Monday, November 23, 2009

Calling Poison Control: The Evolution of Motherhood

Want to know where you are on the evolutionary chain of motherhood?* Read the following descriptions, and choose the one that best describes you as a mother. Then, leave a comment and let me know, "Which mom are you?"

Early Neanderthal Mom: (The evolutionary process has barely even begun.)

You're a first-time mom, and your brand-new bundle of joy knocks over an open container of baby powder. Powder goes flying towards your baby's open mouth and you go into full-on mom panic mode. You grab the baby, the powder, and the portable phone and run to the kitchen, where the Poison Control number is taped to your refrigerator. Hearing the hysteria in your first-time mother's voice, the Poison Control operator quickly assures you that the 1/8 tsp. of cornstarch-based powder that your baby just licked off her lips will not adversely affect her in any way.

Still Neanderthal Mom: (You haven't learned much, but there's hope for you yet.)

You're still a first-time mom, and your newly-mobile 7-month old discovers the kitty's cat food. She dumps it out, stirs it around, and then places the food piece by piece back into the bowl... until she gets hungry and decides to help herself to a snack. You pick up the little darling a few minutes later, smell the faint scent of tuna on her breath, and freak out. You run to the junk drawer and frantically dig out the list of emergency numbers. A Poison Control operator soon assures you that food considered safe for kitty consumption is likewise safe for small children (although it is not recommended by the FDA).

Cromagnon Mom: (A big evolutionary leap, but you've still got a ways to go.)

You're suddenly the overworked, under rested mother of four children 3 and under. The bigger house you were forced to upgrade into is mostly baby-proofed, but lately you're noticing a few places that you overlooked - like the kids' changing table. You walk into the bathroom after nursing Baby #4 and see your other three children brushing their teeth. This is not completely traumatic until you realize that they mistook the diaper rash cream for toothpaste. You race downstairs to find a phone, then dial 4-1-1 to get the Poison Control number. The Poison Control operator asks you a series of questions that make you feel increasingly like a bad mother, and then determines that while the zinc oxide might make them a bit nauseous, your children will be generally unharmed by their oral hygiene experiment.

Early Modern Mom: (You're almost there!)

Baby #4 is now walking, and loves to open all of the drawers in your bathroom. Although technically "baby-proofed," most of the cheap plastic child locks have broken off your cabinets and your adventurous baby is having a free-for-all. He locates a bottle of Dramamine in one of the drawers and quickly dispenses with the child-proof cap. You walk in just in time to find him on the floor surrounded by an empty bottle and seven pills. According to the label, the bottle holds eight. You can't remember if you took a pill on your last cruise or not. The boat was a little rocky, but you can't specifically recall any sea-sickness. You wait 15 minutes until the mother-guilt piles up, then walk downstairs and dig through the pantry for last year's phone book. You finally find the number for Poison Control, answer a series of questions that once again remind you what a lousy parent you are, and listen while the operator instructs you to watch for signs of sleepiness. You are just wrapping up the call when Baby #4 goes sprinting by in a monkey mask, with his three sisters in hot pursuit. You remember now that you probably were a tad sea sick during that last cruise, and decide to ignore the operator's advice about waking up Baby #4 every hour or so through the night.

Modern Mom: (Congratulations... I think.)

You have officially given up on the child-proof locks, and now keep cleaning chemicals like Febreeze out in the open and close on hand - because the smell of your kid's dirty diaper is far more deadly than a whiff of "Clean Scent." Unfortunately, Baby #4 is a climber and can usually get at whatever he wants. Plus, he loves to know how things work. You see it coming, but as fast as you sprint up those stairs, he still manages to shoot himself in the face with air freshener. At this point, you're pretty sure that Big Brother has you on a list somewhere, and that yet another call to Poison Control will result in a visit from DFACS. You read the warning labels on the back of the Febreeze canister, acknowledge that perhaps those warning labels really are there to serve an actual purpose, and dunk your kid in the bathtub to both "flush out the affected eye" and rinse the scent of air freshener from his hair. Then you put him to bed, confident that despite your lack of medical knowledge, his vision will not be affected by this little incident.

So tell me, "Which mom are you?"

*The evolutionary chain of motherhood is actually a hoax. In truth, mothers are created by God. And it is only by His grace that my children remained healthy through all five of the above scenarios...

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Headless Sprinting Chicken

Anybody else out there reading Deadly Viper: Character Assassins byMike Foster and Jud Wilhite?

Anybody out there want to slap me right now for admitting I have time to read?

Well before you hurt me, I should let you know two things:

1. Deadly Viper: Character Assassins is essentially a "bathroom read." You can pick it up during your 30 seconds or so of time in the loo, and get a good couple of pages read. If you have earplugs, you might even get a full minute of privacy - so long as you can't hear the children knocking on the door asking, "Mo-ommy! What are you do-oing?!?" (Or am I just projecting my own experiences?)

2. I've only read two of the six chapters, and the ones I read were in the middle of the book. Yeah, that's just how I roll.

Anyway, one of the two brilliant chapters I had "time" to read a few weeks ago is called The Assassin of the Headless Sprinting Chicken. It's all about how the concept of "balance" is essentially bunk; that we will never be able to have a morning quiet time every morning, eat everything just right, exercise everyday, drink 64 oz. of water before bedtime, create perfectly happy and well-behaved children, and still slip into bed at night looking like a Victoria's Secret model.

OK I took a few liberties with my synopsis, but you get the point: Balance is bunk. Instead of being a healthy - albeit flawed - person who can roll with life's punches, I'm more like a headless sprinting chicken running around trying to achieve perfection through the illusion of a balanced life.

And yes - that about sums up my experiences of late. I have been absolutely CLOBBERED by the Assassin of the Headless Sprinting Chicken. In trying to be all things by doing all things for all of the people around me, I have failed myself miserably. I'm living off daily drive-thru Cokes and the occasional pack of chicken nuggets, but I can't tell you the last time I sat down to eat. I get out of breath cleaning my house, because it seems like every time I turn around all of the stuff that is supposed to be upstairs is downstairs, and all of the stuff that is supposed to be downstairs is upstairs. My 5-year old's pre-K homework has been late for two weeks in a row. (And come to think of it, so has she.) I can't remember the last time I prayed for myself, my husband, or my children. And to save my life, I can't seem to swallow the happy pill we all know I need.

The plane is going down, and every one's wearing an oxygen mask but me.

So what's the answer? According to the Deadly Viper authors, "LEAD YOURSELF. NO ONE ELSE WILL" (93).

Wilhite goes on to spell it out on p. 94: "I am responsible to lead myself, to ensure that I'm resting, learning, growing, and bringing my very best self to the job every day. I'm the only one who knows what my emotional, physical, and spiritual gauges are telling me and I've got to listen to them. I am responsible for my own self-care, growth, and development."


Basically, everybody else is wearing their oxygen mask because I've placed it on them. But the instruction we've heard the flight attendant give a thousand times before is to place the mask on ourselves first. I realized last week that I'm no good to my family right now, because I've been so busy caring for them that I've forgotten to give any thought to myself. All I'm really doing is running around like a chicken with its head cut off.

Of course, I'm writing all of this down "pre-solution." I really don't know what I'm going to do to start taking better care of myself. I know that writing is somehow therapeutic for me, so I suppose this post is a step in the right direction. I'm hoping that the bowl of cereal I'm going to go eat in a second isn't too bad either. Perhaps I'll even get out of the house for a bit on this beautiful day, and just take a few minutes to enjoy the time before it passes me by.

On that note, let me share one final bit of encouragement I heard last night. It's a daily devotional that was once kept in the wallet of a famous Alabama coach that my husband is NOT going to let me mention. So forget I said it, and just read the words:

This is the beginning of a new day.
God has given me this day to use as I will.
I can waste it or use it for good.
What I do today is very important because I am exchanging a day of my life for it.
When tomorrow comes, this day will be gone forever, leaving something in its place I have traded for it.
I want it to be a gain, not loss - good, not evil.
Success, not failure in order that I shall not forget the price I paid for it.
Blessings to all of you mommies out there today. Make it a good one!