I consider myself a fairly laid-back person. I don’t get worked up over daily dramas, I don’t shed a tear while watching Hallmark commercials, and I certainly don’t worry about what other people think of me. I’m your average, happy-go-lucky optimist.
Or I was, until motherhood happened.
The moment the first little dude popped out, screaming like his main goal in life was to split open all eardrums within a 1-mile radius, I felt something shift inside my psyche. It wasn’t what you think. I’m not talking about instant bonding, the “I’m in love with this loud, slimy, squished face. The world has stopped turning because I have produced the most amazing thing on earth!” emotional shifting. What I felt clicking into place under my epidural haze was the realization that I must now protect this angry new human from harm.
I had no idea motherhood would transform me from a carefree young adult to a secret service-ninja-detective extraordinaire. I have skills that the finest Green Beret would envy. I can spot a rogue tripping hazard or an unprotected electrical socket from 20 yards away. I can detect a minute shift in air molecules that signals the onset of a toddler screaming because she stuck her leg through the crib slats, or maybe stuffed a pea up her nose, or spotted a bug the size of a pea.
Whatever the case may be, I am their protector, defender, and shield from the danger. Consider the following examples:
1. I have to case my friends’ houses prior to bringing my kids over.
Not all of my friends have kids. Their houses are like unexplored caves of wonder to my kids who suddenly are master spelunkers, already busy manufacturing imaginary rope, illuminated helmets and a first-aid kit (maybe my penchant for sticking Band-Aids in my pocket is rubbing off on them). To me, kid-free homes are like minefields; you never know when a disaster will explode at your feet, like the exposed edges of their modern steel and glass coffee table, or the carefully arranged collection of Hummel figurines, which are not toys! Try explaining to a child why the unopened collection of superhero action figures is not meant to be played with.
2. Playgrounds are designed either by people who do not have kids or by freaking Spiderman.
The climbing obstacles alone are enough to raise my blood pressure, not to mention the dirty, sharp wood chips that are pre-programmed to pierce the toes of my children’s Crocs. Speaking of Crocs, who makes children’s play shoes riddled with holes?
3. Danger is no longer lurking around every corner. It is every corner.
Coffee tables and fireplace hearths are no longer surfaces to rest a lovely glass of chardonnay or a finger or two of single-malt. No. Instead, they are objects of fear and loathing, constructed as they are with sharp edges and corners like knives. All the nasty corners in my house are swathed in foam and duct tape in an effort to soften the blow when my children inevitably land on them headfirst—usually because they tripped on a Lego, or their own feet, or on air. I try to think of it as an interior design statement. The duct tape, not the Legos, although Lego flooring has its own charm.
4. Found objects are not edible.
Not only do I protect their outsides, I protect their insides too. Here is my secret: “Do not eat that lollipop/candy/French fry/little pill you just picked up from the floor! It is dirty and might kill you!” Just keepin’ it real.
Now the only time I get to relax is when they are safe in their beds, well away from the windows with those freaking cords on the blinds and with pillows lining the floor in case they fall out in the middle of the night. This is finally the time I can settle in, have a glass of wine, and maybe shed a tear during a sappy movie. Damn. Kids change you, don’t they?
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