Today is the day that Ruby puked on the rug and then Charlie told me, “I ate it.” I had no way of knowing if this actually happened because she’s also been telling me she “played with E” everyday even though E moved across the country. We called poison control and our pediatrician both of whom had laughter in their voices as they told me she should be fine.
The only thing to do is be grossed out and to call them if something changes. Which is probably the silliest thing you could ever say to the parent of a toddler.
My relationship with locker rooms began around twelve or thirteen. It was a traumatic age when everybody had weird body stuff happening that no one liked to talk about, let alone expose to their peers. Faced with my mesh blue gym shorts and white t-shirt, I learned the art of getting dressed without actually getting undressed. You put a shirt over a shirt; you do a lot of wiggling around; you slip a bra through an armhole (if you even needed a bra, that is).
I carried on this behavior throughout my teen years and well into adulthood. That’s when I began realizing that in adult lady locker rooms there are generally two types: women who do everything in their power to not show any parts and women who undress normally like they are alone in their bedroom. There’s also a rare breed who truly enjoy being naked in front of others and will spend as long as possible clothes-free.
Sometimes I felt stupid for caring so much if other women saw me nude. I was a twelve-year-old girl wearing LuLu Lemon. I was a child in a grown-up ladies locker room.
After I had a baby, everything changed.
When you’re in the delivery room there is a team of people, most of whom you’ve never met before, seeing parts of you that you’ve probably never even seen. It’s beyond nakedness. Crazy stuff happens. More often than not you do dreaded things in front of these strangers (sometimes you even do something that rhymes with shoop). You are exposed, more than you’ve ever been and you don’t even care because you get to meet the most important person in your life. You’re holding your baby in your arms and crazy stuff is still happening and you don’t even notice.
Back to the locker room. I’m now a just-get-undressed-and-then-dressed person, even though for a long time I was mushy and pale and not even close to resembling my most in-shape me. I’ve learned something earth shattering: most other women don’t care what you look like and they aren’t actually judging your body and if they are, WHO. THE. F. CARES? Most women are just trying to get to work or home or to their important breakfast date—which is a hell of a lot easier when you don’t get your bra stuck in your armhole.
My mom and I look so much alike. “My Clone,” she used to call me. We even have the same freckles in the same exact places.
I still love when people tell me I look like my mom. To me, she’s the most beautiful person in the world.
When we found out we were having a daughter, I assumed she would look just like me. And when I saw her for the first time, all I could think was that she’s perfect.
When people met her for the first time, everyone started saying how much she looked like Sam. It was a shock to me. I didn’t see it at all. She looked like me, right? My daughter surely looked just like me.
I studied pictures and tried to see the resemblance between my bearded husband and our little girl. His face was one of my favorites, but it didn’t look like our infant daughter. Yet again and again, “Mini Sam!” “Wow, she looks just like her dad.”
Soon she sprouted blonde duck curls and tiny teeth. Her personality came out and she is determined and she is funny. She’s quiet and sweet in the morning and a tornado before she goes to bed. She has blue eyes that are clear pools when she’s happy and storm clouds when she’s upset. She furrows her brow because she’s always thinking.
She is us.
I’ll admit that sometimes it’s true—she looks so much like Sam. Like a mirror of the two people I love most.
But she’s also sprouted two tiny freckles on her arm, kisses from her mama. Passed on with love.
That’s right, I met her. The most horrible.
I made the colossal mistake of going to the Meat Packing District after 7pm. If you don’t know about the Meatpacking District, let me explain: at first glance it’s a lovely grid of cobblestone streets lined with NYC hits such as Chelsea Market, Pastis and the High Line. Don’t be fooled by its designer stores and quaint cafes; during the day, it’s crowded with tourists and faux fancy brunchers who want to be seen by… tourists? At night it becomes a magnetic field of douchebaggery, attracting the worst of humanity from every bridge and tunnel around.
It’s also where the closest Anthropologie, Sephora and Apple store are.
I had stupidly decided to run and get presents for Charlie’s teachers at Anthropologie before her bedtime. I had her strapped in the Ergo in her jammies as I wove through the tourist hoards. It took forever to pick out some candles and then the line was a mile long. Charlie started crying because she saw an elevator in Chelsea Market and wanted to go in it. I explained that the elevator was only for people who worked there. That it didn’t go anywhere. That we had to go home. All of which made her cry harder. She was hysterical as we left the store. I checked the time as we stepped out onto the street. 7:35.
I felt like Will Smith in I am Legend. I had to race home before the unthinkable creatures came out.
Charlie was still sobbing loudly as I wove quickly through the crowds. I finally stopped and wiped her wet cheeks, trying to console her. That’s when the Most Horrible Women in NYC came up two inches from my daughter’s face and went, “SHHHHHHHHHH,” tiny flecks of spit flying out of her mouth. Then she walked away laughing with a throng of about ten groupies.
Want a visual? Early 20s. Stringy hair pulled back in a tight ponytail. Skater dress made entirely of bright red lace. Four, maybe five inch heels.
As she walked away, I felt an anger like I’ve never felt. What? I felt it rise up and come out of my mouth.
"WHAT???!!!" I shouted.
That was my big response. The MHWinNYC had just shhhhed my child in her face and my comeback was what.
I began racing after her, hobbling along with the weight of my growing child and three of the heaviest candles on the planet. I could see her red dress stopped at a light and I picked up the pace, listing her offenses in my head:
1. You don’t do that to a baby (duh)
2. You don’t put other women down like that—especially mothers who are obviously struggling on a public street
3. You don’t go out in the Meatpacking before, like, 10pm
4. Your fashion crimes are hurtful to the eyes
5. You don’t wear spike heels in the Meatpacking because you look like a wounded fawn hobbling over the cobblestones
I lost sight of her and kept trudging home. As I passed a particularly silly restaurant that only serves candy and alcohol, I could see her in the window sitting down at a table. I stopped for a second.
I wanted to go in and tell her how horrible she is and how she will be alone forever. I wanted to go and dump her stupid cocktail on her stupid head. I wanted to give her the middle finger through the glass and mouth obscenities at her.
But I turned and walked back to our shelter from the crazies. Because my early 20-something self was maybe one of them, but now I’m not. Now I’m a struggling mom on a public street who just wants to go home.
I am tired of all the things that paint parenting as a picture of sugar drops and sunshine. Sometimes being a parent is really, really hard.
Yesterday, I picked up our 21-month-old daughter from daycare. Because we live in New York City, I take the subway from work to school, pick her up and stroll about fifteen minutes home. The walk on the way there is lovely. Birds chirping. Just one or two business causal men or women clicking their way to work in sensible shoes. Sometimes just us for a whole city block, my sweet daughter turning her head to look up at me.
The walk home is a different world—people spill out of bars, blowing smoke in my toddler’s path. Tourists line up on the sidewalk five across and then walk as slow as possible until I loudly say, “Excuse me!” and they look at each other like, “Oh, it’s just another rude New Yorker.”
On this particular day my dear daughter was in a toddler-esque mood. She was fussy, hot and hungry. She refused to get in her stroller until I finally lured her in with a Mum-Mum. When her snack ran out, she screamed “MUM MUM!” until we reached the place where we sometimes get a juice and a muffin and then started screaming “JUICE, MUFFIN! JUICE, MUFFIN!” That continued until we reached the fruit stand guy where he got an earful of “BANANA! BANANA!”
I pulled over and tried to reason with her: “Daddy is making dinner. Let’s stop yelling so we can get home and see Daddy. Do you want to go home and eat a nice dinner?” She sniffed back her tears and nodded. I felt great. I was a good mom. I reasoned with a toddler and she listened! I got back behind the stroller and started to push.
“CARRY! CARRY! CARRY! CARRY!”
I pulled over again and said, “You’re too heavy. Mama can’t carry you and push.” Tears streamed down her little face and she reached her arms out to me. I sighed, unhooked her straps and pulled my daughter into my arms. Then, tendons straining, I tried to hold her and push the stroller. I got five feet. “You’re going to have to walk.” And walk she did, still screaming, “CARRY! CARRY!” A horrible lady turned around and hissed, “Control your child.” A beautiful couple without child looked at us like we were an unsightly blemish on their evening.
She started pulling out into traffic and at the same time a crazy homeless man came up to us trying to get me to give him money.
I could feel a panic from deep inside my belly. I felt it rise up and mix with an at-the-edge frustration and more than a little anger. I was mad at New York, the people in it, my kid and most of all, myself. As I felt the panic cocktail boil up inside me and reach my throat, I couldn’t control it even if I wanted to.
“Get in the stroller! Now.” I yelled it. An older woman turned to look at me in horror. “What are you looking at?” I yelled at her.
Really crying now, she let me put her back in her stroller. I reached down and held her little wet hand. I felt awful.
When I got home, I told my husband I needed to go for a walk. The world had felt like it was closing in and I had totally lost control. I was ashamed. I had yelled.
When I got home, my little girl was eating her dinner. She looked up at me and put her salmon covered hands on either cheek. She pulled me toward her and gave me a big milk mustache kiss. It was the best feeling in the world.
This parenthood thing is a crazy ride and sometimes I have to remind myself to slow down. To breathe. To shoo the crazies away and ignore the “you’re a bad mom” looks. To sit on a dirty city stoop and calm my upset child—to sit there for hours if I need to. To understand that these tough moments are just blips in time and that my sugar drops and sunshine and salmon covered hands are waiting for me just around the corner.
I recently saw a Huffington Post article about how to talk to your daughter about her body and I really loved what it had to say.
In a nutshell, girls get pretty turned around when it comes to body image and anything we can do at home to minimize the “you must look like this perfect person” message, the better.
I think for a lot of people that means to not call your daughter fat, but it means so much more than that. It means not talking about your daughter’s body at all. It means not letting other people (within your control) talk about your daughter’s body. It means educating your daughter (and everyone in your family) on the reason we friggin’ eat food (for energy and strength) and the right choices to make when eating. Food should make you feel good, not shitty. You should listen to your body when it tells you it’s hungry or full. Feeling strong and healthy is the best feeling in the world. Exercise is awesome.
It also means not dieting in front of your daughter.
OK, now please allow me to inch my way off my soapbox. I don’t do these things—any of them. I have tried every diet ever invented ever. In fact, I started dieting when I was thirteen years old and have been dieting ever since (except when I was pregnant and I decided I was allowed to eat every possible thing in sight). I often deprive myself even though I’m starving because I feel like I need to lose a couple of pounds. I binge eat on the weekends, cramming in my splurges before Monday arrives. Because, like, it’s the weekend. I exercise out of guilt and not out of joy. I talk about my body in a negative way, even when I’m feeling like I look pretty OK. Even when people tell me I look good, I say things like, “Well, for someone who had a baby” or “Oh, it’s just the dress.”
I did all these really bad, not-great-role-model things until now. Well, until about three weeks ago. About three weeks ago, I decided to develop the relationship with food and exercise that I hope our daughter someday has. I realized, with great certainty, that if we, her parents, don’t live a healthy lifestyle, then we’re not really giving her a fighting chance to live one.
Sam and I found a yoga class we love. We even find times to go together! I deleted my Weight Watchers account and although it felt like I was cutting off a limb, I know how to eat well without counting points or anything else. We stopped drinking Diet Snapple and switched to a low-calorie, all natural tea. Most importantly, I tell myself that every time I eat or drink something, it’s a choice. And I put myself in my little girl’s tiny shoes and try to make the right one.