My three-year-old son, Dane, is really big on correcting me lately.
“It’s not a truck, Mommy, it’s a garbage truck.”
“That’s not my chair, Mommy, it’s my carseat.”
“You’re not a woman, Mommy, you’re a mommy.”
Say what? When did I stop being a woman? I try to dress cute, most of the time. I still wear makeup, sometimes. Not that these things make a woman a woman, but that’s how I used to be. All dressed up with somewhere to go.
So really. When did I stop being a woman? Actually—I can pinpoint the exact moment.
Dane was about six weeks old. The two of us were enjoying quiet feeding time on my then-beautiful, puke-stain-free Pottery Barn sofa. With no warning, mustard-colored diarrhea blasted out of my son’s tiny body onto my stomach and thighs. I burped him and he promptly vomited into my hair and down the back of my shirt. Standing there covered in infant excrement and realizing my husband wouldn’t be home for another seven hours, I started to cry. What had I gotten myself into?
I’ll never forget how smug I was at my baby shower. Girlfriends that had already become mothers asked me if I was ready. “Oh, totally!” I’d laugh. “Mark set up the crib last weekend, I’ve read all the books, and I told Dr. Daly I definitely need an epidural. We’re so ready.”
I mean really. How stupid was I?
But how could I have known? People tell you all the time that parenting is tough. But I thought they meant when babbling babies morph into surly, snarly teenagers and scream, “I hate you!” when you catch them sneaking back into the house at 2:00 a.m.
My husband and I say that if we had our daughter first, we’d be totally screwed. She’s such a by-the-book baby, easygoing and a great sleeper. Instead, we had Dane, whose legendary temper tantrums began at fifteen months and the sole reason my blood pressure has shot up fifteen points in three years.
Dane has taught me everything I need to know about parenting the small child. I’m sure he will continue to educate me in his grade school and, God help me, teenage years.
Maybe I should take it as a compliment that I’m not a woman, I’m a mommy. Maybe it means I’ve earned my stripes for now, until he’s fourteen and embarrassed of me. Or six, I won’t know until I get there. The only thing I know for sure is that I will never pretend to know what I’m doing until my children and I get through each life phase alive.