I was never going to be one of those kind of parents. My
children would never spend an entire flight kicking the seat in front
of them; they would never throw themselves to the floor of the produce
aisle and have a tantrum. My children would never sit in a restaurant
flicking peas at each other or blowing ice water out of their little

I intended to raise polite, cultured children that
everyone complimented and wanted to be around, even my childless
friends. I saw endless days of healthy, organic lunches; jazz on the
radio as I waited for my well adjusted lambs to return from school. I'd
allow no television, only classic books and music.

In short, raising my children would be one long Kodak moment. It was simply a matter of preparation and self-discipline.

number one was a month old when my husband decided to surprise me and
come home for lunch. He found me barefoot and glued to the kitchen
floor by some unidentified sticky substance, probably week old syrup,
wearing the same pajamas he'd seen me in for the past five days,
cradling our howling, buck-naked bundle of joy and sniffling. He
stared, dumbstruck before uttering his death wish statement, "Gee Rita,
what have you been doing all day?"

Luckily, the bottle was plastic and no stitches were required.

Things got a little better - a very little.

had done my preparation work. I read Penelope Leach and What to Expect
During Baby's First Year. I subscribed to Parenting and Working Mother.
While Penelope discussed the pros and cons of co-sleeping and Working
Mother showed pictures of how to disguise your post baby stomach,
however, the really important, absolutely vital information was nowhere
to be found. Apparently, there are things that new mothers are expected
to learn in the trenches, which in my mind is a cruel expectation.

I have compiled a (very) short list of information that is vital for
maintaining sanity after one has a acquired a new baby. Further
instructional details are available upon request.

ever wear silk if there is the remotest possibility that you will be
within three feet of an infant. This is also a good rule to keep in
mind around toddlers, particularly during the sticky holidays, also
known as Halloween, Easter, Christmas. Cute baby clothes have a
'half-life' of eighteen minutes unless of course pictures are involved,
in which case this time is considerably shortened. The sound of car
keys acts as a laxative on infant digestive tracts. (please refer to
number 2) The cost of baby formula is roughly equivalent to a monthly
car payment. Babies that do not have the coordination to even hold
their heads up, can nonetheless remove and lose one bootie from their
feet. ( for whatever reason, probably genetic, its always only one) A
baby boy lying diaper-less on his back can nail a full size adult with
urine from up to six feet away. Baby formula is a weapon of mass
destruction. It can stain and destroy any man-made fiber. A quick trip
to the store requires the strategic planning of a major military
offensive ( and nearly the same amount of equipment). You will never be
on time again until your child leaves for college.

By the time
number-two son arrived nearly four years later, I was sure that I had
worked out all the kinks. I had learned to avoid incoming urine. I had
traded silk for denim. All my blouses were either vomit stained or the
color of vomit.

There was one tiny little detail that I had not
yet learned, and that was that knowledge acquired through trial and
error with baby number one does not necessarily translate to baby
number two (or three).

Whereas number-one son catnapped during
the day and slept in three and four hour intervals at night, son number
two never slept. . . . ever!

He would lay in his crib and howl
until someone staggered in and picked him up. High noon, midnight, it
didn't matter - life was short and he wanted to experience it all. What
better way than to limit sleep to thirty minutes every twenty four

In addition to this wrinkle, number-two son was, if not
genetically, then behaviorally, marsupial. Having once spent nine
months in the womb, he spent the next two years of his life trying to
get back in. Emptying trash, folding laundry, going to the bathroom,
all became feats of acrobatic derring-do since I now had a miniature
human plastered to my chest.

I was having my Kodak moments, but they were not pretty.

fared much better with the organic, fresh food bit. I mashed avocados,
broiled and chopped liver, pureed pesticide-free peaches. I did this
even though it meant getting up an hour earlier on Saturdays and
dragging the lads to a market on the other side of the world. I did it
even though my mother-in-law laughed and fed the boys whatever she had
cooking on the stove. I did it even though my child care provider
rolled her eyes and groaned whenever I handed her the meticulously
labeled Tupperware containers.

My floors were sticky. I had
fallen prey to the insidious purple dinosaur on television. My laundry
room was a death trap and I thought Goodnight Moon was moronic. (Im
sure it was just me). I was desperate to hold onto some remnant of my
pre-child vision of parenthood. (And no, on our first trans-continental
flight, my children did not spend four hours kicking the seat in front
of them. My oldest did, however manage to grab the immaculately groomed
pony tail of the man sitting in that seat - twice, and my youngest
lobbed a juice box into the lap of the college student sitting across
the aisle.)

So I mashed and peeled and grated and sauteed. I
read books on the role of nutrition in developing young brains. I was
on a mission. None of the strategies for hiding the post baby belly
from Working Mother was working and I had caved on all my other
standards. This was where I was taking my stand.

One afternoon I
came home to find the sitter busily cleaning up a spill. My
four-year-old was sitting blissfully on the couch watching Dudley the
Dinosaur, dinosaurs of all stripes being endlessly fascinating.

The final surrender began with this exchange:

"Wheres your brother?"

"In the pantry."


"Hes eating cat food."

last was said as a statement of fact, as if cat food was a regular
entree choice at our house, as if he himself would have joined his
brother if not for the fact that he was riveted by the sight of Dudley
receiving directions from a talking tree.

I found number-two son
sitting in the pantry, a bag of Purina spilled open on the floor. He
was cheerfully making neat piles of cat food. He appeared genuinely
happy to see me.

The ingredients: wheat flour, wheat bran, fish
meal, salt, zinc sulfate and eighteen other ingredients, seemed
harmless enough, at least the ones I recognized. Certainly our cat had
always been the picture of health. I dragged him kicking and screaming
from the pantry, hosed him off and took him to my bed.

When my
husband came home I broke down. I gave up. I admitted it. I had become
one of those mothers. My kids watched television, I read only when I
could keep my eyes open and my sons were far more fascinated by what
they saw looking up each others nostrils than by the educational toys
I'd found.

Secretly, I heaved a sigh of relief. The battle was over. I pulled my sweatshirt over my belly and we all headed to McDonalds.