Mommy Chronicles

A funny look at motherhood and the mayhem it causes.

October 21, 2002

Dada flies solo

By Adam Berliant

It had to happen. At some point, Martha would be the one going out of town, and I would be the one who was really flying solo back at home.

Due to an unexpected trip for Martha, Lucy and I spent the weekend alone together -- the longest time our little girl has ever been be away from her mother.

We took all the proper precautions. For days, Martha took every opportunity to explain that she was going away, that she’d be coming back, and that Lucy should expect to spend the whole weekend with just Dada.

For my part, I took every opportunity to explain to Lucy that since Mama was going out of town, we’d eat popcorn for breakfast lunch and dinner, that she could wear Mama’s clothes and make-up, and that we’d watch cartoons until we couldn’t keep our eyelids open.

I can neither confirm nor deny if I fulfilled all of these promises. But here’s what I do recall, now that the cloud of candy has lifted.

The first night Martha was gone, I took Lucy to the grocery store (because she asked), got her some Orangina (because she asked), and two bags of Pirate’s Booty (because she asked).

We were off to a good start. We went home and devoured it all while we watched dinosaur cartoons. I knew I was a great Dad when, at about 10:30 p.m., Lucy was finally lying on her back in the middle of the room, snoring loudly.

When Martha called to “make sure Buzzy was OK,” what else could I say?

“She went right to sleep. She’s doing great.”

The rest of the weekend went a lot like this. We spent time at the park. We haunted the local taco shop. We walked around the lake, watched more cartoons, gobbled home-made pizza and played at another park until we were so tired, one of us fell down and scraped several layers of skin off her chin.

I told Martha the injury on her chin wasn’t as bad as it looks. But I decided not to say anything about all the blood that preceded the scab.

Lucy rewarded me for all these good times in her own unique ways.

For example, as we were driving back from her Aunt Ann’s house, Lucy calmly asked for my attention from the back seat.


“Yes, Lucy.”

“Dada,” she said calmly, “Look at me.”

“I’m driving, Lucy, hold on.”

“Okay,” she said, and waited quietly.

Then, as I finally got to a stoplight, I turned around. Lucy had made herself a special hat out of an inside-out, pink pull-up diaper.

“Diaper is Lucy’s HAT, Dada,” she said, cracking up at her very funny joke. I almost needed to pull the car over, I was laughing so hard.

Martha called every couple hours, wondering if everything was okay. Making my voice sound reassuringly earnest, I told her things were fine. The truth was, it was much better than that. Lucy and I were having a great weekend on our own. But I knew Martha was lonely. And if there was any way I could make myself sound like a man who’d earned some cookies, I wanted to do that.

As our weekend neared its end and Martha was flying back into town, I got to thinking.

Lucy and I do spend plenty of alone time together. But just as this was her longest time without Mama around, it was mine, too. I was pretty sure I had done a good job.

Of course, she had a big scab on her chin. She was wearing red plaid pants, a pink shirt and light blue floral tights. And I was pretty sure that I had forgotten to brush her teeth. And it occurred to me that we had watched about 10 hours of cartoons, which probably rotted her brain out -- something that would explain her motivation for the diaper hat. And Lucy was so full of snacks, she actually turned down the offer of ice cream.

But then, we were eating some scrambled eggs for lunch (because she asked), and she leaned over and kissed me on the cheek. I said to her, “Aw, Lucy, I’m so lucky to have you.”

I’ll always remember Lucy’s reply: “Both lucky, Dada,” she said.

And then she patted me on the back.

October 07, 2002

Bad parent pick-up lines

In my entire life, only one person ever tried to pick me up.

I was just out of college, and was visiting a dark and stinky bar in the new town I had just moved to. A man with a beard that grew down to his belt buckle told me I was the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen. Then he licked the back of my hand. And that was it. I never went back to that bar, and the hairy hand-licker went down in the history books as the one and only stranger who thought I was worth tasting. Which is all right by me. Really.

After I got married, I thought I was out of the dating game. And I was, until Lucy got old enough to start noticing other kids. Now, every time I see a parent with a child, I size that person up as a potential partner in slime, as well as dirt, snot and other joys of parenthood.

A couple weeks ago, Adam, Lucy and I were walking down what is essentially the main street of our neighborhood. A mom stood at the corner, holding a little blond-haired boy who looked about Lucy’s age. I smiled at her — winningly, I hoped.

Then we crossed the street. A minute later, the mom and son followed us. My heart started running like a hamster in a wheel.

“I wonder if she likes me?” I thought.

I made sure my fly was zipped. There’s no social context where an open barn door is a good thing. But it’s pretty much a deal-breaker for a parent-pickup. Especially when you’re standing on a street corner.

This is why sweatpants, which say, “I plan to grow old alone” on a single person are actually a fine choice for someone who is married with children. Sweatpants say, “People wipe peanut butter on me and I already look so bad, it doesn’t hurt. When you’re hanging out at the park with me, you’re going to look like a fashion plate.”

My next step in picking up this parent was to compliment her on her child.

“Isn’t he talkative?” I said, after something that sounds like “hammer puller under bug,” came out of his mouth.

“How old is he?”

The little boy, I learned, was five days older than Lucy. This made what happened next even more critical, I realized, because Lucy and the blonde boy will be in the same class at school. I could be running into this woman until the year 2018, at bake sales and back to school nights. We might even chaperone the high school prom together.

As I planned out the next 16 years of my social life, the mystery mom called out to her son, who was running circles around us on the sidewalk. I thought she said his name was Tyler.

So, that’s what I called him when he came back.

“It’s Kyler,” she said.

This is when I realized that I’d done the equivalent of licking the back of her hand. When someone has gone to all the trouble of coming up with a unique name, it’s a huge goof to call the kid by something familiar, like Tyler.

I suppose it’s not the worst blunder you can make in the parent-pickup game. I didn’t say, “Wow, Kyler is incredibly small for his age.” Or, “That’s a big bruise.” Or, “We have a dog named Kyler.”

These are bad parent pick-up lines.

Same goes for, “Wow. She doesn’t look like either of you,” and “My Susie naps for four hours a day on a very predictable schedule.”

I wish I had paid more attention to the rules of picking people up when I was dating. Adam gave Kyler’s mom our phone number. She never called. But it’s probably just as well. It saves me the drama of breaking up with her when I find out she cleans the bathroom grout with a toothbrush.

Picking someone up on a street corner is no way to make real friends. Even if they have a nice set of toddlers.