Sick Child Shoes

No doubt, you’ve all been in my shoes before, and they’re not pretty shoes. They are not bright red stilettos, made for dancing. They are not ballet slippers.

They are the shoes of a mom with a sick child. They are flat, and worn, and maybe a bit tired from over-work. The soles are hanging off and they are covered in splatters.

Walking in these shoes can be confusing; sometimes, you are sure your child is exaggerating. The dramatics of belly-rubbing and painful howls are just too much to believe. Instead of letting your kid stay home to vegetate on the sofa, you send her to school anyway.

And here’s when the mom-of-a-sick-child-shoes seem to suddenly become a size too small: when two hours after dropping her off, the school nurse calls, asking that you reclaim her as soon as possible. The throat is red; the temperature is high; the Oscar-worthy dramatics have calmed down and are a mere memory, as the silent child now lies still.

And then, there are the times that are just the opposite. There are times when you’re just a little bit duped. Weary of the daily demands of parenting, you’re too tired to diagnose or to consider. You march into your kid’s room in the wee morning hours wearing a nice pair of Italian leather wedges, and march out wearing the mom-of-a-sick-child shoes that you chose to put on all by yourself. In your heart of hearts, you know your little trooper needs to take off his Transformers PJ’s and get up and go. But no…you oblige.

This is what moms far and wide refer to as a mental health day. I’m quite sure, after having lived through a few myself, that the “mental health” is more concerned with the lady in the now-raggedy shoes, instead of with a kid who should be wearing a school uniform instead of a My Little Pony nightgown.

“Mental Health” days are not about bad parenting. They are not about trying to buck the system, or about not giving a hoot. In my experience, mental health days are our moments or admitting how important our pediatricians and other medical professionals are in our lives. It is our moment of saying: “Heck, I just don’t know!”

When the thermometer reads as borderline and the throat looks a little red…but not TOO red…we make this small concession to sanity and err with the PJs and the really awful cartoons. We wish we had a quick and effortless doctor’s appraisal to pull out of our back pocket BEFORE the school bus arrives–but we don’t. In these moments, we tend to take the path of least resistance…we go with the flow.

I wonder sometimes what lesson we teach our children on this one special day every year, this borderline sick day, this weird holiday when we pretend with our child that her condition is worse than it is. We always say something like “We both know you really weren’t THAT sick–don’t expect to get away with this ever again.”

As we turn away we may grin a little, remembering our own falsely amped-up fevers and the moaning and groaning bellyaches of our childhoods. Then, once we leave the room and our questionable behavior really hits home, we wonder: are we accidentally teaching a lesson that learning isn’t important? Are we teaching that exaggerating is okay? Are we teaching something that will come to haunt us?

Whatever the appraisal turns out to be, most all parents are guilty of the “mental health day” at least once during a child’s upbringing. Although I can’t condone this as a fitting regular behavior, or even a good one, I condone it as being fully human.

Sometimes we walk in the ugly sick child shoes because we have to; at other times, we do it because we’re just too damn tired to put on a pair of heels.



Kara Martinez Bachman is author of the humorous essay collection for women, “Kissing the Crisis: Field Notes on Foul-mouthed Babies, Disenchanted Women, and Careening into Middle Age.” She has read her work on NPR radio and it has appeared in dozens of magazines, newspapers and literary journals, including The Writer, Funny Times, the New Orleans Times-Picayune, and many parenting magazines. Find out more at or follow her on Twitter, @80sMomKara.

I Got Knocked Down – And I Didn’t Get Up

What’s more embarrassing for a 16-year-old girl, than falling down on a busy street in her town during rush hour traffic? Falling down and not being able to get up. For hours. “How in the world could this happen?” you ask. This is my story.

It was a Friday night, early summer in Southern California and the Domino’s Pizza where I worked as a phone girl was running slow. You remember the Domino’s Noid from the early 90’s? That pesky red guy with big ears, who would stomp all over your pizza if it wasn’t there in 30 minutes or less? Well, the store I worked in was lucky enough to have a full sized Noid costume! Usually these get ups are reserved for scaring little kids and giving adults a giggle, because everyone feels so sorry for the poor fool inside. Tonight, I was that poor fool.

My boss asked if I’d like to dress up, go outside and hopefully drum up business. Sure! The costume was ginormous, built for a grown man, so we had work arounds to get it to fit me. These accommodations, plus ensuring someone walked me out, meant success. I couldn’t see through the peek hole because I was too short and the feet were too big to walk normally. The costume was hot as hell, so I wore only my tank top and capri leggings I had worn in. We got me set up, head on, (with rolled up towels under my armpits to help it tie under my arms), zipped up and my boss walked me out. The huge feet meant I had to take big clown steps down the big hill of a parking lot, so getting to the street was no small feat.

My boss got me situated and said he’d come back in 30 mins. I turned and began my waving routine – one arm waving, a little booty shake, next arm waving. Cars would honk and I would wave both arms. I was good at my job.

Until he jogged by.

I lost my breath when I saw the most gorgeous guy jogging my way. He was shirtless, muscled, tan and so very pretty. My brain was not engaged when my body took over and I started to move like I was jogging towards him. Before I could ponder whether or not this was a good idea in the gargantuan costume, I lifted one foot and began to exaggeratedly slow jog towards him, big ole Noid arms pumping and bobbing. I didn’t account for the big feet though and on my third foot lift it happened; I tripped and fell. Flat on my Noid face.

I lay there in shock for a second, trying to figure out what happened. I was mortified that I had fallen in front of him. Then I felt him make contact with the costume’s head. It was a hard kick or bump and I figured he had tripped over me. I was waiting for him to ask if I was ok. I waited. Nothing. It was then that I realized he had either in fact tripped and kept going, or he took a moment to actually kick the head of the costume and keep going. Either way, he was gone.

I wasn’t sure what to do. The costume was so big, I couldn’t just sit up and stand. I couldn’t reach the back where the zipper was to try and unzip it, and even if I could, I wasn’t wearing much underneath. The stomach was too big to reach down and pull the feet off. I was stuck. I rolled myself onto my back. That’s when I saw the light pole. I figured I could scoot my way over to it and use it to help me stand. I couldn’t lift the head anymore because the rolled up towels had fallen out from under my arms and now the head was loose and would simply fall backwards. I scooted, inch by inch, to the pole, where I was able to lift the head with my hands and prop it against the pole. I was now laying down on the sidewalk, propped against the pole, alone.

I waited; it HAD to be close to 30 mins and my boss would be out soon. I figured I would do my job, so I waved. Enthusiastically. Every so often I could see one of our drivers pulling in and I would flail my arms wildly, hoping they’d stop. They waved back. No one stopped. So I waited. And waved.

After what seemed like hours, I heard my boss. He was standing at the top of the driveway…cracking up. I was only able to see half of him but I saw him bent over, hands on knees crying. Then he was gone. Soon I see most of the crew outside – all laughing. I yelled, “Shut up and come help me up!” which they later told me sounded like, “Shmfph jsujj mup!”

Once inside, I learned they had gotten super busy and my boss had forgotten about me. So my “what seemed like hours” out there, actually was. I had been out there for 2 hours! He said a driver finally came in and asked him why I was taking a nap so he had come out and when he saw me, couldn’t stop laughing.

You’d think this experience would have turned me off from big costumes but alas it didn’t. I donned the Noid costume many more times, and later in my dress up career, a giant bunny for Easter at a Hallmark store. But I never jogged. I never saw the gorgeous runner again, which was good because I might have kicked him. My only hope is that someday, my kids get to enjoy the wonder that comes with getting into a sweaty, oversized costume and delighting the world with their magic.


The Dream

My oldest, telling me his dream last night:

“So I’m in this room with Hannah (girl he’s been crushing on forever) and she’s with her friends. I have no pants on (because, of course, it’s my son) and she wants me to come sit with them. I have to tell her no, because I have no pants on. Then Bill Clinton walks in with his son and asks me to come with them. I have to tell them no too, because I have no pants on. Then I woke up.”

I’m not done trying to decipher this, but how does he know to have a dream with Bill Clinton and an issue with no pants???

Our Kitchen

It’s where we began. Our kitchen. It was the hub of our family, where we cooked, ate, laughed, played with pots and pans, looked out the window while doing dishes and imagined, remembered and lost ourselves in thought. It’s where you grew up.

It’s where you both taught me that no toy could compare to the fun and excitement of banging on the pots with the wooden spoon, or using the silicone baking cups with a bowl full of watery bubbles to create bubble art. I remember chubby hands, covered in soapy fun touching my cheek. I remember the smile, baby teeth still perfect, cheeks still holding on to toddler plumpness. I remember the way your hair curled; the way you would twirl your hair with your fingers and suck your thumb, coated in soap and all. I remember you showing your baby brother how to make bubble art, how you both laughed so hard it hurt to take a breath, because there was almost no room for breath with all the joy you were inhaling.

I remember the time the two of you baked banana bread together – standing on chairs, one reading directions and one holding the stir spoon. You were both so proud of yourselves. I remember our breakfasts around the table – no tv, no distractions, just us. Talking about the day, the dreams you’d each had the night before. That table held your Lego creations, the remnants of your play-doh masterpieces. We filled it with our cookies, breads and fudge each holiday. I wiped baby hand prints of mashed sweet potatoes and peas from its top and then later, toddler fingerprints and too soon, young boy handprints.

It’s where you both stood one morning, dish towel draped ceremoniously over your arm, your brother pulling out my chair as you welcomed me to my table. You’d prepared a wonderful breakfast of yogurt with sugar sprinkles, toast with butter on one half and coffee with so much creamer, it was nearly white. You and your brother had worked so hard to prepare breakfast for me as a surprise. The love I felt for you both and from you both, took my breath away.

It’s where we began each birthday, the table set with a plate full of sprinkled doughnuts, a fruit salad and each of your gifts, brightly wrapped and full of fun potential. It’s where we ate each birthday meal of pizza, tacos or hamburgers, laughing and enjoying the passing of another year. We marked each of your inches on the corner wall in red, amazed to see how quickly the marks were rising.

It’s where I have some of my happiest memories, our kitchen.

We’ve moved and our kitchen is not the same. With the move came time and with time came you each growing apart. The fights are more frequent, the harsh words sting more. Our new kitchen is bigger and at times, I’m lost. I miss the four close walls, where we would get lost too, but in the joys of childhood. I miss the laughter from the two of you as you slid around the kitchen floor being worms, or dogs or whatever mythical creature you’d dreamt up that morning.

I miss our kitchen. I miss those days of being young. I’m struggling now to figure out this new role I play, no longer having my cheek caressed with soapy hands or seeing the joy on your face when you make me breakfast. I understand this is how it has to be and I’ll be patient. Until we get through these harder years, while you pull away more and more. I’ll wait. I’ll try not to fight it, but I won’t always be successful. And when the day comes, when you and your brother are once again in the kitchen, grown men, laughing about your own family antics, I’ll feel at ease again. I’ll pull out the pots and pans, wooden spoon and bowl. I’ll fill it with warm, soapy water and the joy will engulf me once again, as I watch your kids experience the joy of childhood. In our kitchen.


What MOMMY Wants For Christmas!

I’m not sure what to expect for the holidays this year from my 12, 11 and 7 year old boys. In truth, 12 and 11 year olds are totally too old to still be holding on to the whole “Santa is real” thing, but alas, they are holding so tight, if Santa was real, his fat little belly would explode. I’m keeping up with the charade but let’s be honest, I am finding it really hard not to just blurt out, “Oh seriously dude, Santa is not coming down our chimney and he will NOT bring you a new iPad, because HE’S NOT REAL!”

It’s still cool for my 7 year old to believe, in fact, I’d like him to have a few more years of the holiday magic. But the two older ones, well, once my 12 year old asked when he might start masturbating, I kind of figured Santa was out the window. Joke’s on me! I’m actually looking forward to the day I can get him in on the fun. He can be in charge of the creepy-ass Elf on the Shelf and he can help put out the Santa gifts at 1am, when his brother usually finally conks out from having gotten up every 8 minutes for the past 4 hours, to check and see if Santa has come. Then I’ll plan to wake my 12 year old at 5am and make him come downstairs to open his gifts; and no nap that day. He can have all the fun, while I relax in the bath with some cookies we baked for Santa and a good book. But, I digress.

Since I still have to do the whole Santa thing for the boys again this year, I figured I would add my own gift list to the pile, in hopes that someone might review it and be so kind as to indulge ME this year.

What Mommy Wants:

  1. I’d like for my 12 year old to give me the silent treatment for one day. No really, punish me – PLEASE.
  2. A foot rub. And before anyone complains they JUST gave me one, a foot rub that’s longer than the 2.34 seconds of bliss I recently received.
  3. My panty liners to stay in the box. I know they ended up making the most awesome “butterfly art” for your girlfriend down the street, but let’s keep our crafts sanitary napkin free (and her mom thought it was pretty weird, so now we have that going for us).
  4. Chocolate. Lots and lots of chocolate.
  5. Someone to play a game of Scrabble with me. Just one game and I promise to forget I majored in English.
  6. An afternoon of baking in the kitchen, while holiday music plays and I sip Bailey’s coffee. Then someone to come and clean it all up.
  7. For the Elf on the Shelf to have a heart attack and pass away. I’ll even go so far as to have a proper funeral.
  8. I’d like to take a bath without someone coming in to:
  • Tell on their brother for trying to fill their new whoopee cushion with actual farts.
  • “See if I’m ok,” then laughing because I have bubbles on my boobs and calling me “Bubble Boobs” the rest of the night.
  • Hang out. Seriously, it’s just weird.
  • Ask what time it is. Guys, there are 15 clocks in the house, none of which are in MY BATHROOM!

I could go on but those would be my top wishes. Honestly, I don’t think I am asking for much, given everything I do for everyone else, (HELLO, house full of testosterone – toilets, walls, doors and ceilings don’t clean themselves of the pee!) and the fact that I do (most) of it without complaint. I think anyone would agree a little complaining is fair, when your kid comes out of the bathroom, holding his underwear and says, “I ran out of toilet paper so I used these. I was trying to be nice and let you enjoy your book so I didn’t call for toilet paper. Here.”

So this is the list I have given my boys and husband. I expect I’ll get the chocolate. I’ve already taken care of the Bailey’s coffee.





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