Mommy Chronicles

A funny look at motherhood and the mayhem it causes.

March 11, 2002

The Secret Society of Parents

I’ve heard of secret societies before, but I never really wanted to join one. I don’t know. Maybe it’s because I’m not coordinated enough to do any sort of secret handshake. Or maybe it’s because it’s hard to know what sort of shoes one should wear with a fez.

So, it was surprising to discover that I’ve joined a secret society anyway. It’s the secret society of parents —— and it has to be the largest one on Earth.

Before I had Lucy, I would not have known the difference between a Weeble and a Wiggle. But, because Lucy has discovered this Australian kiddie-pop band, I have, too. And I hear them everywhere. Especially inside my own head.

Being a member of the Parents Club means more than developing a firm grasp on the location of my head, shoulders, knees and toes (knees and toes). It’s also affected my eyes (and ears and mouth and nose).

For example, I was watching TV on Saturday —— a show called Trading Spaces, where two sets of neighbors trade houses for two days and redecorate a room. People usually end up with incredible remodel jobs for less than $1,000, (which happens when you have a designer and carpenter helping you out for free). Most important, there’s not a toddler or a diaper to be seen. It’s like pornography for people who, like most parents, learn to live with sticky furniture, padded coffee tables and child-proofed cabinets.

On the episode I saw, the designer was charged with making the living room an “adult space.” The homeowners, I guess, were sick of seeing their toddlers’ toys everywhere. Hard to believe, I know. But not everyone likes the look of rainbow-colored plastic.

The designer’s bright idea was to glue straw to the walls. Yes. Straw. The stuff mangers are lined with. The stuff farm animals eat.

Before I had Lucy, I would have thought, “Hey. Interesting idea.”

Now, my first thought was, “Hay. That designer obviously doesn’t have children.”

Adam thought exactly the same thing, as did the neighbor who was tasked with gluing the straw to the walls.

“The babies will eat it,” she said.

“Just tell them not to,” the designer replied.

“You don’t have children, do you?” said the neighbor, who did.

Once you have children, you don’t look at the something and think, “My, that is an interesting texture.”

You think, “Is this a substance she can choke on?”

You don’t think, “The view from this deck is sensational.”

You think, “My child isn’t going anywhere near that death trap.”

You don’t think, “Gosh, those suede pants are a steal.”

You think, “Suede. Like I’m really going to buy anything that won’t be improved by peanut butter handprints.”

You don’t think, “How did this rock get inside?”

Instead, your heart gets warm and you think, “Ah. She’s found another treasure.”

Once you’ve had a child, what matters about the world has everything to do with her. Will it kill her? Will she wreck it? Does she need it? Will she love it?

And, I’m learning, it only gets more so the older she gets. The more Lucy becomes her own person, the more I understand the rules of this club I’m in. Along with the parents I’ve seen lining the edges of soccer fields, sifting through books at the library, or taking their children on bike rides around the neighborhood, I’m doing what I can to help Lucy learn, stay safe, take risks and have fun.

This is what parents do: We give away our dry-clean- only clothes; we spend our Saturday mornings alongside sports fields; we stay on the lookout for trouble; and somehow, somewhere, we find the energy for the little adventures that become the stuff of happy memories.

Every time I see other parents lit up by their children, in the same way the moon glows with light from the sun, I can’t help but smile, because I understand exactly what they feel.

It’s a great thing being a member of this club —— even if I’m not getting a cool hat out of the deal.


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