Sunday, February 20, 2005

Child rearing and other mindless tasks

In case you all haven’t realized this yet, I’m quite hard on myself. I expect a lot – too much – and I’m angry when I don’t live up to my expectations. And I get irritated when I’m angry because I don’t live up to my expectations. And I get sad when I get irritated when I’m angry because I don’t live up to my expectations. And I feel hopeless when I get sad when I get irritated when I’m angry because I don’t live up to my expectations.

It isn’t a lifestyle choice that I would endorse.

Despite how incredibly pissed, annoyed, frustrated, angry, furious, irate, mad, disappointed, discouraged and outraged I can get with myself, I have random moments when I can myself through the eyes of others.

And during those moments of illumination I realize that I’m not a completely worthless lump of shit.

I had one of those flashes of insanity just yesterday.

I take my seven-year-old cousin, Paige, to soccer every Saturday. Big Cousin-Little Cousin soccer bonding originated around Christmastime, when I decided that it was entirely unacceptable that Paige had never participated in a sport and volunteered to chauffer. As Paige’s father could never turn down an opportunity to have a relative watch one of his kids for a few hours, especially on a regular basis, especially for free, Saturday soon became Soccer Day.

Yesterday, because my uncle is away on business, my aunt could stand a little bit of time alone and I am jockeying for Niece of the Year honors, I brought Paige’s little brother along for Soccer Day. Max is four and, yes, he has the same name as my dog.

Oh, Baby Jesus, was Max excited to see me. So excited, in fact, that he jumped up from his video game (who knew a four-year-old could operate a video game? Not I, said the fox.) and squealed “DANIELLLLLLLLLLLLLE!”

Which isn’t my name.

It was an honest mistake. Danielle is another one of our cousins. And, sure, we’re easy to confuse. Seeing as how I live 14 miles away and see him once a week and Danielle lives 600 miles away and sees the kid twice a year.

I don’t blame it on Max. I blame it on the poster-sized portrait of Danielle that hangs at Max’s house. The portrait, by the way, was a gift from Danielle to Max’s parents. She gives gifts of herself. Because she is an actress.

And I won’t blame the kid for the 37 times over the course of the afternoon that he called me Meg, either. We look alike. And Max wasn’t born of the highest pedigree. And I don't say that to be mean. I say that because we're wading through the same shallow gene pool.

Anyway. Moving on.

Through an act of God, we arrive at soccer with all extremities. Paige gets onto the soccer field without incident, Max climbs into the bleachers without cracking open his scull.

Sweet. This parenthood shit isn’t any harder than owning a dog.

There were many distracting and exciting things at the soccer facility. A mat to bounce own. Vending machines to lust over. Older kids wearing orange jerseys running really, really fast. Max and I walked up and down the bleachers 59 times.

I feigned a broken femur so that we could sit and return Paige’s stares, waves and demands for attention. Max sat still for 41 seconds. I felt like I’d just won a Grammy for Best New Yodeling Artist.

Feeling well-rested after 41 seconds of stillness, Max was drawn to the baby boy that a man was holding a few feet down from us.

Oh, was this small human being interesting! Small, but with all of the features of a full-sized person. Amazing! Max investigated the baby so thoroughly that forehead was nearly touching the little brat.

The baby was playful; Max was amazed. He laughed when the baby grabbed at his nose; he laughed harder when I told him it was because the baby mistook his nose for a piece of candy. He giggled when the baby grabbed his cheeks; he howled with laugher when I told him that it was because the baby mistook his cheeks for a slice of bread, perfect for being smeared with peanut butter.

Max asked the father a thousand questions about the baby. The dad was good-natured and not the slightest bit fussy, assuring me that Max wasn’t being bothersome.

Max and the baby interacted for a good 10 minutes. Max held the baby’s hand. He picked up the baby’s pacifier when it fell. He touched the baby’s face.

The end of playtime came when Max, who had just smeared his germ-infested hands all over the little guy, announced to the father, “I have a real bad cough.”

I don’t think that the dad heard, but I can’t be sure. Max and I were running down the bleachers a little too quickly to be bothered with small talk and/or cursing and/or death threats.

And it was while I was herding a four-year-old away from a potentially awkward situation, dear friends, that I saw myself through the eyes of others.

And now I know: I am not a completely worthless lump of shit.

I am a fucking saint.


Unknown said...

I'm sorry, but you just made me laugh out loud. Laughing with you, of course, darling!

M said...

Hey, I stumbled upon your blog from thisfish, I think I chose it because I'm also from the Midwest. Anyway, I like your writing, and wish you luck in the job search. -Maureen

A said...

Maureen - thank you, thank you for reading!

GFF - thank you, thank you for laughing with (at) me and my pathetic existance. You. Rule.

slow poke kate said...

You are C to tha' O to tha' O to tha' L.

It must be said. I want to be you. Just like you. *drawing box in air with your face in middle*

slow poke kate said...


Plantation said...

you can be pissed at yourself, but doesn't all this love make ya feel all warm n fuzzy?

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