I put tin foil in Leta’s windows when she turned four months old to keep the aliens out. Something kept waking her up every two hours and I figured it was either the ambient light or the aliens, and I knew that tin foil would take care of both. During the winter it also kept out the snow elves so I never took it down. Often while changing her diaper on the table beneath the tin foil I would sing songs into the window and it produced a spectacular sound, like Richard Simmons screaming into an electric guitar in the middle of a wind storm. I often wondered if she would remember the tin foil, how I had gently taped it to each pane of glass, and whether or not the opening sentence of her memoir would read, “My mother taped tin foil to my windows when I was a baby and that is why I sit here now writing this from the corner of my cell.”
I found an inexpensive alternative to the tin foil last week and planned a quick Saturday afternoon outing to buy the supplies for her new window treatments. I was simultaneously eager and wary of getting her out of the house, though. Eager because there is nothing left to do in here except set our farts on fire, wary because sometimes her attitude can produce a magnetic field that kills small animals. Leta does not like to go shopping, and this does not surprise me. She comes by this naturally with two parents who played dead and pretended to be kidnapped to get our mothers to leave JC Penney, although when your mother is the Avon World Sales Leader you could bomb the building and she would step over dead bodies to get to the dressing room.
We made the thirty second journey through the parking lot to the store without any birds entering her radar and falling thirty feet to their death. But the moment we set foot in the store her body went limp with anger and like a fresh fish just pulled out of a lake she almost slipped her way out of the stroller. I tried holding her but she turned herself upside down and I almost dropped her on her head. At one point I was holding her body sideways, her armpits in my left hand, her feet in my right hand, and she was trying so violently to free herself that I looked like I was being electrocuted.
A part of me feels like this is the Universe’s way of putting me in my place. I never thought my kid would be this kid. I used to see kids like Leta and think, “Why don’t they stop her? If I were her parent I would be able to stop her.” I used to think that a good parent would be able to take any type of kid in public and that kid would behave. I used to be an idiot. I used to need a good bat to the head.
I know that all kids are not like Leta, BUT WE HAVE LETA. The idiot part of me still wonders how this is fair, but the part of me with the bat in her hand knows that fairness was never a part of the arrangement, that if we want to talk fair let’s talk about the thousands of times I used to judge a parent by the tantrum their kid threw in public. Fair is the fact that Jon and I are busting our asses to make our shopping experience relatively peaceful for everyone and yet, our kid still bites the heads off of rats and sprays their blood through her teeth across the walls.
Leta has got to be tired of having to remind me every couple of months to GET RID OF THE EXPECTATIONS ALREADY, MOTHER. I am still waiting for things to happen like I imagined they would when I was single and had no frame of reference. Instead I should be accepting of the fact that this is how she came and asking myself how to make the most of it. This should come naturally to me of all people because my own mother’s expectations almost destroyed our relationship.
When I look at how my mother has evolved through the heartache I have caused her I think I understand that this is part of the essence of motherhood, watching your kid grow into her own person and not being able to do anything about it. Otherwise children would be nothing more than pets. My mother had a hard time reconciling how I turned out with how she wanted me to turn out, but there are things she learned about herself through that struggle that she couldn’t have experienced otherwise, that her capacity for love and forgiveness is bigger than she ever thought it could be. I am so glad she came out the other side.
And now it’s my turn. This is how I feel about Leta. She is not the harmonious, calm kid I thought I would have in my life. In a few respects she is the worst case scenario. But my relationship with her is pushing me to become a more patient person, a much bigger person than I thought possible. She has helped me to see that the parents I used to judge are some of the most long-suffering people on Earth. I know that what I’m about to say is obvious, but having Leta made me feel more human than anything I have ever done. She has made me feel less alone among strangers.
And all of this is just a back-handed way of saying that HOLY SHIT IF SHE HASN’T KILLED ME BY NEXT WEEK SOMEONE DO IT FOR HER.