Guilt

January 31, 2009

Motherhood is interesting.  I spent the day at home with Bridget today.  I’ve been repainting our master bathroom and decided to attempt continuing the project with little Bridget at my heels.  I set her up with her own big cardboard box to paint with washable purple tempera while I painted the walls, and we were plugging away quite swimmingly.  (I should mention that we’re about to replace the flooring, so paint on the old carpet is not a big concern.)  I had music blasting and she was happy, painting her box, her arms, her legs, her face, her hair.  All was well.  I finished the wall I was working on (bright apple green, super-cool shade) and looked at Bridget.  It was definitely time for a bath.

She had a fun, cozy bubble bath. I sat on the edge of the tub and played giraffes with her, something that is one of the greater sacrificial mother-things that I do. It is painstaking.  I have the mommy Schleich giraffe, and she has the baby one.  She has very concrete preconceived notions about how these giraffes behave, and is quick to correct me if I stray from her plan of what the giraffe is supposed to say, do, etc.  So my own imagination is completely stifled in this type of play, and I’m left making grunting noises and tentatively having the mother giraffe hop up and down and walk around.  Not too fun, but once in a while, the guilt closes in when she holds up the giraffes and says, “Mommy, will you play giraffes with me?”

So today I indulged her. After her bath, I wrapped her up and snuggled her and danced her around the upstairs of our house.   When she was warm and toasty, she flung the towel from her and ran around shrieking “Naked baby on the loose!”  We’ve sung this for her since she was a crawling infant and wanted some naked time after her bath.  Today I marveled at how tall she is getting, how grown-up she is looking, and I felt that bittersweetness of mothering a growing little girl.

“You can’t catch me!”  she taunted, running past me. Chasing and laughing ensued.  When I caught her, I tackled her to the ground, then start swinging her around by her legs.  She was giggling hysterically.  When I let her gently down, she begged, “Again!”  This time, I had her lay on her tummy and grabbed one arm and one leg and “airplaned” her around me in circles.  She was loving it.  Then, when I put her down, she became very quiet and looked at me reproachfully.  “You hurt my arm.”

Uh, oh.  Here I am, secretly delighting in what a great mom I am, how attentive, how fun, and now I’ve probably dislocated her arm.  Although, there is a history here.

A few months ago, Bridget and Phoebe were wrestling, and the accusation was cast by Bridget: “Phoebe hurt my arm.”  A long night of fear, anxiety.  We were certain she had a break or fracture but were nervous to take her to the E.R. because some friends of ours just recently had a full-blown CPS investigation after such an E.R. visit.  We decided Dave would stay home from work and help me take her to our regular pediatrician the next day.  She woke up crying and moaning, and clutching her arm.  “Pitiful,” we whispered, waiting for the pediatrician’s office to open.  To help time pass, we turned on the Wonder Pets and left her watching while we helped the other girls get ready for school.  When we passed by her the next time, Bridget was doing a backbend in front of the computer.   “What are you doing?”  We asked, astonished.  “Gymnastics,” she replied.  Dave and I looked at each other incredulously.  “What about your arm?”  we asked.  “Oh!”  She looked confused.  “I guess it’s all better!”

So, there are some dramatic tendencies.

I called up Dave at work to break the news that we had a potential problem.  Now, I love my husband.  He is generally very sympathetic and kind.  Today, he said, “Well, the first thing is, you shouldn’t swing her around by her arms and legs.”  Oh, thank you.  I felt one inch tall, I knew he was right, and yet it seemed so minimizing of the Very Good Mom I had been all day, even in that moment when I swung her around.  Defensive anger welled up in me, and I curtly got off the phone.

This is dragging out, so I’ll cut to the chase.  Bridget’s arm is fine.  A few hours and a lot of whimpering later, I took some brilliant advice from a friend to put some Vicks Vaporub on it, claim the stuff was a magic potion, and see what happened.  It worked like a charm.  She tentatively wiggled it and straightened and flexed it.  “It’s all better!”

Dave apologized when he got home, and I graciously accepted his apology.  All’s well that ends well.  Another day of being a mom – with all the fun and work and guilt and frustration and joy – is coming to a close.  Can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings.

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