Michelle Martin

Mother’s Day

Sunday, May 18, 2014

My Mother’s Day this year started out well enough. Frank had a hockey game, and then Tony made breakfast for everyone at home. My choice — Tony seriously makes the best scrambled eggs and bacon, I made the toast.

There were presents: flowers from Frank, a new season of Dr. Who from Caroline, earrings from Teresa (although I suspect Tony had a hand in that), a dress from Tony.

The midday weather was nice enough to sit in the backyard, play with the dog and watch Teresa try to catch bubbles.

Even an evening thunderstorm, predicted to be severe, generated nothing but a sound and light show and a light rain in our neighborhood.

All in all, it was a perfect day.

Except for the part at the end, when Teresa woke up gagging and crying and by the time I got to her room, she’d thrown up all over the bed and, quite literally, rolled in it.

I scooped her off the bed and headed for the bathroom; Tony began stripping the linen. Cleaning up vomit may well be my least favorite part of parenting, but at least I have someone to share it with. And we’ve been parents long enough that we know our roles without even talking about them.

I wiped Teresa down as much as I could, then put her in a lukewarm tub to finish the job, washing her hair as carefully as I could with 35 pounds of crying, wet 4-year-old in my hands. The child who had happily played in the bath for a half-hour earlier in the evening now professed to hate them, trying several times to escape as I poured clean water over her head.

Then out of the bath, dried and PJ’d and back to the freshly made bed. Once she was settled, I returned to the bathroom to change my clothes, clean myself up and clean the tub and the floor, while Tony started the laundry.

Did I mention how much I hate cleaning up vomit? It’s not really a high-stakes, pressurefilled, how-you-handle-this-could-affect-yourchild’s- entire-future parenting moment. Every kid, even the most healthy ones, occasionally throw up, and until they reach a certain age, they’re not at all reliable about making it to the bathroom, especially if they are asleep when it starts. It’s just an unpleasant task that has to be done, immediately, when it is required.

Research in the March edition of Psychological Science reported that while, on the whole, parents and especially fathers are happier than non-parents, that didn’t hold true for mothers and parents of young children. I suspect that not every mother has a husband who dives in and deals with the soiled bedding when a child gets sick; the groups least likely to be happier as parents are those most likely to be stuck in the grind of thankless tasks.

For the most part, those tasks end. Children become more self-sufficient. That’s the goal, anyway. In the meantime, if there isn’t a whole lot of pleasure in the grunt work of raising young kids, there is a great deal of satisfaction, because there is a privilege in being among those who love a child to see them through trials and tears and illness, and to show them what it means to be loved.


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