"Wooden't you love to do better?"

"Wooden't you love to do better?"

Maudlin musings ahead. May not resonate with all.

Many years ago, in the Reston years, I was struggling; struggling to figure out what I wanted to do, who I wanted to be, how I could bring in money to help our family, how I could be a better mother, wife, person. (Not necessarily in that order.)

An advertisement came across one of the Yahoo groups I was in (Yes, it was that long ago.) for a Mom who was offering playtime in her home. All-natural home, all-natural snacks, two children of her own to play with, cloth diapers not a problem.

This sounded like the perfect fit. I wasn’t looking for daycare. I just needed respite. The children were still all so little. Yessa was still nursing. Buster and Yessa were still both in diapers. My gosh, those days were so intense; physically and emotionally.

This is a long lead up to explain that I was willing to drive 30 minutes to drop the children off at Jessica’s house so they could play with her children for a couple hours. I would go sit at Panera and buy a tea bag to make a cup of tea (That was the least expensive thing I could think of, but I didn’t want to take too much advantage of Panera’s generosity by purchasing nothing.), then I would write or fill out surveys for money, do my Juice work, or attempt to dream myself into existence. Who was I besides what I seemed to be; a middle-class white woman who was staying at home with her children, raising them like some Trader Joe’s parody of Parenthood.

Yessa especially hated being left, but as most caregivers will generally say, “She calms down as soon as you leave.” Monkey put up a brave front as the big sister. Buster was Buster, stoic yet wary.

I still hated leaving, and it felt horribly guilty, but I actually believed that Jessica was probably a better mother than me. Not only was she doing all the things I was trying to do, organically, but she was offering to take in other people’s children to do those things for them, too.

One day Buds didn’t go into the office but instead rode along with the children and me so he and I could work at Panera together. Shortly after we got settled in at Panera we got a call from Jessica, telling us there had been an accident, and she thought we better come back over.

“Everything is fine, but I think you’d better come.”

I hate those types of calls.

Jessica’s son and Buster had been playing in the backyard with blocks and her son tossed a block in the air and Buster attempted to catch it with his face.

At least, that’s how the story sounded.

Buster had an ice pack on his face. He wasn’t even crying anymore. We bundled everyone up, and as we were leaving Jessica said, “I think this isn’t going to work. I think three extra children in the house is too many.”

After we had everyone snapped into car seats, before pulling away from her home, I turned to Buds and said, “Did we just get fired? It feels like we just got fired.”

“Yup,” Buds agreed.

It was almost an out of body experience. It felt like there was more to the story that she wasn’t being honest about. Had Buster been annoying her son and her son whacked him with a board? Was she scared we’d sue her? Did she not like us, our children? Was there something wrong with our family?

In some ways it was a relief to have that “Mom’s Day Out” option disappear. I wasn’t going to trundle the children off to anywhere that didn’t have someone better than me. (Sport & Health Gym reminder, Children?) If I couldn’t find an organic, all-natural haven for the children, they would just be stuck with me.

With that option removed we settled back into our regular life together. Sometime in there Buds began working from home one day a week which allowed me to go into the Juice office to work with Uncle Z and our two other co-workers. That helped a lot. It reminded me who I was as a person.

Possibly this whole post was written so I would have the chance to share these pictures.

The shiner at its peak.
This shows the point of contact for the piece of wood’s corner on his forehead.
Slowly fading away.
Back to normal.

Friends and I have been talking frequently about the lives of our families and our children. How connected we are (or think we are) to our children, and how protected we’ve worked to make them feel. (World events remind us that protection is a myth in many ways, but we still try.)

With that discussion comes the inevitable question of am I/did I parent wrong? Should I have done things differently?

This Buster story reminds me that I couldn’t/can’t/don’t know how to parent any other way. Ten years ago when Buster took a piece of wood to the head I was doing my best, and this day, ten years later, I’m still doing my best; as is the whole family.

I’m screwing up the children, just as my family of origin screwed me up, just as my friends are screwing up their kids, each in our own unique, glorious, loving way. Each generation we try something a little different, trying to be better parents. Other than cases of abuse, I’m not sure there really is a better.

There’s just different.

Oh, how these pictures remind me how much I love this child, though. That is ageless, and that I cannot screw up.