Sucker Punching Perfect

It happened again today. I got a Look from someone when Smith was misbehaving at Whole Foods (cannot afford on a regular basis) on Pacific Coast Highway. Smith has been adjusting to the time change poorly, and it shows like a bad rash.

I find it’s hard to use the recommended parenting tools in the midst of a tantrum. I’m putting groceries on the belt and making sure my son doesn’t get his hands on something that could potentially hurt him or another person, and I know that I should be distracting him and creating a fun game for him to play instead of just holding him while he screams at the top of his lungs.

Yet, all I can do is just hurry up and pay so I can get out of there. I am increasingly aware that life with a toddler is very much like an airplane crash: you need to secure your own oxygen mask first. Otherwise, the plane is going down with a panicked mother and child duo sans oxygen.

The South Bay is an amazing place to raise a child. Good schools. Good air. Good food. Goodgrief, that mother of three has the body of a swimsuit model and her sunglasses look designer.

I scan her children for flaws, hoping that there will be a sign of a stain or a runny nose. Nothing. They are all well-groomed and behaving.  Gads. Good for them.

I stand there with my spacesuit model body and my runny-nosed, curtain-climbing, crumb-laden son and think that I should probably get a pedicure before my toes are too far gone. After my pedicure, I need to go back to work, but to not just any job. I want the kind of job that pays a lot of money and allows me to spend time with my child—the kind of job that maximizes my talents and minimizes the amount of times I have to worry about buying expensive things that I don’t need.

While I am working—with acceptable toenails—the perfect job, I need to make sure my child is trilingual and completely potty trained. Not just partially like Master Smith who peed on the floor of an Apple store. My child should only eat organic foods, and he should move up from the 50th to the 90th percentile for height (very prevalent in the South Bay with all of our volleyball player parents).

I should read my child 15 books a day and never let him watch television.  At dinner, my child should be able to sit still and quiet in his chair the whole time and occasionally interject with some Shakespearean quotes in Mandarin.

When he gets a little older, my child should excel at not just one, but many sports. I should be happy to drive him to each and every practice and attend every game looking like a fashion plate. I should be playing my guitar and keeping recipes on hand for the other mothers who will rave over my potluck contributions.

My house should be spotless, my car should not have cereal (how do dry Cheerios stick to things?) on the ceiling, and my sustainable vegetable garden should have no weeds. When my child’s birthday comes along, I should have the most unique theme, food, and entertainment in Los Angeles. I should write a book on “how to host the perfect toddler party,” and I should make millions.

I could go on. I want to. But I might lose some—or all—of my readers.

What I want to say to the person who gives me stink eye in line is that “I get it.” I know exactly what is expected of me, and I know how far from that expectation I am.

So many mothers feel that they should do it all. We see celebrity mothers doing it all, don’t we? I think Brooke Burke needs to tone it down a few notches. I can’t read hers or Gwyneth Paltrow’s blog because I just want to punch them and force them to eat a McRib sandwich. I also want to look like Brooke Burke but I don’t like squats or gyms.

Years ago I read an article about women who feel they have to do it all, and it really spoke to me. Mothers are expected to do it all and more until the day they reach the golden gates—or the golden arches if you ate too many McRibs.

Instead of letting that person in line get to you with their “control your child” stare, maybe you should look them in the eye and proudly say, “He’s just upset because he can’t steal any more candy out of the bin, and I may have grabbed his arm a little hard after he rammed his miniature grocery cart into my leg.”

In other words, perfection is a myth. There may be a few mothers out there who “do it all.” Great for them. If I did it all, I would be a robot—and robots can’t smell roses or taste chocolate.