Warts & All

Warts & All

BullFrog and Tadpole w color and background

By Sharon K. Trumpy

I was relaxing in the cool water when Leo swam up. “Mama, how come we don’t look the same?”

“What?” I croaked nervously.

“Why don’t we look the same?” he repeated.

I’d known this question would arise one day, but wasn’t it too soon? He was so young! Times like this I wished I could say, “Go ask your father.” But I was on my own.

“Is it because you’re a girl and I’m a boy?” asked Leo.

“No, no,” I laughed. “It’s . . . well . . . Leo, you’re still a tadpole and I’m a fully mature American bullfrog. But you’ll grow into a big, strong bullfrog someday.”

No sense scaring him with qualifiers like my mother, the eternal pessimist, had. “You’ll be a bullfrog, Sylvia,” she’d said to me. “Assuming you aren’t squeezed to death by an overenthusiastic Boy Scout, eaten by a bird or dissected by a freshman biology class.”

No, I wouldn’t damage Leo the way Mother had damaged me. She gave me such a complex. “Ohhhh, Sylvia, really? Two mice for dinner?” she’d say. “You see my dorsal humps? Do you think I got dorsal humps like these eating two mice? Remember, a male can only spawn with you if he can get his forelegs around you!”

And it’d started way before then. Why, I was just a tadpole when she’d made me so self-conscious about my tail size that I began secretly gorging on algae. I really don’t think I’d ever have become a binge eater if it weren’t for her.

How will I become an American bullfrog?” implored Leo, breaking my reverie. My tongue darted out and I gulped down a struggling dragonfly. It was a bit of a nervous habit. Drove Mother crazy. She’d be in the middle of one of her lectures—“Regina’s daughter never hangs out by the dock eating breadcrumbs! I wouldn’t be surprised if you swallowed a fish hook one day!”—and I’d find my tongue snatching up a beetle or two.

But as jumpy as Leo’s questions were making me, I was determined to answer them. Unlike my mother, who’d left Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Metamorphosis But Were Afraid to Ask out on the lily pad without so much as a ribbit. Not to mention I already had hindlegs by that time! Geez, did I freak out the day that happened—I was certain I had tail cancer until my classmate Rhonda explained the life cycle to me. “Your mom didn’t tell you?” she kept saying. “What was she planning to do, wait until you were a froglet?” No way was I going to put Leo through that kind of humiliation.

Taking a deep breath, I began. “You see, Leo, when a tadpole first hatches, he or she looks like you, with a long tail and a skinny body. But soon, you’ll notice your body changing. Your hindlegs will grow, then your forelegs. Next, your tail will be absorbed into your body.”

Absorbed into my body!” gasped Leo. “That’s disgusting!”

Not as disgusting as your tail falling off, which was what I thought happened from my solo reading of Everything You Ever Wanted to Know. There’d been a drawing of a froglet with legs and a tail and then an ominous arrow pointing to a tail-less frog. What would YOU have thought?

“It’s not disgusting,” I faltered. “It’s . . . beautiful. You’ll be on your way to becoming a full-grown male. Your voice will deepen and soon you and your friends will be sitting by the pond, chorusing for the attention of the female frogs.”
“Grossssss!” cried Leo. “Why would we do that?

Why had I mentioned the frog chorus? Suddenly our little mother-son chat had taken a giant leap in an unintended direction. I’d been reasonably prepared to talk about the transition from gills to lung ventilation, but I wasn’t even close to ready to say “mating grasp” to my son.

“Well,” I fumbled, “when tadpoles grow into frogs, they find a partner so they can have their own little polliwogs. In the evenings, the males gather and sing a low, rumbling jug-o-rum. And the females come hopping to meet them. And . . . well . . . when two frogs find each other they . . . hug.”

“Because they love each other sooooo much?” grinned Leo. “Like you and Daddy?”

Wow, if my skin wasn’t naturally moist, it would be now. “Welllll, Daddy was a . . . nice bullfrog . . . I’m sure. He . . . he had . . . big eyes like you . . . “

I couldn’t say, “We’d never really met before that night. It was springtime and we were like a couple of horny toads. All I cared was that I had a clutch of eggs waiting to be deposited, I was in the mood for a snack, and Jim was sitting next to a particularly tempting mouse hole.”

“Tell me more,” Leo pressed. “I wish Daddy hadn’t moved to that big pond far away! I bet he’s smart and funny and really good at lilypad tag and . . . “

I wracked my brain, trying to think of something, anything. “Your dad . . . ” I tried. “Your dad . . . well, all the females wanted to be his . . . partner.”

That was true. He’d had the best location in the chorus that year. I remember when I’d approached and he’d enthusiastically leapt on my lily pad. It just goes to show how abnormal my relationship was with Mother that in that moment my thoughts went to her. If only Mother could see this! Jim! Fertilizing her grandtadpoles. And that handsome Ernesto was definitely trying to catch my attention. But I wasn’t about to mate near the part of the pond where all you can eat are dead minnows and mosquitos. I have standards, no matter what Mother says.

But things with Jim hadn’t worked out as I’d expected. I’d imagined it like that illustration in Everything You Ever Wanted to Know . . . the egg mass glistening as we floated in the shallows, sharing a post-amplexus turtle. But the book sure glossed over how long the whole ridiculous process would take. All to make a few thousand tadpoles? I’d tried to casually shift and reach a foreleg down that mouse hole, but I couldn’t escape Jim’s grasp. “Oooh,” I’d murmured, “this is lovely but what say you we take a little snack break?”

When he ignored me the trouble really started. How many times had Mother callously pretended not to hear as I begged for a bite to eat? What did she think I was, an African Dwarf Frog? A bullfrog is supposed to have meat on her legs! Suddenly the shame, the anger, all those unfulfilled cravings welled up until I barely knew what I was doing.

“Mama? What’s he like? My dad?”

And all I could do was tell the truth. “Leo,” I said, “above all else, your father was delicious.”


Author’s Note: When my own little son grew curious about reproduction, I thought I was well-prepared. I told him that Daddy and I would be happy to answer his questions, but he quickly expressed his preference for Mommy since I was “waaayyyy more experienced.” Alarmed, I asked what he meant and I was not reassured when he replied, “Well, the dad pretty much just watches, right?” My heart stopped but then he continued, “The mom’s the one who has the baby and the dad just watches, right?”

Sharon K. Trumpy lives in Michigan with her husband and two sons. She is a Montessori teacher who enjoys writing both fiction and nonfiction. Her work has appeared in Stealing Time and Adoptive Families magazines, as well as in Brain, Child.

Illustration: Christine Juneau

To Do

To Do

Dec 15 Motherwit ARTBy Mariah Mottley


8:11 AM Call the pediatrician to tell her about the worm your husband found in the baby’s diaper. Be sure and spell it out so you don’t have to actually say it. She will ask if it was alive, and how big it was.

“uh, the W-O-R-M was about as big, as I don’t know, a piece of linguine? Are you going to want it? Because we saved it. I have it right here. I’m happy to drop it off. I was going to be in town anyway and-”  Stop talking because you sound insane.  Baby worming appointment set for 10:15.

8:44 AM Confirm the address of the lady you found on craigslist to make a fleece coat for your goat, make a copy of the “Well Tempered Hoof” the academic paper you are going to mail to your old farrier along with $15 gift card at Dunkin’ Donuts along with the news that we won’t be needing his services anymore. Check to make sure that preschool daughter Billie is wearing an appropriate outfit and tell her it is time to get ready to go. Change the baby’s diaper, trying not to look at his anus, in case there is a large worm glaring back at you. Double bag wormy diaper in a second ziplock bag and add to the pile of outgoing mail and reusable grocery bags you will be taking to the car with you. Make sure everyone has coats, socks, and shoes on, with a hat and gloves for preschooler.

9:12 AM Drop Billie off at preschool but pretend to be on time and that circle time has not started. Drop eldest daughter, Bela, who slept in, off at elementary school. List ‘bad temper’ as reason for her late arrival.

Arm yourself for viewing of the W-O-R-M at doctor’s office with latte ala Dunkin Donuts. It won’t help.

10:34 AM Your baby, who is arguably no longer a baby but a little person who walks and talks and apparently, eats dirt, is diagnosed with roundworms. How disgusting. Try not to sound neurotic and self-involved. Fail. Ask panicked questions about life cycle and obsessively nibble your nails until the kindly nurse practitioner mentions twice that she has emailed the prescription to the pharmacy and stands up.

“He is a gem,” she says, about the wonderful baby, who, not a baby at all, is pushing around an oxygen tank and clonking it into things. He does not seem concerned at all about the army of worms he may have wriggling inside his bottom. You can barely finish your coffee for thinking about it, however. As the nurse is leaving, grab her sleeve.

“If we give him the pills, won’t more come out?”

“We do want them out,” she says, and gives a little wave.

11:22 AM Call your husband from car. Inform him that your baby has been diagnosed with roundworms, and that you are obese. You shouldn’t have, but you got on the scale at the office. There was a BMI chart in the bathroom. It seemed like a victimless crime at the time, but now it turns out that your husband is the victim. The baby has roundworms from eating dirt, or eating vegetables that were grown in the dirt, and his wife is obese.

11:29 AM Call the goat coat lady. Find her house, pick up the goat coat. It is lovely.

12:04 PM Pick Billie up at preschool, and by all means DO NOT squish her Christmas sculpture, or her Christmas tree with the glitter glue on it. Say no when she tells you to buy her gum at the pharmacy.

12:24 PM Try and act normal in front of the ridiculously hot pharmacist. Maybe he doesn’t know that the prescription is for worms. He totally knows. Ask if you should give the medication with food. Laugh inappropriately loudly and suggest you could always hide the tablet in peanut butter ‘like we do with the dogs’.  Stare at the counter in horror. Back home, cross your fingers and change the baby’s diaper. Beg him to wait to poop until his father gets home.

2:45 Pick Bela up from elementary school. Do not shout at her first grade teacher that the baby has roundworms and that you are obese. Put everyone into the car and drive home, where you will serve Goldfish crackers and sliced apples with cheese before you try the coat on the goat. It will be too big.

Originally from Manhattan, Mariah Plumlee lives in the Finger Lakes Region of New York. She is author of The Great Burn, a memoir about modern marriage, rural living, and kid-having. She can be found @MissesPlum and at her blog, www.theplumlots.com.


Motherwit: Story Time

Motherwit: Story Time

Nov 15 Moterwit Art

By Elizabeth Johnson

Scene: Large room with toys in the lower level of a library. Moms, nannies, and one dad sit on square cushions arranged in a circle on the floor; approximately 25 two-year-olds play, talk, stare, point, jump, run, trip, cry, and generally display the full spectrum of toddler behavior.

Kate: C’mon, Gwen, we’re blocking the stairs. Don’t you want to go in?

Gwen: No.

Kate: But you told me earlier this morning that you wanted to come to story time, remember?

Gwen: Remember?

Kate: So let’s go in and say hi to our friends.

(Gwen sits down on stairs).

Kate: We’re here for you, sweetie, not for me. (muttering to herself as she surveys the room) Definitely not here for me. Definitely not my idea of fun. More like my idea of hell.

Gwen: Mama, what’s your idea of hell?

Kate: What? Stop listening so closely! Would you rather go home now?

Gwen: Would you rather go in now?

(Kate and Gwen descend the remaining steps into the room. A mom stacking blocks with her son waves to them).

Kate: Gwen, say hi to Julie and Zack!

Julie: Zack, say hi to Kate and Gwen!

(Zack and Gwen look sideways at one another. Zack gets into a downward-facing dog pose. Gwen sticks her finger up her nose).

Julie: It’s so good for them to have this chance to socialize.

Kate: Absolutely. (winces as Gwen picks up a bracelet of bells from the floor and jingles it in her face) And think how great it will be when they’re in preschool and they have even more opportunities to socialize. We might not even have to do this kind of thing anymore!

Julie: Um, I don’t know what you mean?

Kate: Ha ha ha, nothing!

Julie: Zack and I love story time.

Kate: Absolutely. Love it.

Julie: This time when they’re young just goes by so fast.

Kate: So fast. I know.

Julie: Have you guys started trying for another one yet?

Kate: I don’t know, sometimes I think one is all I can handle.

(Julie stares at her).

Kate: Ha ha ha!

Julie: Ha ha ha!

Gwen: (pointing) Mama, what’s he doing?

(Julie and Kate turn and see that Zack has approached a group of boys who are stacking cushions into a tower. Zack picks up a cushion and chucks it, hitting one boy in the face. The boy starts to cry. Julie jumps up, apologizes to the boy’s nanny, and drags Zack away).

Julie: We don’t throw things when we can hit other people!

Gwen: He hit that boy.

Julie: It was an accident.

Gwen: It was not an accident.

Kate: (hastily) She’s in this phase where she likes to say the opposite of whatever you say.

Julie: Oh. How cute.

Gwen: How not cute.

(Librarian appears and counts the number of children. There are now 40. She looks at the ceiling and appears to say a quick prayer).

Librarian: It’s really wonderful that so many of you could join us today.

(No one hears her).

Librarian: (louder) This program is designed for fewer children so we’ll all have to be on our best behavior!

(A little girl runs into the wall and begins screaming).

Librarian: (shouting and waving her arms) Over here! Everyone come sit in a circle!

(The adults corral the children and get most of them sitting within a few minutes. The librarian begins reading a book. It’s difficult to hear her over the ongoing noise. Those kids not physically restrained by an adult soon begin wandering around the room. One girl starts singing The Itsy Bitsy Spider).

Librarian: (stops reading) Is this working? They seem a little restless.

Gwen: It’s not working.

Librarian: (closing book) How about we dance instead?

(Librarian turns on a CD. Music plays and a cheerful song instructs the children to engage in a variety of movements).

Kate: Can you flap like a bird?

Gwen: No.

(Song plays: Reach for the sky!).

Gwen: I don’t want to do it.

Julie: (dancing energetically) This is so fun!

Kate: Absolutely! (muttering) I could really use a drink.

Gwen: Mama, what do you use a drink?

Kate: I just said I need a drink of water! Do you want to keep dancing or do you want to go home and make lunch? You probably want to keep dancing.

Gwen: I want to go home and make lunch.

Kate: Well, if that’s what you want! Wave good-bye to Zack and Julie!

Gwen: Wave hello to Zack and Julie.

Julie: Are you sneaking out?

Kate: We’re sneaking out!

Julie: See you next week?

Kate: Sure! I’ll probably be crazy enough to come back.

(Julie stares at her).

Kate: Ha ha ha!

Julie: Ha ha ha!

Elizabeth Johnson is a freelance writer and mother of a three-year-old. She writes on parenting topics and for the children’s market.


Back to November 2015 Issue

Motherwit:  Child Psychology 101

Motherwit: Child Psychology 101

Dictionary photo

By Sue Sanders

Parenthood introduces us to a rich new vocabulary. To help make better sense of it all, here is a glossary of psychological terms for parenting:

abnormal – the state of a parent’s stomach before spending years helpfully polishing off a finicky toddler’s dinner.

adolescence see antisocial behavior

anal-retentive – at a bathroom stop on a long family trip, the three-year-old firmly declares that she doesn’t have to go, that she won’t go and that no one can make her. In the car, twenty minutes later she becomes anal-expulsive. And there isn’t a change of clothes.

antisocial behavior see adolescence

closure – realizing lazy Sunday mornings, filled with nothing but New York Times reading and coffee drinking are over for good.

collective unconscious – what parents fall into at night after a hard day of child wrangling and a night of companionate love.

confirmation bias – what religious grandparents accuse new parent of when told that, no, family will not have child baptized, confirmed, or attend church. (see also conversion disorder)

countertransference – what a parent needs to do when the grocery clerk puts out her light and slaps a “closed” sign on her lane after parent has taken out of the cart a week’s worth of groceries, some of which have been carefully selected by three-year-old who is beginning to show signs of divergent thinking.

denial – when parent is certain he/she will have enough money saved to send child to college in three years.

depressive realism – what life sometimes seems when parent has had little/no sleep because infant wanted to play all night and parent now has an entire day of meetings.

ego – what toddler boldly announces (usually followed by the simple, declarative demand: “Now!”) as soon as parents enter the children’s concert they’ve just spent $50 on. Parents just want child to cut id out.

explicit memory – what thirteen-year-old shows no signs of when reminded tonight was the night that her grandparents are coming over for dinner and she promised to stay and be social, but she’s already made plans with her friends. (see recovered memory, retroactive amnesia, selective attention)

gender role – delicious with cheese and mayo.

hierarchy of needs – there is no hierarchy, all needs are equal: everyone needs something at the exact same time.

hindsight bias – what a parent feel when he/she sees it in the mirror so he/she decides yet again to start running. (see denial, negative afterimage, procrastination)

inferiority complex – develops when visiting new mom friend who has written three books, has a beautiful, organized house, and clean laundry put away. For a mother with i.c. reality is vastly different. (see also depressive realism)

long-term memory – forgot about it.

libido – forgot about it.

motivated forgetting – something sixteen-year-olds excel at.

nervous system – often first located when parent gazes into infant’s eyes and realizes he/she don’t know what he/she is doing.(see night terrors, panic attack)

observer bias – when total strangers tell mother to put socks on that baby, his feet are cold, what are you? a total idiot? Often cause of defiant disorder in new mothers.

paradoxical sleep – before parenthood, one slept during the night.

psychobabble – when a shrink’s child is beginning to speak.

recall – call again and again for preschool packets; why the redial button was invented. (see reflex)

rooting reflex – the “hooray!” a mother feels when she finally sees her infant latch on for the first time.

secondary sex characteristics – unimportant when exhausted parents have forgotten what their primary ones are.

self absorption – to get psyche-d about really good diapers.

sex roles – vowed never fall into before had a child. (see short term memory)

Skinner Box – at times, it actually sounds pretty good.

stranger anxiety – what many parents feel when seeing another adult approach their child.

working memory – although it seems as if it’s often on strike, it comes roaring back when a parent looks at their sleeping child and their unconditional response is unconditional love.

Sue Sanders’ essays have been published in the New York Times, Washington Post, Brain, Child, Real Simple, Islands, Parents, the Rumpus and others. She’s the author of the parenting memoir, Mom, I’m Not a Kid Anymore.

Return to the October 2015 Issue





The Demons of Time Management

The Demons of Time Management

By M.M. Devoe

Messy BoyI know I’m not the only mom out there with a boy who can’t remember to bring his homework home, but sometimes I feel like I’m the only one who can’t figure out what to do about it.

I have tried everything: begging, rewards, threats, charts, teacher intervention…everything. My son still regularly comes home, tells me he has reading homework, and then discovers he has left the book at school. Or at piano lessons. Or worse: he has no idea where. He always looks overwhelmed and surprised.

At least three times a week.

So I attended a two-day, ludicrously expensive organizational skills workshop for middle-school kids. It was lousy. They gave no practical advice at all, but they did make up some really long, pointless, and impossible-to-recall names for “creatures”—the voices in your head that keep you from being organized. I had to rephrase everything I learned in a coherent way before I could even understand it. And now I understand it. We are possessed by demons.

So let me save you all $700.

There are four ways kids get in trouble over homework:

The Memory Demon says, “You can remember this; don’t bother writing it down.”

The Clutter Demon says, “You don’t have time for filing and organizing right now; do it later.”

The Gamer Demon says, “You have plenty of time to do both; so do the fun thing first.”

The Time Demon says, “You don’t need to plan; you’ll just do it.”

Apparently, kids like my son have real issues with organization because the voices in their heads are so confident. Demons! Demons! Constantly telling them those lines. So the Memory Demon whispers and my son doesn’t use his planner, doesn’t write down assignments because he’s positive he can remember the first assignment, maybe he’s even excited about it; then the second one comes, and when the third is assigned, there just doesn’t seem time to write it all down, but that’s ok, he knows he’s got three assignments….

“I’ve got three assignments,” he brightly announces after school, slamming an empty backpack on the floor.

“What are they?”

“Uh…” His eyes dart wildly, “History, I think?”

Then the Clutter Demon speaks and he won’t store or transfer papers to the proper place because he figures he’ll do it just a bit later, same reason he doesn’t organize or put away important items in their proper places.

“Hey, Mom,” he shouts across the house, “You have to sign this permission slip!”

“Stop shouting across the house. Just bring it to me.”

“I didn’t want it to get crushed, so I didn’t put it in my backpack. There’s a smushed banana in there.”

“So where’s the slip?”

“What? It’s … I don’t know. Somewhere. I might have left it in the gym.”

Next, the Gamer Demon takes charge: “I don’t have much homework, I’m going to play Minecraft for a while.”

Four hours later …”Are you still up? It’s 10:00!”

“But I’m doing homework!”

Kids do not know anything about time estimation, have no concept of how long something might take, and can’t stop in the middle of a fun activity to take on a really dreary one.

The Time Demon runs it all: kids have no idea how to break down tasks into steps and plan what they need for each step. To them, an assignment to read a book is going to take the same amount of time as a science fair project or a math worksheet. Actually, the worksheet is probably shorter, so they can play a video game first.

See how the demons work?

All of this is normal. These are skills that need to be taught … it’s not instinctive. Some people never learn it for themselves—how many adults stay up late reading a good book and are surprised when it’s suddenly four in the morning? (Guilty!) Who knows a good guy who swears he will take on the short job list … as soon as he watches the game? How many of us run out to the store without a list because it’s just three items—and come back without one of them? Sound familiar? It’s just demons.

I’ll leave you with one piece of practical advice that another mom told me: replace the standard three-ring binder with a tabbed accordion folder with an attached cover flap. Active kids like my son tend to tear papers and then they get lost because what normal mom has those little hole reinforcers on hand, or time to put them on? Our kids want to get it right—and sometimes it’s just about handing them the right tools.

But how do I conquer the Clutter Demon? The workshop said I must teach my son to organize better.

Oh, gee. Thanks.

M.M. Devoe is a NYC-based author whose fiction has won or been shortlisted for 23 literary prizes. She is anthologized alongside Joyce Carol Oates and Margaret Atwood, and has been nominated for three Pushcart Prizes. She is the Founder and Executive Director of Pen Parentis and is a Columbia University Writing Fellow and MFA. Find her at www.mmdevoe.com and Twitter @mmdevoe.

Illustration by Christine Juneau

Homeschool U

Homeschool U

unnamed-5Hey Moms and Dads! Overwhelmed by the amount of glossy materials your high schoolers are receiving daily, begging them to apply to schools they can’t get into and you can’t afford? Pulling your hair out over FAFSA forms more complicated than the Mars Rover assembly instructions?

There’s an easier way: Homeschool U.

In a single weekend, using tools you have in your basement and bull-slinging skills you honed during your own days as a liberal arts undergrad, you can transform your student’s humble childhood home into an institute of higher learning, and upgrade your status from hapless, penniless parent to Assistant Dean of Student Life.

Don’t wait—get “early action” on the domestic renovation that can save you $55,000 a year, minus the upfront investment in a freestanding keg cooler.

Kitchen = “Dining Services”

Install a swipe-card reader, and you’re ready to start staging the same delicious, nutritious, culturally authentic dining experience touted by the top colleges for a fraction of the board bill. Their food is “just like home-cooked,” yours actually is home-cooked. They tout sustainability; you serve the most sustainable meal on the planet—leftovers. Their freshmen pack on 15 lbs., your kitchen comes complete with a Nutrition Coach unafraid to point out the rising muffin top or burgeoning “one pack” on the student body.

Family room = Student Union

Here beats the social heart of Homeschool U, the place where students can kick back, stream Family Guy and scarf Bacon Ranch Pringles while Skyping with their dorm-bound buddies—just like real college. For added authenticity, set up a card table stacked with pamphlets urging Homeschool U students to take back the night, confront their gender-normative prejudices or up their carbon awareness. And unlike real campus unions, you’re free to serve beer—at the for-profit price of $3 per Pabst Blue Ribbon.

Living room = “Library”

Academics don’t take a back seat at Homeschool U—they take the couch. Here, in the living room-turned-library, students are free to study the majors you and your partner pursued in decades past, using the same classic texts (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, The Women’s Room, and Jonathan Livingstone Seagull, the latter in paperback with its cover ripped off for added authenticity). Engage the restless mind of your Homeschool U student with 24-hour access to Google, YouTube and MythBusters reruns on cable; upperclassmen wishing to pursue a more aggressive course of study should be encouraged to friend Drew Gilpin Faust on Facebook or follow Nate Silver on Twitter.

Basement = “Laundry services”

A web cam and debit-card reader are all you need to transform your washer-dryer from cost center to revenue generator. No more hauling baskets of stinky workout wear or Victoria’s Secret hand-washables to the musty depths; simply Tweet “#wshr1nowfree” to your student anytime after 4 on a Sunday afternoon to get your for-profit laundry business rolling. When students get desperate, Just Like Mom’s wash-dry-fold service correctly sorts their clean wardrobe to the proper dresser drawer, just like in the old days, for $15 a basket (cash only, in advance).

Mom = “Resident Assistant”

Before, you were the cook, the carpooler, the signer of permission slips, funder of shopping excursions, supplier of soccer snacks—in short, the mom, lowliest of the socially acceptable, bottom of the fashion food chain, recipient of eyerolls uncountable. Now you’re the Resident Assistant, the knowledgeable “big sister” on campus with the self-confidently retro wardrobe and the frank talk about HPV vaccines, incipient eating disorders, and why hooking up with that loafers-no-socks risk management major is a bad idea.

Dad = “Director, Career Services”

As the father of the household, your pleas to cover up a little more, come home a little earlier and think a little more carefully about that Francophone Studies major fell on deaf ears. As Director of Career Services, you wield a bit more power—namely, a LinkedIn profile chockablock with contacts for unpaid internships and a resume replete with past favors ready to call in for that first job post-graduation. If that doesn’t hold your scholars’ attention, they might dedicate themselves to Homeschool U’s motto—Lux, Veritas, Virtus, Verizon, or Light, Truth, Courage, and unlimited texting on the family plan—to graduation and beyond.

Illustration by Christine Juneau

Prayers for a Young Mother, Proposed

Prayers for a Young Mother, Proposed


motherwitsummer07Prayer for the Care of Children

Almighty God, heavenly Father, you have blessed us with the joy and care of children: Give us calm strength and patient wisdom as we bring them up, that we may teach them to love whatever is just and true and good, following the example of our Savior Jesus Christ.   —The Book of Common Prayer, 1976                                                                                                                                                                             

Prayer before the Market

O God, please let this be a good and productive shop. Please help me to keep my wits about me, even though I appear to have left my list at home. Please give me the clarity of mind to remember that, like the animals on the ark, good things come in pairs: the peanut butter and the jelly, the bagels and the cream cheese, the yogurt and the one hundred percent organic no fructose no sat-fat cereal bars, the Fresh Step and the Meow Mix. Please let this not be senior citizen day, or, if it is your will that it be so, please give me patience and good cheer as I maneuver around their carts which clog every aisle. Please help me to remember that the time will come soon enough when I too will need help reaching the extra large box of All-Bran on the top shelf. Please open my heart so I never forget that this $105 worth of groceries is a blessing directly from you, O Lord, and that I should therefore swing by the food bank and deposit some of it on their doorstep. Please give me the time to do this and not be late for pickup. Amen.

Prayer at Pickup

Please let me be on time. Please help this stupid, stupid woman in her gigantic planet-trashing SUV to turn off her phone and make the left turn already. And then please keep the light green for just one more second. Please don’t let me be late. If it’s somehow your will that I am late, please fill the small, tight heart of the program director with mercy and pity so that she doesn’t charge me the completely outrageous one dollar per minute late fee. Please let there not have been any more biting. Please don’t let those moms with the perky blond ponytails and the girly pink baseball caps judge my child. Please don’t let them give each other that look, or at least please don’t let me see them do it. Please let my baby be happy today. Please no tears, please not that thing with the screaming and the knees. Please let us have peace at pickup. Thank you.

Prayer before Sex

O God, please let this be fast. But not, you know, too fast. Please let it be just enough for both of us, if you get my meaning. Please let our blessed babies stay where they belong, especially Mr. I-just-turned-two-watch-me-climb-out-of-my-crib. Please let me forget about the groceries and that nightmare at pickup this afternoon. Please help me relax. Please send us a little lightning bolt of that old giddy feeling, that wave of engulfing joy that first brought us together, that helped us make this family. Please let us be carried away for just a few minutes. And after, please send us sweet release so we sleep in each other’s arms like the sheeted dead. It’s been, as you know Lord, a long day. Amen.

Brain, Child (Summer 2007)

Artwork by Beth Hannon Fuller 

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