Tuesday, August 2, 2011

478. Motherhood Is Swim Lessons

I take Short to the pool. He is a wishful fish: wishing he could swim like his brother, but that minor complication of fear bordering on terror preventing him from becoming the beautiful racing fish I know he can be. I try I try I try but if I mess up I drown.

Motherhood is exactly the same, except instead of a wishful fish, I am a wishful magazine mom. I watch the magazine moms, perfect as an airbrushed/ re-touched magazine cover. These moms have swum in the deep end of the parenting pool for years, and now they make it look effortless. They obviously never yell at their children, nor do they forget to sign them up for soccer team before the deadline. They don’t watch TV, and their kids do crossword puzzles for fun.       

Why can’t I be them? I wonder to myself as I search in my ripped tote bag for the SPF 50 sunblock and Speedo goggles that I forgot in the car yet again. A serene calm envelops the magazine moms as it simultaneously hits me over the head with the blunt edge of envy.

Bottled water? Check. Yogurt raisins? Check. BPA safe plastic dive toys not-made-in-China? Duh! Trendy flip-flops and a superior attitude? Double check! The magazine moms chat with each other, and it appears to me that they were born 35-years-old with two children. They were never young, they will never be old, they are just the happy-and-have-it-all-together mommies. They have it all under control, over control, beside control, and on top of control. Their maiden name is Control.

I write illegible little notes to myself in my special (non-waterproof) notebook: Swimming pool check-list! Laminated! Do it! Today!

This should be easy for a Virgo like me.

Short gets in the pool with his teacher for a private lesson. Her name is Miss Evelyn, and she smiles and says something amusing to him, making him laugh. He does what she tells him to and he no longer clings to the wall, like a stubborn barnacle. Instead, he pushes off the wall, his slippery body full of a confidence I have not seen before. Confidence that Miss Evelyn gave him, back on that first day when I handed her the check with “swim lessons” written in the memo section.

Where is my personal Miss Evelyn? I could use a boost of confidence in the mom skills department, and I would gladly take another check out of my wallet to make this happen. I constantly compare-compare-compare myself to the magazine mommies and come up lacking. I grip the side of the parenting pool with fear bordering on terror, preventing me from being the beautiful serene mommy I know I can be.

(“Mom On Verge”)


  1. I think you're going to amazed by how well-adjusted your kids turn out to be. I truly don't trust those magazine moms, and sometimes those moms are the ones that wind up on Dr. Phil as a last stop on the way to spidey sense tells me you are a great mom.

  2. Anonymous,

    Thank you for your kind words. Some days I am brimming with confidence (or maybe it's just allergies?) and other days, like this essay, not so much. I actually saw a mom at Pancake House the other day doing FLASH CARDS with her toddler, and I thought, "Just let the kid eat his damn waffle without turning it into a lesson!" Argh!

    You are right, I don't always trust the magazine moms either. I have had to find my own way, and that way is a lot of times by me saying, "NO." No to outside commitments that I don't have time for, no to my kids for the millionth toy they ask for, no to things I just have zero interest in even thought I might feel pressure or obligation from friends/ neighbors.

    I read a great article a long time ago and the author (now a grandmother) said how important it was to say NO to your kids so they can have a sense of boundaries and realize the world does not revolve around them. I took her words to heart, and I do not try to be my kids' friend. I am the *parent*, sink or swim.


  3. Flash cards over waffles with a toddler is kind of insane. Your post really struck a chord with me. Ditto a hundred times over.

  4. Oh, MOV, The Stones sang about all that:

    "Mother needs something today to calm her down
    And though she's not really ill
    There's a little yellow pill
    She goes running for the shelter of a mother's little helper
    And it helps her on her way, gets her through her busy day"

    Those "got it ALL together" mommas are probably heavily medicated. You feel a little anxious sometimes because you are actually parenting your kids, not just putting on a good show. In my opinion, the only way to avoid a frenzy with children and their zillion activities and requirements is serious prescriptions and/or a slump in the other parts of your life.

    Please don't worry about the Stepford Moms. No one that polished could be much fun. I bet their sex lives suck.

    I bet it

  5. I love this post. I love you. I love your writing. So true to life. I am the anxious Mom clinging to the side of the pool, relating to you. It's not even just the posts, it's the comments you make as well. Especially the one about the waffle...I am the mother at Panera Bread, trying to enjoy my "You Pick Two" soup and sandwich combo, while little mister/"monster" terrorizes the rest of the customers with his constant cries of "I WANT ICE CREAM!!" I look forward to your writings everyday. Mother to Mother love, B.

  6. wow, I live for comments like this. thank you so much for your support. I love to write and I am touched that you want to read my ramblings, and that you can relate.

    Very Best,

  7. Peer pressure is horrible at any age. I promise you the day will come when you no longer care about such things. Or it may just be old-timers setting in. Anyway I remember when I realized I was the mom that everyone used as a measuring stick. I am the one with a great kid, not a perfect kid.

    So although I cannot be your pen pal I can be your Miss Evelyn, put duct tape on the ripped tote, this is not St. Tropez. Repeat to self, serene is boring unless I am in St. Tropez. Throw away glossy magazines and read the Enquirer, you will always look great compared to those people.

    Let me know if you are hiring me, fee is staying in touch since I get lonely in China.

    Nola-chaos is my middle name-Rice

  8. Thank you, Nola. You are most definitely hired. =)

    To explain, I set the bar (relatively low) for myself and ignore if the bar is set higher by some other mom, but there are times (I hate to admit) when the doubt creeps in.

    Bluespeckledpup made a great point about Rx medication, and although I am not on meds, I do know some mommy friends that are. I think they are smart to do that if that is what their doctor recommends for them, but in my case I am trying my hardest to mother without artificial help (you know I exclude WINE from that category, right?!).

    thanks to all who wrote.


  9. check out's recent post about "minimal interventional parenting" and the hysterical tongue & cheek "vlog" with her mother regarding an email she received from a reader.......i don't have kids but they do, all of my friends do, and it looks to me like you are doing an bang up job (parenting & blogging) you go girl. also, from one virgo to another, it's your birth sign not you - we always know our faults before someone needs to point them out, most times we are the only ones that see them! You rock :)

  10. Hi Amy R,

    Are you an architect? (gasp! *gets down on knees and bows to the greatness of architects*) I meant to be an architect. I even went so far as to go to architecture school and major in it (then I changed majors and colleges, why did I not stay on the architect path?!?)

    Anyway, thank you so much for your lovely comments! Hearing from readers totally makes my day. I did check out the post you recommended (here is the link if anyone is interested: )
    and she is quite funny!

    As for me, yes, I am just doing the best I can without help from expensive drugs or therapy (all I can afford is the 2nd-best drugs/ therapy of chocolate, alchohol, and shopping-- not necessarily in that order). I adore my sons, but they also drive me crazy. As I type, they are out of town for 48 hrs with The Husband for a family reunion. Queen Virgo has had quite a time re-organizing the QUIET house with zero interruptions (first time in 7 yrs). WOW-- now I miss them and miss the noise! can't believe I just typed that.

    Have a great day, and thank you for reading.



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