, go faster. Another knot.

Evenings are the worst

Dinner is on the table within 15 minutes after we get home – I cook the night before and reheat, or else Little Guy would be gnawing on my ankles before I had a meal ready. The boy likes his food!

All too soon after that, it’s bath time. Luckily, they both love their baths, and they’re small enough that they can take one together. Immediately after that, it’s bedtime for Little Guy. We’ve been home less than two hours. Another knot.

Big Guy doesn’t go down as easily. The round of “final” kisses and hugs lasts 10 minutes – I’ve learned to account for that by herding him to his room earlier. Finally, I pry his arms from my neck. “Hon, I love you but it’s time for me to go. I have to pack your lunch and fix dinner.”

Another knot: I love you but? No one should have to hear that until they’re getting dumped for the first time.

I head to the kitchen, ignoring as much as I can. The unmailed Christmas presents in the dining room. The computer I promised Big Guy I’d fix last month. A T-shirt that’s gathered dust for almost a year, waiting for a Franklin the Turtle iron-on.

Some nights, in a rare fit of common sense, I pull spaghetti sauce and bread out of the freezer. A more elaborate meal isn’t worth it if the two most precious things in the world are going to be snarled at. I head to bed and forgive myself.

The knots disappear.

Copyright 2007 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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