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Location: Northern California

Tuesday, July 26, 2005


Tough cookie tactics

To my way of thinking, to be a good mom I have to be a tough cookie. I have to harden my heart against the tears and cries, the sobs of small vulnerable children. Big eyes brimming with tears might fell a lesser mama, but I must be strong and stand up to that nonsense. I can't sucumb to the emotional pressure put on me by my offspring. If I do, I'll eventually become angry. Then I'll become bitter. Then my anger and bitterness will turn into resentment and everybody knows that I've just outlined the perfect breeding ground if my goal is to raise neurotic and unhappy children, which it isn't. I also have read that if I coddle my children they'll grow up and hate me for it, blaming their neuroses and lack of self-discipline on my too-soft approach to mothering, on what I wrongly thought was right way to show love.

This is the kind of drivel I tell myself as I gently drag my crying two-year-old into the daycare center at our local YMCA. You would think I was dragging her to the orphanage and I almost wish I was. It's actually not that difficult for me to be unmoved by the tears and deep-chested sobs of my child when I see her as the only obstacle between me and thirty minutes of aerobic exercise. The aerobic exercise I so desperately need because when I stand naked in front of the mirror I can do puppet theatre with the extra skin that was once my (in retrospect) flat stomach. The aerobic exercise I so desperately need because sometimes shoving chocolate-covered peanuts in my mouth is my form of self-medication for the pain of mothering small children who know only two forms of communication: crying and incessant whining. I don't know which -- pregnancy or postpartum binging -- has taken a greater toll on my body, but all I do know is that I need my daily minutes on the treadmill bad, real bad. But it's turned out that in my battle to fight flab I have had to sacrifice the happiness of my daughter Emily, who isn't too keen on being left in the loving care of the YMCA childcare workers. It used to be that she started crying after I had left her there. Then she started crying as we were walking up to the door. Now she cries when I joyfully exclaim, "Let's get your shoes on! We're going to the Y!" What's next? Crying when she sees me getting dressed? I keep telling myself that it's going to get better, but so far it's only gotten worse.

But I'm not going to give up, not going to give in. In fact, leaving Emily for thirty minutes at the Y daycare is only part of a much bigger abandonment plan that includes (gasp!) a couple of days a week at a local drop-in daycare, regular babysitting in our home by teenage girls who'd rather be hanging out with their boyfriends at the mall, and eventually preschool, the prelude to college. Speaking of college, I hope she's over her attachment issues before I leave her crying outside her dorm room while she begs me not to go. At the rate we're going, this is what I see in her future.

Hey, throw me that bag of cookies, will ya?