Tag Archives: motherhood

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 KaraMartinezBachman.com or follow her on Twitter, @80sMomKara.

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.


40 Makes Me Wet

I turned 40 this year. I can’t say it has been a groundbreaking year of self-inquiry and insight or even a freeing year of finally feeling comfortable in my skin as I have heard other women claim. I’m still wrestling with the elusive desire of a flat stomach and less defined laugh lines. I still worry about making a good impression with the other moms at school and I still want to have great hair days.

What I do know about 40 is, I cry a lot and I pee myself more.

The peeing used to just happen when I’d jump really high with my youngest at the trampoline house. I got to where I’d put a pad on to help keep the wet stain from being noticed (thank you kind mom for loaning me your sweatshirt to walk to my car that first visit. You’re my hero). But lately, I pee myself regularly.

What gets my panties wet (and not in THAT way):

  • Jumping. Thank you 10 lb babies.
  • Sneezing, coughing and even sometimes, hiccupping. I need panties with a permanent leak guard system – you know, something to help save the environment from landfills filling up with Depends. I think I might be on to something here…
  • Working out. Oh, the joy that has come from feeling great about the fact that I am working out, only to have it shattered by realizing my cute work out pants are now darkened with my lady-bit drips. And because I am me, they’re inside out.
  • Laughing. Which usually makes me laugh more (from mortification), which then leads to hiccupping. It’s a clusterf*ck.
  • Crying. Yes, when I get to sobbing too hard, it’s like my girl cave gets jealous and wants to cry too.

This last one leads me into the other thing that I’ve discovered since being 40; I cry at everything. I’ve always been the woman who cries during the sad scenes in movies or when the girl and guy finally get together at the end of the book. But now, I seem to cry at the most inane things.

Reasons I’ve cried just this week:

  • I peed myself. Ok, this is a regular thing as I’ve established above and given that crying also makes me pee, sometimes I feel like I should just spend my days on the toilet.
  • Adele sang Hello on the Today Show and it was beautiful.
  • I ran out of wine. I was sobbing and my husband went and bought me a bottle. That made me cry too.
  • I punched myself in the cheek trying to get the fitted sheet on the bed.
  • I happened to catch a glimpse of myself yawning in the mirror. Have you ever looked at yourself yawning?!
  • I found a forgotten tub of Chunky Monkey in the freezer when looking for chicken. So happy!
  • I ate the whole tub of Chunky Monkey.
  • My son didn’t want to spend time with me.
  • My son wouldn’t leave me alone and followed me EVERYWHERE. Even to pee, which yeah, I know could happen anywhere but this was actually a full pee stop in the bathroom.

I could go on but I am starting to get embarrassed.

I had high hopes for 40 and I still have another 6 months for things to take an upswing. I am clinging to the idea that at some point, I’ll feel so confident in myself (because life experience, right?) that I won’t care if I pee, I’ll embrace the warmth and count myself lucky to have my two beautiful (and gross) boys. What’s a little pee in my panties compared to the joy of refereeing a fart war or stopping the fight about whose name is first on Santa’s nice list? I’m hoping to finally feel comfortable in the body I have, not the body I want. I hope to hold my head high at the school carnival, as the other PTA mom’s cluster about and talk shop, even if I am the mom whose son is running around screaming, “I like pink fluffy unicorns who dance and fart rainbows!” What? Your sons DON’T like unicorns??

In the end, have hope and that is enough to get me up each morning and think, “Maybe today is the day I stay dry.” Thank you 40, for showing me what true priorities are.

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