Along for the Ride

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine whose oldest is just starting school full-time told me, "for the first five years or so, it can seem like you are just along for the ride." That sentiment stuck with me because of how true it feels at times. What follows is an attempt to capture what that ride can feel like.

Cope, Charles West. Woman Reading to a Child, National Gallery of Art

Five Minutes

Starting with the moment you picked dried cheese off the floor with your fingernails while you wondered if that rash on her cheek looked like a bite from a spider, the spider you killed earlier with such vengeance, it surprised you just how satisfying it was to feel the squish in the paper towel, but the rash is probably teething (again), and when you turned around, it was to remove a paint chip from her finger and put it in the towel along with the dead spider, and while you're positive the house was checked for lead-based paint, it will still gnaw at you for the rest of your day thinking about it, along with what the nurse told you and your husband on the day you left the hospital that the most dangerous place for a child is the home and while thinking about all those things -- the paint, the spider, the teething, danger everywhere -- you moved quickly to close the bathroom door that she was squealing towards having a vision and a heart palpitation of her diving headfirst into the toilet bowl, and when that was done, she graciously moved to occupy herself with a book for a few seconds which felt like minutes, but then she cried for you and you didn’t answer right away because you were wiping the counter and you don’t want to raise a child who always gets what she wants when she immediately demands it, so you hoped this seven second delay would clean the counter while preventing her from becoming a spoiled adult in our tech-driven, advertisement-bombarded world, but when her face puckered and was turning shades of crimson, you realized (too late) you probably had about five seconds and not the seven seconds you counted on to avoid a meltdown, and that’s when she began putting something in her mouth again while watching for your reaction was that a leaf? and that’s when you whisked her twenty-two pound body on your lap to fetch it out, which made her cry harder so you read the same twenty books you had read earlier that morning with her, and though she turned the pages before the words were done, you have them memorized and you recited them to her while you were thinking about dinner and that’s when she was rubbing her eyes and you felt glad and a little guilty you felt so glad because don’t they tell you to cherish every second of it. And you do. Every second of that shower this morning, even though during a part of it, you heard phantom cries which happens without warning, or this variation which is when another person’s baby is crying and you think it’s yours or someone outside is blowing leaves on their lawn and you think (out of nowhere) danger, my baby is danger, but actually she's just napping in her crib or reading quietly. And if you have a moment where you daydream about being somewhere else, you feel guilty about that, because yes it is a privilege to be able to stay at home with your child, and you wouldn't trade it for anything, but you can also say that you don’t entirely remember the last five minutes which felt like five years in five seconds.


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