Nina's Blog Follow Nina's blog
8/19/2011 11:15:21 AM
I have to admit, I gave Abbie from Don't Make Me Make You Brownies more of my quirks than I have any other character to date.
She doesn't have my basic personality. Although I have a big one, I'm so mentally and physically stressed by serious confrontation that I nearly always choose to either swallow my anger or handle sticky situations with humor.
But despite our differences, Abbie has a ton of my quirks. Today, I think I'll just talk about the one oddity women may find most appalling. Abbie has a sort of pregnancy/baby phobia, a fear of children, and is convinced she has no maternal instincts at all.
Of course, in fiction things have to be exaggerated, however, I have experienced some of these feelings myself. When I learned the ins and outs of giving birth, I thought it was the most horrific, ridiculous process ever. I didn't see why anyone would go through all that just to have a baby. I never got excited over babies the way other women did, though I always wanted to take their dogs home with me.
You'd think that raising my daughter would have gotten me past all this, but she screamed night and day as a baby until I finally understood how that whole shaken baby syndrome happened. (No, I never actually shook her.) I was so glad she was an early talker, so at least I knew what the problems were--even if she was still screaming them at me.
Anyway, I remember one particular day at a belated baby shower, where the newborn was in attendance. All the moms, and even some of the little girls, were dying to hold the baby. I sat quietly, hoping I could get out of there unscathed. But, no, after everyone else had held the little bundle of joy, the mother looked at me and said, "You haven't gotten to hold him yet!" as if I wasn't going to get proper compensation for my baby gift if I was gypped out of the "holding" part.
I didn't want to say, "I have no urge whatsoever to take that scary little load off your hands." Instead I said, "Oh, I'm sure there's someone here more qualified." Everyone laughed like I was joking. (I've found this is one of the drawbacks to being a person who jokes all the time. Even when you're trying to be serious, people don't take you seriously.) So the proud mom came over an thrust her baby upon me.
And I got the same weird feeling I always get in that situation because everyone turned and stared at me expectantly. Since I have sort of an entertainer personality, when people give me their attention, I feel I should do something entertaining. But there was this baby in my arms totally cramping my style. (Hey, I'm half-Latin and that half talks with her hands as well as her mouth.)
Since I don't have a clue as to what to do with a baby, I can't impress anyone with my awesome Mary Poppins routine. I'm a good conversationalist, but an infant rarely holds up his end of a conversation and I find that babies don't get my jokes. So once I was handed the baby, I felt completely self-conscious because I had no idea what I was supposed to do with it. Then, as usual, the baby started crying. I think they're like animals that way. They can sense the fear.
My daughter could sometimes be soothed by my singing, but I didn't want to sing to someone else's baby with everyone staring at me. What if the baby just cried louder? Then I'd have to either give up, which is lame, or attempt to drown the baby out with my singing and hope he's impressed enough to realize I'm the alpha human and shut up.
I've also learned over the years that I'm not good with groups of children of any age. I was once left in charge of a handful of two-year olds with only my five-year-old daughter to assist me.
One of them made a poopie and I had to go into the adjoining room to change him. Seconds later, my daughter started yelling, "Mommy, they're putting glue all over the tables."
"Take it away from them," I yelled back.
"Mommy, they're coloring all over the floor with crayons!"
"Take them away from them!" I screamed as I desperately tried to get the new package of wipes unwrapped while holding the child down with one hand.
"Mommy, they're all crying because I took their glue and crayons away!"
Damn, they had me there.
But to tell you the truth, I didn't fare much better with high school kids when I was substitute teaching. As it turns out, kids that age have not yet lost their wild animal instincts and seemed to know the moment they walked in that I was easy pickins.
The one exception was a fabulous AP English class where the kids finished their work without complaint, then pulled out novels they were reading. When they started chatting, they were recommending books to each other and making ironic jokes. Of course the best part for me was that they got my jokes and then played off them with funny remarks of their own.. But that only happened once so sometimes I think it was a dream.
So, like Abbie, I never thought I was good with kids, but when I ended up tutoring reading after my daughter was born, parents treated me like the kid whisperer. Our local schools weren't teachig phonics and there were many below level readers with no learning disabilities as wall as some who did have them. I kept getting more and more referrals to the point where moms hunted me down--one in an illegal way--even after I tried to stop tutoring.
Once I went by the home of a neighbor whose son I'd tutored, and she insisted I stay and meet all her visiting relatives. When I walked in she announced, "This is the lady who taught Justin to read!"
Everyone made some sort of "Ooooo," or "Ahhh" sound and they looked at me like a bunch of Germans who were meeting David Hasselhoff for the first time.
So, like Abbie, I guess I do a bit better with children when I can make more of a personal connection. And, like Abbie, I managed to pull off the motherly duties pretty well , despite the fact that I never really felt like I knew what I was doing. My daughter has certainly turned out better than I thought a teenager could possibly be.
However, whenever I hear a woman is pregnant, instead of giving the appropriate squeal of delight, I have a flashback of the first five years of screaming, tantrums, and extreme drama my daugther put me through. (I'm obviously still suffering from PCSD--Post Child Stress Disorder.) I'm afraid sometimes my response to the blessed announcement may not be much different than Abbie's is when her sister tells her she's trying to have a baby.
My apologies to baby huggers and anyone who didn't think I acted thrilled enough when they told me they were knocked up.
Just know, it's not that I thought you'd be a bad mother or anything, I'm just scared $#!^less for you. In other words, "It's not you... It's me."
Am I the only woman in the world who's felt uncomfortable or inadequate when it comes to babies and children? Or am I the only one politically incorrect enough to admit to it?