Many a weekday morning when Stanton is out of town for work, I let the girls watch an episode of “Sofia the First” or “The Cat in the Hat” so that I can take a shower in peace.
Several times, when I haven’t used the “TV as babysitter” tactic, Anna has wandered into the bathroom and broached less-than-ideal early-morning conversation topics. For example… “Mom, your belly is so big and cozy.” And, “Mom, why is there hair on your legs? YUCK, Mom!”
Nothing like this kind of 3-year-old commentary to make me want to crawl back under the covers.
Grace also has been known to poke her head into the bathroom with an urgent question, as water is streaming down my body. “Mom, can you please find my headband with the pink bow? I need my headband with the pink bow, now. Please.”
“Girls. Girls.” I quickly rinse the conditioner out of my hair. “You’re only supposed to come in here if it’s really important, remember? Really important, or an emergency.”
Grace sighs. “Mom, my hair looks crazy! I need my headband, right now. The one with the pink bow,” she adds.
I turn off the water. “Is it possible…could you both possibly give me some privacy? For one minute?”
By this point, Anna has made herself comfortable on the tile floor, “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” or a 500-page, hours-of-fun sticker book in hand. “It’s fine, Mom,” she says, shrugging her little shoulders. “We don’t mind.”
My turn to sigh.
So yes…thank goodness for Netflix.
“Mom, my hair looks crazy! I need my headband, right now.”
The other morning, I clicked on Netflix. The girls were settled on the couch, patiently waiting for one of their favorite shows. On our Netflix, we have three profiles: Stanton, Melissa, and Grace and Anna. That morning, when I arrived at the screen of profiles, the “Melissa” one was highlighted.
“Melissa! Melissa!” Grace noticed.
“Mom…is…Melissa!” Anna chimed in.
“YOU WERE WATCHING TV!” they yelled, pointing at me with big eyes and laughing, as if they had just discovered the world’s best secret.
I had to laugh too. Then I said, “Yes, it’s true, girls. Sometimes, after you go to sleep, I watch TV.”
They began laughing hysterically again. “Mom watches TV! Mom watches TV!”
God forbid I catch up on “House of Cards” or “Longmire” when I have a moment to myself, right?
Grace raised an eyebrow at me. “What else do you do after Anna and I go to sleep?”
I raised my eyebrow back at her.
The secret lives of moms.
Our children know us so well, but we also keep things from them. I have some secrets, which are probably similar to yours.
I watch TV most nights, when I could be doing something productive instead. (If I never finish my great American novel, I have no one to blame but myself!)
When I’m couch-potato-ing, I usually have dark chocolate as my accompanying snack. But sometimes, sometimes, I give in to my true love: Cheetos.
I know you’re not supposed to eat “food” that ends in an “O” (Cheetos, Doritos, Ho-Hos…the list goes on)…but I’m a sucker for Cheetos.
My daughters know I strive for all four of us to eat healthfully…and they also know I love Cheetos. When we go grocery shopping together, I say, “Remember, girls, don’t let me buy…”
“Cheetos!” they yell.
“Yes!” I reply. “Mom does not need Cheetos.” (Gotta do something about that big and cozy belly.)
But sometimes, sometimes, I give in to my true love: Cheetos.
On a recent grocery-shopping trip, I maneuvered the cart down the “Chips” aisle to get Tostitos for Stanton. Super Bowl Sunday was coming up; he would need Tostitos. I grabbed a bag. (Original, not multigrain, of course. Why is multigrain Tostitos even an option?!)
Then I saw, out of the corner of my eye, on the bottom shelf…Cheetos.
Mmm…I could almost taste the cheesy, crunchy goodness.
While Grace and Anna were debating what they should be for Halloween nearly nine months from now, I snuck a bag of Cheetos into the cart. A little treat for me, for later.
The three of us got into a checkout aisle. That’s when Grace noticed the Cheetos. She looked at me with wide eyes, and an accusatory expression. “Mom…!”
“I know, I know,” I said. “Let’s not make a big deal about this.” I didn’t want Anna to notice too.
But of course… “Hey! Hey, MOM!” Anna pointed to the bright-orange bag.
“Anna, guess what.” Grace leaned across the front of the cart, where Anna was sitting. “Mom got Cheetos.”
“Cheetos?!” The forbidden fruit. Anna craned her body around and grabbed for the bag. “I want Cheetos! I want them, Mom!”
I tossed the Cheetos onto the checkout counter. “Anna, Cheetos aren’t healthy,” I said, shaking my head at her. “They’re junk food. Yuck!”
Anna shook her head back at me. “I love junk food! I want some junk food, Mom!”
Some of the people around us laughed. Others just looked at me. Just…great.
I exchanged a glance with Grace, who simply sighed and said, “Mom.”
Mom, you shouldn’t have gotten the Cheetos.
“I love junk food! I want some junk food, Mom!”
One last story, friends.
As you know, Anna often ends up sleeping in our bed. When Stanton is traveling, I usually just tuck her into our bed, rather than her own bed, so that I don’t have to get up at 3 a.m. (it’s always 3 a.m., like clockwork) to run into her room and then snuggle her back to sleep alongside myself. When Stanton is home, though, I do tuck Anna into her own bed so that he and I have some time together before her tiny body takes up a huge amount of space in our bed.
On one such morning, Anna woke up. Stretched her little arms. Rolled over and saw Stanton. “Dad,” she grumbled. (Like her mom, she’s not a morning person.)
“Dad!” Anna said again, pushing at him. “Dad, what are you doing here?”
I looked over. “Anna,” I hissed. “Dad’s still sleeping.”
Anna flung herself back my way. “Why is he here?” she asked again.
Why indeed, friends. Why indeed.
It very well may be impossible for our children to imagine that we, as moms, have moments in our lives that don’t involve them.
And you know, I’m guilty of this too, with my own mom. I called my mom on her cell phone once. She didn’t answer. I called my family’s landline phone. No answer again.
I remember being irrationally annoyed. Where was my mom when I needed her? What could she possibly be doing that she couldn’t drop that minute to answer my phone call?
(Do we ever grow up, friends?)
For many of us, I think we simply like to know, on a very basic level, that our moms are there. Are there for us. In an American culture where so many of us strive to stand out in the crowd, we like to know that there’s still one person who, no matter what, thinks the world of us.
Who will pick up the second we call. Who will stop showering, that second, to find our headband (the one with the pink bow), simply because our hair, currently, looks crazy.
For many of us, that person answers to “Mom.” For others of us, it’s “Dad,” or “Grandpa,” or the name of a good friend.
For my daughters, I’m that person. I love being that person to them.
But every now and then…I just want to binge-watch my favorite shows alone, in bed, with a serving size (or two) of Cheetos close at hand.
Photo credit: Pixabay
Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short fiction e-book, “What Happens Next.” A story that’s heartfelt, relevant and can’t-put-it-down good.