DH and I were looking at nanny advertisements to survey the local pay rates. "I can't believe," I fumed, "that the market says somebody who helps raise your children deserves only $10 per hour. What the what? For two kids? What more important or difficult job is there?"
"Well, don't take this the wrong way," DH ventured, "but it is basically unskilled labor."
[N.B. - The gentle reader is here welcome to pause and send me a small monetary bonus for not busting him in the teeth with my laptop. Eight years of marriage has significantly mellowed me. Or maybe just scrubbed me into submission.]
In any event, I think we all can agree "unskilled" does not mean "easy." It's a shame that inborn parenting instincts have no market value. Just like spiders, Mamas get very little appreciation for the amazing daily miracles we do. So I'll just appreciate myself a little bit here, e.g., this morning:
"Mom?" After a nice wake-up, a nice breakfast, and a cheerful dispatch to her room to begin dressing in outdoor clothing, He'en now is visibly trembling and mincing down the stairs in nothing but a pair of Cinderella undies. In a choking sob, she announces, "Mom? Mom . . . I don' wanna go ice skay-ting."
My first instinct is flatly Dickensonian: to grab the child by the ear and march her upstairs while firmly pronouncing that "we'll have no such nonsense."
OK, admittedly I don't deserve to get paid for that one. The second Mom-instinct is why I deserve the big bucks. This is the instinct that takes her hand, walks with her back upstairs, sits on her bed and snuggles her into my lap, wraps her in the favorite pink blanket, and asks,
"Why don't you want to go ice skating, honey?"
"I . . . I jus' doan." Tears have overflowed out of her neon-blue eyes and her superlong lashes are wet and spiked.
"You don't. Okay."
Pause. Hug. Thinking thinking thinking fast and especially thinking that I am sure-hell not about to get all aw-honey-you-don't-have-to-go after spending half of yesterday running all over town for the lesson registration, a pink-and-purple helmet, and a pair of itty bitty used figure skates (omg, so cute).
Further, and piffle on the foregoing: DH has agreed to take the child ice skating, every Saturday morning for a month, at 8:00 a.m. Is that enough italics? Can you see the Grinchy grin on my face from where you are sitting? Oh, yes, that child is going ice skating if I have to send her in nothing but Cinderella panties and a stocking cap.
Pause. Hug. Thinking thinking thinking.
Then I noticed the thermal tights on the floor. Next to those, a pair of pink sweatpants. Both are crumpled. Aha.
Sniff. My offspring nuzzles her drippy little nose into my shoulder.
This is the gift of mothers and spiders: we can discern and track a trajectory that we didn't know existed four seconds beforehand. In this case, she had too much time to think. She got wound up in the gear. Excitement, which in my side of the family is never more than a breath away from apprehension at the best of times, had mutated into fear. Argh, I should have gotten up here sooner.
Pause. Hug. Then, very gently, "Is there something you are afraid of, about the ice skating?"
"Can you tell me what it is?"
Pause. Sniff. Then,
"Fawwing. I doan' wan' to faw."
Thank God she is still 4, and I hope to have about 10 more good years during which she will still tell me what is wrong.
So here's Part II of why Mamas deserve executive salaries: you are not out of the woods at this point because you can't belittle the fear. That gets you nowhere. And my husband has on his parka and is jingling his car keys, so time is ticking away. I don't know why Harrison Ford gets millions for pretending to defuse bombs under hot deadlines when Mamas do this every day.
"Falling. Well, that's very normal to be scared of falling. Falling is scary. I fall when I am ice skating. Even your dad falls."
Sniff. "Effen Dad?"
"Yep. We both fall. And do you know what?"
A glimmer of interest has emerged. "What?"
"At this first lesson, they are going to teach you how to fall. Isn't that silly, learning how to fall? But they will teach you how to fall so you don't get hurt."
Sniff. "When I yam skiiing, I fall on my bottom."
"Well, I don't know if that's how you fall when you are ice skating. It may be different. You will have to find out and tell me. Do you want to find out? And tell me?"
Pause. Sniff. "Okay."
Mama thinks: "YAYYYYYY ME!!!!!"
Mama says: "Okay, that's my good girl. So let's get on your tights."
She and her father left about a half-hour ago, all smiles. Yay me. Yay spiders. Yay instincts. Yay Mamas everywhere. Generous bonus checks will be issued to everybody.