Oh, hey there. Nice to meet you. My name is Julie and I am The Chosen One. Which might sound appealing (or at least vaguely Biblical) if it were not for the arena in which I have been anointed. And friends, the arena is this:
All the Bad Stuff.
My official role as Boss of All the Bad Stuff crystalized for me this weekend as our two dogs witnessed both my husband and me changing into our running clothes. They spotted our attire and all that it signals. Then they made a choice. And their choice was Bill.
Both Bella and Bailey swarmed him. Can we hang with you? Their tails wagged. Their mouths drooled. Then they glanced at me and my stretched-out running capris.
You’re slow they panted. And droopy. True enough.
But before you heap too much pity upon me, I’ll admit the dogs find me plenty fast when they must pee at two o’clock in the morning. Or vomit on the rug in our master bedroom. Why use tile or hardwood floors when carpet feels like grass? As I squat with paper towels and Resolve to wipe up their mess, they’re more than happy to choose me as the object of their licking.
On my face. With their tongues. After vomiting.
We love you, droopy lady. And also eating garbage!
Of course my vomit-duty isn’t limited to pets. At bedtime Bill brings water to Jack and Karly who gush, “Daddy. We love you sososo much.” But in the wee hours of the night? They groan, “Mom. We threw up sososo much.”
Exhausted by water-duty, Bill sleeps through the flushing. And the sponging. And the administration of antiemetic medicine. (Pharmacists call it “emesis” but when you’re on your knees, it’s “puke.”)
And yet. Despite my well-documented vomit-handling skills, our son chose to honor Bill for his fifth grade “Hero Project” at Back to School Night. Yeah. A boy and his father. Beyond sweetness. And nausea. Still. I took comfort in the serendipitous topic of his younger sister’s classroom journal on display that same night: “My hero is______.”
Surely she would pick ME!
Then we read her entry.
“My hero is Linkin Park. I play guitar. My favorite song is Bleat it out.”
Suddenly other parents knew I listen to profanity-laced music in front of my kid. And also that my kid can’t spell “Bleed.” Other mothers approached me, baaahing as if I were Little Bo Peep.
“I pay for her guitar lessons,” I mumbled. “And sheep are cool.”
At the end of that year, Jack wrote a speech for his culmination ceremony in which he extolled the virtues of someone who demonstrates EFFORT. His choice? Bill. Again. And even then, I did not mind. I was confident I’d enjoy my moment of glory that September when Karly completed her fifth grade “Hero Project.”
She selected her eight-year-old cousin.
“Really?” I tried not to sound peeved. Does McKenzie sprinkle the perfect amount of parmesan cheese on your penne? Was she a chaperone at the J. Paul Getty museum field trip? Will she spoon antiemetic medicine down your throat when you’re emesising? (Or whatever.)
“Mom!” Karly sounded full-blown peeved. “There’s NO ONE ELSE to write about!”
I reasoned with her. “I don’t think the assignment is to praise children – unless they’ve overcome great odds or are an inspiration to society.”
“Mckenzie lip-syncs Taylor Swift.”
I took a breath. “That’s truly dazzling,” I said. “But I don’t think lip-syncing counts outside the Grammys.” Then I thought, Please choose me. Although, clearly, I’m pathetic.
Karly sighed. “I would pick you,” (now we’re getting somewhere), “Except I don’t want to be a teacher.”
So I stooped low. “I see,” I said. “You want to be an eight-year-old.” Eventually, Karly decided her hero would be her fourth grade teacher. (Teacher?) The one who displayed Karly’s Linkin Park journal prompt.
Because sarcasm skills are as under-appreciated as lip-syncing.
It’s taken thirteen years, but I’ve finally accepted that my kids choose other people to share their celebrations. Daddy’s better for bike rides and hikes. Friends are good for playing games. Cousins? They make excellent lip-sync partners.
Then there’s Mom…
…whom they choose when they’re hungry. Or tired and scared. They look to Mom in times of frustration. When they’re humiliated or alone. They want Mom if they can’t sleep or their feelings are hurt. And after knee-scrapes or head-bumps. They call for Mom as their joys exit and tears flood in their stead.
Again and again, I am chosen for All the Bad Stuff. Whether it’s vomit or emesis. I am Mother, not Hero.
And yet. I have a secret. A sober truth no journal prompt can touch.
My children’s love knows few boundaries; they adore many people and places and things. Unabashedly.
But when they need? I am chosen.
And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
My babies, longer ago than I care to calculate. Dang, I hate math.
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