“Would you like a mini-pizza hors d’oeuvres?” is what I said. “Would you like a mini-pizza or derv?” is what he heard. Temerarious seven year-old that he is, he boldly chose “derv”.
Yep, that’s kid #2, demonstrating an insouciantly elegant wipeout. No big splashes or wild arm waving, merely slipping beneath the water at a 90 degree angle to the surface of the earth and precisely 180 degrees opposite of where he really should be. Spent the past week at the shore, watching kids 1-3 wipe out on surfboards and skateboards while I wiped out doing high-risk things like walking and standing. When not falling down, I spent a lot of time in the water, wondering what it is about the ocean that seems so restorative and rejuvenating. Does bobbing about in the salty waves bring us back to a time of non-sentient innocence, cocooned from all the world’s sharp edges in an amniotic sac? Is the composition of the water so similar to our own salinity that we become one with the water? I don’t know about all that, but I do know that it’s working for me.
Working from home today and overheard my 7 year-old and his buddies talking about what workouts could “actually give you a 6-pack!” Huh? Since when are 7 year old boys concerned with 6-packs? Since when do they know about 6-packs? And why are they sitting on a trampoline and talking about workouts rather than working out on the trampoline – I thought that behavior was reserved for people like me, middle-aged suburbanites who like to talk about exercise over dinner and drinks.
Boyd Martin and Phillip Dutton, to be exact. At the Millbrook Horse Trials at Coole Park Farm. I was stationed in the sand pit, which is exactly as glamorous as it sounds. My partner, who was better versed than me in dressage and the world of eventing by about 2000%, was all of 11 years old. It was our job to tell the competitors when it was time to wrap up their warm-up and head over to the arena. So yes, I actually exchanged words with Olympians Boyd Martin and Phillip Dutton! To Boyd, I said, “Excuse me, they’re ready for you.” He replied, “I don’t think it’s my time yet and I’d like to get a little trot going first.” I retorted (meekly), “They’ll be ready whenever you’re ready,” and gave a little curtsy. Well I told him! I can’t explain the curtsy, except that I was confused and mortified. And he had just returned from London so…oh, forget it! Boyd has become a bit of a pin-up in the horsey world, a cross that his wife Silva bears with grace. He couldn’t have been more approachable and friendly though, and in fact, he was far more approachable and decent than most of the beginner novices I interacted with. Though I suppose a BN has a far worse case of the nerves. I didn’t mention to Boyd that he has ruined my chances of ever owning a horse — according to my dear hubby, if an Olympian can ride a $850 horse, so can I. Bleh.
I told Phillip Dutton where to go, too, and when. It was his time, so he said, “Thank you.” I hoped he didn’t remember that the last time we spoke, I had fallen directly on my head not more than five minutes into the lesson he was teaching. Luckily for me, he meets about a million people a day and I’m sure I’m not the only one who has fallen on their head in his presence. The sweetest moment of the day, other than the little girl riding a palomino pony named Angel (she insisted the pony was, indeed angelic, but that’s the first I’ve ever heard of a pony without a nasty Napoleon complex) was when Phillip Dutton’s family came over to the ring and his kids all screamed “Hi Daddy!” He immediately stopped what he was doing and beelined for his wife and children. He gets a gold in the dad and husband Olympics, the most important Olympics of all.
The photography in the July 13 NYT Sunday Magazine essay was breathtaking; romantic images of childcare providers and their charges. Almost as romantic as the writer’s notion that the reason babysitters/nannies/childcare providers are so poorly paid is because mothers feel guilty about the transaction; paying someone to love their child — whom they have (presumably) chosen not to — at least during business hours. What’s the excuse, then, for why mothers are not paid at all when they choose to stay home and love their children themselves, 24-7? Honestly, I don’t think there’s a mother, in the home or out of the home full-time or part-time, who could claim to love her children 24-7 – but that’s another matter entirely. The low pay isn’t a function of guilt — it’s a function of childcare being (traditionally) women’s work. And women’s work isn’t valued, even though we are charged with raising the world’s next generation, and by extension, making sure the world survives another hundred years or so (now there’s some guilt).
We all know the story of how typing was a well-paid position, held by men, when typewriters — complex, mechanical instruments — were first introduced. Once it was discovered that women could type and that they could do it better and faster than men (thank you, manual dexterity, for my exceptional typing skills and my unique ability to remove a dried pea from a 2-yr old’s nose) it became a typing “pool” — nameless, faceless, devoid of any individuality or humanity — and populated almost entirely by low-paid single women who were treading water while waiting for their knight in shining armor to appear. The message is clear: if a woman can do it, it isn’t worth jack.
I love my job, but no one pays me to love it – I get paid to do it. Period. The idea that we don’t pay women to take care of our children because we feel guilty buying love is not only delusional, it’s insulting. I chose my career. So did my babysitter. She deserves the same respect and renumeration accorded to all professionals. I don’t pay her to love, I pay her to keep my children clothed, fed and safe; and that she does, far better than I can. There are women who are paid to “love” but the job description is quite different and their clients aren’t children (though they do sometimes wear diapers) and the price that all involved pay is far greater.
The holidays bring out the best in me, if you consider irrational expectations, erratic overbuying of useless and unwanted gifts and crying jags, the best of me. Which they very well may be. When child number three was suddenly having difficulty breathing, unable to speak, but looking at me with horror, pointing at his throat and mouthing the words, “help me,” I did what any panicked, overdramatic mother would do — I called 911. His breathing was restored to a normal rate and I had him calmed down in enough time to cancel the 911 call. I won’t give you the actual stopwatch time this required, because that would be embarrassing. Let’s just say I hadn’t yet counted to sixty. We did go to the pediatrician and luckily, for my dignity anyway, Kid 3 had another episode on the exam table — lucky because the ped couldn’t dismiss me as an insane overprotective helicopter mother, which I am, just not this particular time. My six-year old, 30 pound son perched on the edge of the table, stared straight ahead and said, “I’m not gonna make it, am I?” Huh? What the hell is this kid watching when I’m not at home? Back-to-back episodes of House? I assured him that he would “make it” but he didn’t buy it. I told the doc the kid was worried about making it and the doc told him too that he would, indeed, make it. “No! I’m not gonna make it — how do you know?” the little cherub snarled. Doc did a strep test, which consists of jamming a q-tip as far down a kid’s throat as possible. Kid screamed and when doc left the room to run the test, kid said, “He’ll never get it out — it’s in there forever,” What’s in there forever? I asked cherub — “The rattle! The rattle you told him I have in my chest!” Ohhh. Remind me to use more abstract descriptions in the future. We marched out of the office to get cherub’s prescription filled. “I’m not supposed to take drugs,” he informed me. Okay. But I can.
Next day, less than 24 hours later, Kid 2 dared himself to drink hot sauce and since he’s a guy that never turns down a dare, even when he is the source of the dare, he put the bottle to his lips and started chugging. It was so hot that when he pulled the bottle away from his face, he started jumping up and down. Let me emphasize, when he pulled the still open bottle from his lips, he started boinging around the room, spraying hot sauce everywhere, but especially directly into his little eyeballs. Much screaming and careening, blinded, ensued. I resisted calling 911, instead calling my ER nurse mother while shouting at my daughter to google “tabasco in eyes” and throwing glasses of water in the direction of my son as he caromed. Kid 3 helpfully shouted, “New house rule, new house rule! No jumping with open hot sauce!” Happy holidays to the 911 operators and ER nurses everywhere.