It was early summer. I was sticky and the sun was hot and I wandered our neighborhood trying desperately to get my baby to take a nap and maybe make myself feel like I had this motherhood thing down. My baby, however, had different ideas. She had shown signs of impending divahood very early on. From wailing until I held her, no matter how hard her dad tried to rock her into submission to screaming throughout the entire 45-minute car ride to visit my mom (every. single. time), low maintenance this child was not.
I was trying hard to get a handle on it, trying to fit all of the pieces of the puzzle together to figure out how best to deal with her little personality.
She liked people. She liked smiling at them and waving to them and all of the cooing and smiles that came as a result. Looking back, I should have realized that a stroll down the sidewalks of a somewhat busy neighborhood would provide way more stimulation than either of us could handle. Nap? Yeah right. Good one, mom.
Still, we walked. And walked. And walked. Up and down hills, around city blocks, never straying too far from home but always making our way to some elusive destination. She was happy today. Not screeching to be held. Not bored (I learned early on that she was a child who could not do bored). So we walked happily, with her babbling at me and smiling at strangers and throwing off her hat to make me run to pick it up every hundred feet or so.
Eventually I tired of the hat game. Just like I always tired of the sock game. Have you ever met a child who will sit in a stroller and keep socks on her feet? I haven’t. I also haven’t encountered an old lady capable of ignoring the fact that said child is not wearing socks after the 100th time she’s thrown them overboard. She inevitably leans into the stroller, smiling brightly at the baby before cooing “Where are your socks, little girl? You’re going to catch a cold!” You never knew a coo could have such a judgmental, your mother is an idiot sting to it.
We soldiered on. No hat. No socks. Just fat baby feet kicking happily and a mostly bald head partially covered by the sun shield on her stroller. Our moods were great and we returned the smiles of all of the doting people that wandered past us, on their way to the butcher to pick up dinner or to meet some friends for lunch. Everything seemed so sunny. Which was great after feeling so unsure of everything for so long.
And then I saw her. A woman stood outside the post office, her eyes locked on us. She shook her head ever so slightly and muttered something to herself. I felt panic rise in my throat. What was I doing wrong? Was she not strapped into her stroller properly? Was I too close to the edge of the sidewalk? Had I missed something?
As we got closer, it became apparent that this woman was going to let me know what I was doing wrong. I watched her steel herself, her lips not curling in the way I was used to seeing when people encountered us on a walk.
She shook her head and said “That baby needs a hat!”
I smiled and laughed nervously saying, “I know! She won’t keep the thing on!” I chuckled in a sort of chummy, Kids! Can’t live with ’em, can’t live without ’em! way. She remained unmoved.
“The oils on her scalp!” she said, obviously irritated and thinking I was the dumbest person alive. “They’re going to fry her brain! That’s how you get Parkinsons!”
I stood there, completely flabbergasted. What the fucking fuck? Parkinsons?
She continued on down the sidewalk, her head still shaking as she muttered to herself about what an idiot I was. I stood there, my eyebrows knit together in complete and utter confusion. Did that really happen?
I continued walking, angrily at first. Marching towards that unknown destination with much more force. But my anger slowly softened as we moved, getting less and less intense with each smile my little girl elicited.
And I continued onward, confident in the fact that I at least knew more about this whole mothering thing than one person. And that was strangely comforting.
This post is part of my 52 Essays project. This year I have set a goal for myself to write one finished piece every week(ish). I’m not sure what you can expect from them because I’m sort of winging it. Some will be good. Some will be less good. Hopefully you’ll love them. Maybe you’ll hate them. We’ll just have to wait and see. 😉 12/52