Tuesday, November 6, 2012

You Know You're a Mom When...

Every once in a while, I do, say, or see something that makes me think, “Oy, I am SUCH a mom.” There are certain telltale signs that belong to no-one else except a mom. Here is a list of a few of the things that help me to never forget that I’m a mom. Even when I really, REALLY want to forget.

1.          There are nose and lip prints on every shiny vertical surface in your house about 3 feet up from the floor.
The sliding glass doors, the refrigerator, the dishwasher, the stove, the full-length mirrors. You can make circuits around the house with a bottle of Windex and a roll of paper towels and there will still be fresh prints on every surface by the time you finish a circuit. In my house, these are made by the 3-year-old, who a) is curious as to what’s outside, which makes the prints on the sliding glass doors, and b) likes to make his mother crazy by licking random surfaces, which makes the prints on everything else; and by the one-year-old, who forgets to watch where she’s going and crashes into things. She crashes into every vertical surface, not just the shiny ones; it’s just that only the shiny ones manage to retain the prints.

2.            Your purse contains more items belonging to your children than to you.
My kids are old enough that I don’t need a full diaper bag for short outings like going out to dinner or to the grocery store. But I do need a stash of a few necessary items in case of emergency. So my purse contains my wallet, my cell phone, my keys, and possibly a tube of lipstick, but it also contains two different sizes of diapers, a pack of baby wipes, several Matchbox cars, a small plastic tiger and giraffe, a Ziploc baggie of somewhat crumbled Cheez-its, a small plastic fork and spoon, and a juice box. Yes, my purse is nearly as big as a diaper bag. But it looks slightly classier. At least, it does until I start pulling out all the items mentioned above.
See? I was not exaggerating. This is really what’s in my purse. There is a wallet in there somewhere. I hope.
And I know it’s not just me, because I was recently on a flight with my children and my one-year-old was fussing. The mom in the aisle behind us reached into her purse and wordlessly handed me a slightly sticky board book, and as our eyes met, I could feel her silently telling me, “Courage, sister.”

3.            You narrate yourself all day long.
My 3-year-old son is very verbal and loves to learn new words, so I talk to him a lot. And I explain new, relatively complex words to him on a regular basis. When we go to the grocery store, we talk about the different kinds of fruits and how they grow and why they’re good for you. We discuss why the lobsters in the tank have rubber bands on their claws. We talk about why we have to close the refrigerator and freezer doors right away after we get what we need. We talk about how we have to pay for what we’re buying before we can open it up and eat it (this is a crucial – and difficult - lesson whenever we buy cookies). We learn words like “patience” and “preservatives” and “dozen.” I didn’t realize how automatic this was for me until the whole family was in the car the other day and my husband suddenly burst out laughing because I was explaining to my son some concept like “asphalt” or “curb.” [NB: While I was writing this paragraph, I had to take a break to check on my son and I kid you not, I explained to him the words “outrank” and “trebuchet.” Yes, there was a logical context. No, I am not going to attempt to explain it here.]

4.            You find yourself translating from “child” to “English” whenever someone else is in the room.
My 1-year-old doesn’t speak much yet (her vocabulary consists of “Mama,” “uh-oh,” “wow,” “ow,”and “quack”), but she does have a few sounds that mean something to us although they aren’t actual words. When she points to something, she makes a sound that we have decided means, “What’s that?” so whenever she says it, I repeat, “What’s that?” so anyone listening will know what she means. She also has begun saying “k” to mean both cup and book, so I repeat the appropriate word both to teach her and to fill in anyone nearby.

And although my 3-year-old speaks quite clearly and is generally understandable to strangers, his speech often requires context clues to make any sense. For example, the other day he put on his police helmet with the green visor and informed me, “Mama, you look like a big green potato!” This comes off as a pretty bizarre statement in and of itself, until I ask him, “Oh, just like Quack the duck looked like a big green potato when his friend Chirp the bird looked at him through a green glass bottle?” Strangers probably still think he’s crazy, but at least they know he gets it from his mother.

5.            You can identify the specific object causing a crashing noise from the next room.
Any mother of a toddler can tell you that you very quickly develop a sense of knowing which crashes are ordinary, harmless play and which require motherly intervention and/or medical attention. Dull plastic thwacks are generally toy trucks and do not need to be checked out; sharper wooden clunks could be furniture being damaged and require a quick peek; resounding metallic clangs or the sound of shattering glass are definite immediate response indicators. If the latter category is followed by the sound of a small body hitting the floor and then silence, 9-1-1 should be dialed on the way to the scene.

Obviously, this list is a mere sampling of the signs of motherhood. These are only a few of the more common and recognizable signs. Although I suspect the most common and recognizable is that haggard, exhausted, vaguely unkempt look and vacant expression that is so universal among moms of tots.

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