How Your Kids Awakened the Future Mom in Me

I’m not a parent, but I used to play one in the morning. Five days a week I would drive over to a family friend’s house to pick up their 10-year-old twins and take them to school.

I didn’t do any of the hard work. When I showed up the kids were awake and dressed and fed. Their parents greeted me kindly and I did the same, well aware I wasn’t the one tired from staying up late doing homework, wishing away bad dreams, or calming down a tantrum whose root is unidentifiable. No, I was just the one who asked the kids to put their shoes on, and reminded them to grab their backpacks and a jacket, and led us on our merry way.

The car ride was short. 10-15 minutes tops. Some drives were filled with jokes and comments and stories, some were quiet, and some were a mix of both. The front seat, back seat and trunk donned different props depending on the day. Be it a science fair presentation, a flower for the teacher, a still wet art project, birthday desserts or a bag of canned goods for donation. We tried to organize them neatly so we could all be comfortable, then we worked together to give the right what to the right who, so all of it could get to the right where.

When we got to the front of the carline, the teacher said hello and the kids said goodbye and I said I’d see them tomorrow and then I drove to work.

The next morning, we’d start all over again.

As I sat at the dining room table, keeping an eye on when the clock hit 7:35—our time to leave—I smiled at the things the twins brought to show me. They walked up and took a seat, opened a book and read me a chapter or showed off a drawing that lent itself to a lazy weekend afternoon. “You have to check this out,” they’d say, and no part of me was capable of saying “no”.

At 7:30, I’d give them their warning. “Okay guys,” I’d say, trying to find a balance between serious and calm, “we’re going to leave in about five minutes.” This usually provoked some sort of response, be it a nod, a groan, or, on good days, a fully formed, “okay.” I’d pack up my purse and walk around the house switching off lights, and they’d gather their last minute needs, which ranged anywhere from a book for the car ride to a hand-knitted scarf they just realized would make the perfect accessory.

As we walked side by side to the car, the questions began. Sometimes they were simple. A basic “would you rather” or “have you ever” or “did you know?” While other times they were harder, heavier, and more complicated. On these days I’d slow my pace, hoping age and experience would take the real answer and simplify it. Purify it. Maintain its truth while avoiding as many associated evils as possible. “Well…” I’d start, and they’d go silent, waiting for an explanation.

When we got in the car, one, two, three of us were seated, and then one, two, three of us were buckled. I’d start the engine, put us in drive and pull away from the curb. The radio is a messy combination in the morning. Loose conversation threatens to spill information not suitable for young ears, so I’d fervently skim, my own ears analyzing like a central intelligence agent.

“I like this one,” I’d hear from the backseat. I’d let go of the knob, lean back in my seat and in my rearview mirror, I’d see a head begin to bob. A small high-pitched voice would fill the air of the car and I’d smile.

One winter day, I noticed one of the twins take her jacket off in the car. This puzzled me, as I was sitting far closer to the heater and yet still shivering. But even after removing her jacket, she rolled up her sleeves.

“It’s hot in here,” she said casually, then continued telling me a story about some girls from school. When we pulled into the carline, she put her jacket back on, preparing for the cold air that waited on the other side of the door. We pulled up to the curb and the woman opened the door with a smile. A breeze seeped in, sending a shiver down my spine. “See you tomorrow,” they both said, and I smiled and waved goodbye.

The next day, I decided not to turn on the heater. When we got in and got buckled, I turned on the ignition and shivered at the cold air that snuck through the vents. I pulled my sleeves down and tucked my hands inside, gripping the cold leather steering wheel through the cotton, surprised I couldn’t see my breath.

“Did I tell you about the park we went to over the weekend?” she said from the backseat. I looked in the mirror to meet her gaze and found her sitting there, comfortable. Her jacket was still buttoned and she was leaning into the window, fogging up the surface with her breath.

By the time we got to school, I was convinced my fingers must be blue. I pulled into the carline and let the teacher open the door. The kids waved to me and I waved back with a sleeved fist. Once they were inside the gate, I pulled away and immediately cranked up the heat. After a minute or so, my fingers twitched back to life and my body relaxed.

In this renewed state of comfort, I awaited the train of thought that promised I wouldn’t put myself through that again the next day. I was miserable, wasn’t I? I was freezing. I couldn’t let this happen again. I waited patiently for the survivalist game plan to formulate, but it never came. Instead, I heard their voices echoing in my head.

“Would you rather,” they said. There was a single giggle that always came before the question and then a pair that came after. “Would you rather be so cold you froze your fingers off, or so hot you melted?” A smile formed on my lips. “Both,” I thought to myself, “as long as it meant you were comfortable.”

On the last day I took them to school, we went through our usual routine. I sat at the kitchen table and rounded us up at 7:30, we buckled our seatbelts and found a good song on the radio, we asked questions and answered questions and we waved goodbye. But this time there was no “see you tomorrow.” I knew that I’d go to work that day and I’d come home and I’d officially retire from being a mom in the mornings. What I didn’t know is that I’d start to dream about the days I’d be a mom in the afternoons and the evenings too. I dreamed about the days I’d be the one tired from staying up late doing homework or wishing away a bad dream or calming down a tantrum with an unidentifiable root. I dreamed about being lucky enough to have kids like yours one day, and oh what a dream that would be.

The Maine Shaped Splotch

My brother was a bit of a surprise, at least to me. I had just turned 7 when I found out he was coming. We were at a restaurant by my aunt’s house celebrating a birthday, when I excused myself from a conversation about Mario Party to ask my mom for a quarter to get a bouncy ball. The floor was covered in sawdust and before I covered half the distance between us, I took a break to remove the flakes from my shoes. Then, standing before my mom with my brightest smile, I explained the situation at hand.

Pink Bouncy Ball.


Not want.

My mom turned her left wrist, glimpsing at her watch, before denying my request with the classic, “it’s getting late” excuse. I tried to object, but was met with the warm pull of her arms around my shoulders, hugging me with the type of sincerity not even a bratty little 7 year old could deny. I hugged her back, tightening my arms around her waist, before stepping back, looking deep into her eyes and asking, “Are you pregnant or just fat?”

It was there, amongst the itchy sawdust and ungranted bouncy balls that my mom explained to me of the baby on the way.

“YESS.” I said as I threw my fist in the air.  For years I’d been mothering a number of dolls—all named Crystal—and now I would have a full-blown human baby to take care of!  I thought of my Baby Alive, the doll I’d just received for my birthday. You know, the one that will crap its pants after you feed it, like a REAL baby, so you can be REAL mom, and change its diaper with scotch tape. I couldn’t wait.

About a year later, I was on the clock. My brother had the chunkiest legs, like bean burritos. We would play this game after I changed his diaper where I would start at his feet and count, “1, 2, 3, 4…” as I tip toed my way up his BRC stems to tickle his stomach.

One day, after the laughter died down, I put him in his playpen, gave him a kiss on the cheek, and told him I was off to the real world: 4th grade. It was a beautiful spring day, the sun was out, I had Music class first, and I was rocking my new bell-bottoms. (Remember when those went back in style for a few years in the late 90s? I crushed them.)

Upon arriving at school, I felt off, a little nauseous, but I couldn’t figure out why. Even through the pledge of allegiance, the school song, and roll call—which was my favorite—I felt sick. At lunch, I started to notice others around me feel it too. Their noses started to scrunch, their eyes squinted in pain. Something was hanging over us, but we didn’t know what.

Then I saw it.

It was yellow and green and shaped like Maine. Baby diarrhea. Splotched on the front right pocket of my bell-bottoms, poisoning the surrounding oxygen like I was the shit stained cousin of Pig Pen. I rushed to the bathroom and scrubbed my way through an entire roll of wetted toilet paper, only to find myself soaking wet, with a more artistic stain now blended into my pants like a watercolor painting. Too embarrassed to tell anyone, including the school nurse, I stuck it out for the last 2 hours of school, constantly on the verge of tears.

When I got home, my brother looked up at my puffy red face and smiled as his drool oozed down his cheeks onto the floor of his playpen. I looked down at him, still utterly traumatized, but entranced in his little blue eyes.  He didn’t know he had caused me permanent social damage, polluted my favorite pair of pants, and ultimately ruined my entire day with his uncontrollable bowels. He didn’t know that at 25 years old, I’d still remember this as one of the most embarrassing days of my life. All he knew was he was happy to see me, and that he wanted his diaper changed.