My emergency parenting kit
Late last night as I was feeding Lucy, I realized something: I no longer need to burp her. Burping used to be a major activity of my day. So major, in fact, that I used to pass Lucy off to Adam for as many burps as possible, just so he wouldn’t feel left out.
Now, during the rare times when Lucy needs to burp, she can do it herself. I never thought I would be nostalgic for burping. But here I am, realizing that part of motherhood is gone.
I’ll live. And I doubt I will feel as nostalgic for the days when diapers also are a thing of the past.
It is a reminder, though, of one of the facts of parenthood. Nothing stays the same for very long. As if that’s not hard enough to think about when you’re the mother of an adorable 9-month-old, sometimes the changes that happen aren’t all that delightful.
For example, the next time burping is a big deal for Lucy, she’ll probably be belching the alphabet – in public. At a religious service or fancy dinner. And I will either want to die, or kill her.
To prevent that from happening, I’ve developed a coping system. I call it, “The Envelope, Please.”
It’s kind of like the emergency fire extinguishers you can find in public spaces, only without all that dangerous glass you have to break. What’s with that glass, anyway? Is a fire so tame that we need severed arteries, too? I’ll stick with paper cuts and envelopes, thank you very much.
And I will make one for every little parenting emergency I can think of. They will remind me that, like infant gas, these things too shall pass:
Here are the contents of the belching envelope, along with a few others:
Open this when Lucy burps rudely in public. Once upon a time, Lucy needed your help to burp. When you couldn’t pass the job off onto Adam (lazy Martha!), you used to sit up in bed, holding her with one hand on either side of her chicken-sized rib cage.
Then you would rock her back and forth until the burp came out. Lucy was so tired during these late-night belching sessions that she couldn’t hold her head up. (She couldn’t even do this well during the day, when she was at full throttle.) And when you were burping her, her tiny head would loll back and forth, like an overgrown flower blossom. It was so cute.
Feel glad that all you have to do now is tell her she needs to leave the room when a burp is coming on. But be sure to tell her some kids have died by burping on purpose. Yes, this is a lie. But what she doesn’t know makes your life easier.
Open this when Lucy wants to sleep in ridiculously late. Set your alarm clock for 5 a.m. Go into Lucy’s room, crawl in bed with her and say, “Bah bah bah” as you poke at her eyelids. Tell her it’s payback for all those times she did the same to you. Tell her that when she was just a baby, she woke up at 5 EVERY DAY, no matter how many times she cried in the middle of the night. And, tell her she liked it.
Open this when you have to ground Lucy. Did you just take away her TV, her computer, or her hovercraft? It used to be all you had to do was take away the piece of paper she was waving around, and Lucy would feel most grievously abused. The thing is, you did it for her own good. Not only did she like to crawl around with a pinch of paper between her cheek and gums, the paper was more often than not something you needed and were too harried to file. It’s still your job to protect Lucy from herself at times. And I sure hope you’re better at filing these days.
Open this when Lucy complains about your music. Did she just say, “Yuck. R.E.M. is so old-school”? Tell her that you listened to the Baby Van Gogh rendition of “the Blue Danube for tiny ears” at least 1,000 times. Besides, R.E.M. will always be cool.
Open this when Lucy refuses to eat her vegetables. When Lucy was a baby, she loved vegetables in the following order: peas, corn, potatoes, broccoli, squash and green beans. She hated bananas, and merely tolerated other fruits. You didn’t force anything on to her then, so why start now?
Open this when Lucy begs and begs for toys at the store. It’s Adam’s fault. He had a thing for buying that baby any fuzzy thing that Lucy would reach for in the store. Buy it, but make him pay.
Open this when Lucy begs for a new car. Say, “Of course, Lucy. Daddy’s rule always was, if you put something in your mouth, we had to buy it.”
How’s that bumper taste?
Open this when Lucy wears clothes you hate. Once upon a time, you used to dress Lucy in booties shaped like duck feet. You also made her wear funny hats and a pink tankini. It’s OK for you to hate Lucy’s clothes. It’s good for you to talk about what she wears, and the effect it has on people. But once she’s old enough, she really does get to choose her own outfits. The duck feet didn’t scar her for life. And whatever ridiculous thing she wants to wear won’t scar you, either.
Open this when Lucy doesn’t want to do chores. When Lucy was a baby, she couldn’t do any chores at all. You and Adam changed all the diapers. You hosed down the high chair. You cleaned the sticky rice off her thighs, her ears, her hands and other unmentionable places. If you can get Lucy to do one thing, you’re ahead. And if that one thing is her own laundry, consider yourself to be the luckiest Mom in the world.
Open this when Lucy says she hates you, she really HATES you. Starting when Lucy was six months old, you couldn’t walk through the room without acknowledging her, or she would cry. When she was nine months old, and you left for a few seconds to get a glass of water, she would scream. The mere sight of you was enough to make Lucy kick her legs and wave her arms. The same would happen when she saw Adam.
No matter what she says, Lucy loves you. And it’s probably for the best that she has outgrown the kicking thing. That would be very embarrassing at school.
Open this when you’re talking and Lucy isn’t responding. When Lucy was a baby, you used to talk to her all day long. Every once and awhile, she’d smile, or look like she understood. Sometimes, she’d try to talk back – although this mostly only happened when you were making chicken noises. Yes, Lucy first imitated you when you were saying, “Bok bok bok b-Gok!”
Mostly, though, she would just stare curiously. Is she doing the same thing now? Don’t worry about it. Even before you two could talk, you almost always knew just what she needed: your time, your attention, and most of all, your love.
Sometimes, you were so tired that all you really wanted to do was close your eyes for 15 minutes and think of what it used to feel like to be on a sandy beach. And those were the times it was most important to breathe deeply and give Lucy a hug.
So if the distance between you and Lucy feels wide as an ocean, if you can’t find common ground over the sound a chicken makes, remember this: She is the child. You are the grown-up. Be kind, be patient and — no matter what — be there.
Once upon a time, when Lucy was a baby, you learned that raising a child was like trying to hold onto water: The best you can do is keep your hand in there while the water flows around you. Things change. Lucy grows.And the water? You could not live without it.