Pretty Good If I Do Say So Myself: 20.5%
Good, though they’ll still want me to pay for their therapy: 50%
Not Bad, though now they’ll flat out insist I pay for their therapy (and rightfully so):18%
Now my husband is in therapy: 7%
Downright neglectful: 1%
But, you know, define “neglect”.
Just last week (well, not just last week), I let the boys play out in the backyard alone for a few minutes while I folded some laundry (their laundry, I should note). And when I went out to check on them, I couldn’t find Patrick. I could hear him ... sort of (the sound was kind of muffled) ... so, like any reasonable adult, I scanned the yard for a few seconds, yelling at Gus to tell me where he put Patrick. Then I glanced over the edge of the porch, and sure enough, there he was—face down in a patch of marigolds. Classic Patrick. Rather than getting up and brushing himself off, he will always wait for me to arrive on the scene, so I have a good mental image when I meditate on my neglectful nature. Of course, because the marigolds broke Patrick’s fall, and he emerged unscathed, you really have to file the incident under “Not Bad” rather than “Downright Neglectful.”
Same goes for School Picture Day.
Do the boys get new haircuts? No.
Do the boys get new outfits? No.
Do they get ironed outfits? No.
But do they get clean outfits? Absolutely!*
*As long as you remind me that it is Picture Day.
So, it’s not that I’m neglectful. It’s just that I take a very “If-costumes-are-optional-well-then-guess-who-won’t-be-wearing-a-costume?” approach to life.
I’m not the kind of mother who RSVPs to a child’s birthday party and then inquires all about the child’s special interests so that I can get him or her the perfect gift. When you’re three, any gift with your name on it is the perfect gift. When you’re three, a low-interest mortgage offer letter that comes in the mail “Especially for you, Gus O’Brien” is the perfect gift.
I am not the kind of mother who saves every single piece of art work my kids create. Though I have learned to bury them very deeply in the trash can after the whole “Who Put The O’Brien Family Flag In The Garbage?” incident. (The O’Brien Family Flag, in case you’re interested, is a piece of green construction paper stapled to a drinking straw. It has four quadrants, three of which are blank, and one of which contains a backhoe.) Come to think of it, that is genius. Gus was right. I should not have thrown that away.
I am not the kind of mother who memorizes my children’s social security numbers, shoe sizes, or what strain of antibiotics they’re taking this week. I definitely don’t remember which ear is infected unless the kid is pulling on it and screaming.
I am not the kind of mother who volunteers for things. You won’t see me manning a bake sale. Or baking things for the bake sale. Or designing flyers with cupcake borders that say “BAKE SALE!”
Larry would say it’s because I work.
I would say it’s because I’m a bit selfish.
For example, on that bake sale flyer? I could lose an entire day to it. Writing the copy. Designing the cupcake border. Assessing whether the call-to-action was strong enough. And not because I want my kids to have a successful bake sale. It’s because I would fail to realize that the flyer was about a bake sale—and not about me.
My mother and I were talking recently about children’s birthday parties, and I was sort of whining about how expensive even the backyard birthday can be, and how next year we’ll probably just go to one of those places where you pay a flat fee and the kids can jump around a gym for two hours, even though those places feel sort of clinical and depressing to me. And my mom asked, “Do the kids have a good time at those places?” And I was all, “Who?”
It’s just my nature.
Thinking back on the times I’ve felt compelled to do Awesome Mom things (don’t worry, this will be brief), what comes to mind first is not the warm feeling of satisfaction I got. It’s the look of horror and panic on my husband’s face.
“What are you doing?”
“Wait. Why? Why are you making cookies?”
“Gus wanted to.”
“But you’re making them from scratch, why? WHY?”
“I thought it would be fun.”
“Is that a GLAZE?”
“Oh my God.”
Because I am me, I ended up laying the glaze on way too thick, and it cracked, leaving our cookies looking like they’d been trampled by a herd of toddlers looking for a plate of pretty cookies.
But they tasted good. Which would make a tidy moral for my little story here, wouldn’t it? That I am a mother who may not look perfect on the outside, but deep down I really have a kind, sweet, sugar-cookie heart?
I know. Lame. (And not especially true).
And yet, for the moment, it’s the best I can do.