I think it's well established that the baby/toddler/small child phase is really not my specialty. I know a lot of women who get a tugging in their uterus when they hold a little baby and breathe deeply to get a whiff of that "new baby smell," which to them must smell like rose petals dipped in chocolate. To me, new babies smell like a poop milkshake. And when I hold them, the only tugging that I feel is my entire being urging me to give it back to the mom and run like the wind before some kind of spontaneous immaculate conception occurs (which is what would be required for me to have another baby).
Which reminds me of a recent Charlotte anecdote, the one where I explained to her what the birth control pill is in order to avoid a more uncomfortable conversation about sex (I know that sounds absurd, but stay with me here). She had become traumatized by the fact that her friend Oliver's mom had him without being married, because Charlotte thought that to have a child you had to be married. As she had wisely discerned, having a child is kind of a big deal--an event that does weird things to your body, necessitates a "belly cut," and prevents you from achieving your full potential as horse trainer--so she had declared her intention never to marry, thinking this would also prevent childbirth. But, alas, Oliver's mom had disproved her carefully constructed theory and opened up the possibility that she could be strolling down the street when Wham! she became pregnant. And I have to agree with Charlotte, that is a very frightening prospect indeed. So I told her she didn't have to worry because there is a medicine you can take that will prevent you from having a baby. She then declared her firm resolve that she was gonna get some of that medicine once she grew up if not sooner. So I have a 5 year old who knows about the birth control pill, yet, I suppose, still believes that children are conceived while one is simply walking around the neighborhood. She also thinks her entire pubic area is simply called a "bum." Yes, I am a very progressive mother.
But I digress, as is my habit. So far, as a mom, I have not really brought any special skills to the job, because I do not have any. My utter (or should I say udder) failure as a breast-feeder is well known. Nor am I especially good at being patient or selfless or going without sleep. I can't potty train worth a crap, what do you think I am paying the daycare for. And I am far too lazy to protect my children from chemicals, as seems to be the full-time occupation of many mothers I know, who make their own baby food and goldfish crackers and drive to farms to buy produce and milk. I am terrible at crafts. I hate to cook, especially with my preschooler, although I do it out of rainy-day desperation at times. I am very skilled at not bathing for days at a time (I have introduced numerous friends to the miracle that is dry shampoo). I am also very good at turning on the TV, but I don't suppose that is a bragging point.
So what am I good at? Or, more realistically, what do I like to pretend to be good at? In a word, Opraphizing. This is a term I just made up (no, really) which combines Oprah with philosophizing and means: To offer deep insights into the nature and causes of human angst and to arrive at possible solutions that, when applied, will lead to personal growth and/or self-actualization. Or something like that. Basically I like to pretend that I am Oprah, without the TV show/now channel and enough money to buy everyone cars and the designer clothes that tell her she is a size 10 when in fact she is not (God love her though). If you come to me with your problems (which few of my friends actually do, probably because I am not that great of a listener, but I'm working on it), I will give you my theories about what your problem actually is, deep down, and what you need to do about it. I will probably do a poor job and annoy you in the process. But I will do it anyway. Or, if I don't do it to your face, I will definitely do it in my head, maybe with Kevin if he has time.
Well, guess what. I think Opraphizing might be a handy skill to have as the mother of school-age children and/or teenagers. Don't you think? I can just see teenaged Charlotte coming home from school in tears because she got an 86 on an exam and got a big zit on her nose on the same day. And I sit her down, look into her eyes and say, "Child, why are you acting like your self-worth is tied to your grades and skin clarity? Don't you know you have a purpose that goes so much deeper than that? You must find your true self, and nobody and nothing can touch that." Then she will go, "Mom, you are so right. I love you. I don't even think I need to go through adolescence now." It's gonna be good.
In fact, we already had an Oprah moment just a couple of weeks ago. Charlotte wanted her hair cut short. Even though I asked her numerous times whether this was indeed what she wanted, I don't think she put a lot of thought into it. She was mainly trying to avoid me messing with her hair. So we got it cut, and she loved it. She was so excited to show all her friends. When I picked her up from school the next day, the air had gone out of her balloon. She informed me that her friends had teased her about her short hair. One said it looked "weird," and the other said she looked like a boy. While my heart broke for her, I also got a bit of a thrill. At last, we had come to an actual "teaching moment," in Oprah terms, that just might even lead to an "A-ha moment" if I played my cards right. So I asked her what the girls said, how that made her feel, and then I asked her if she liked her hair. She said yes. I said, well, that's all that matters. Then, because I am a mom and not actually Oprah, I closed with, "And that's why you should never ever tease other people. It will make them sad, just like you are sad now. And if I hear that you have, you will be put in jail." (OK I didn't say that last part). Then she asked what was for dinner and that was that.
Not quite as profound as helping someone discover they overeat in order to triumph over the Oreos their mother used to throw at them when she was mad, but not too bad.
Charlotte is probably going to end up in therapy. Or on some kind of 2035 version of the Oprah Winfrey Show.