I spent almost five hours today at the Pacific Science Center with my boys. It was a really nice, bright day in Seattle–the kind of weather that makes me remember why I’m here. This is why. Because there are places available in this town that allow these two little ones to learn about the world we live in, especially when we are lucky enough to get some free passes.
There was this questionable picture which I’m sure is to depict something something science, but the dated look, the woman in the apron, mixing cupcakes with a face so forlorn, you know it’s for her kid’s class because she was asked the night before to make three million cupcakes with no gluten, dairy, nuts or flavor. If there could be another display with some kind of present-day device with no gendered role that sends me into a spiral, that would be great.
Nathan volunteered for a demonstration on “psychic powers” which was a fun walk-through on the scientific method and other ways magicians use the power of suggestion or manipulation. I loved seeing how eager my son was to participate, how he wanted to be on stage and make it a show. I wonder where he gets that from.
This kid. One day at the science museum and he’s a nerd, already telling me he only listens to the b-sides and please mom, stop being such a poser.
There was a moment when TJ was having difficulty with some foam-type atom display where you had to connect the atoms using foam pegs. This little blonde-haired shit kid looked at him and laughed, “HE CAN’T CONNECT IT! HA! HA!” His equally blonde mother who heard the whole thing just smiled without saying anything at all. I couldn’t even meet her eyes or I would have burned her right there. I majored in mean mugs, with a minor in eye-rolling. I’m really good at throwing shade without any words.
But instead of responding to some kid making fun of my baby or telling him what I really wanted to say, “YOUR MOM KNOWS HOW TO CONNECT. SHE CONNECTS A LOT!” I just gave a tight-lipped face until TJ was ready to move to another display.
My kids have said less than kind things, because they have the unfiltered mouths of kids but that’s where I come in as a parent, if I can, to remind them that other people cry, too, other people are learning how to act in this world, let’s be more kind and mindful of other people. If TJ had laughed, full-on laughed like that little shit did, I would have said, “He’s just learning how to do it. That’s what we’re here to do.”
I can handle other kids, even the shitty ones who haven’t been taught how to treat people with empathy, but it’s the parents–especially the rich Seattle moms–that trigger something deep and awful inside me. I don’t know if it’s this jealousy I harbor of people who have it so easy, who wear designer shoes and talk about how their special snowflakes are the most special of the all the snowflakes and they read this book where kids who don’t speak three languages become murderers so of course they have to enroll their babies in language immersion yoga sessions. And maybe it’s the experience I had as a young mom that I never got over–of the super intense dog-and-pony baby show where every Seattle woman wanted to be the best mom with the most special baby so they bought the Orbit stroller, not the Graco one, the handwoven baby wrap, not the Ergo I picked up at a consignment store.
I really liked only a few other moms, the nice ones who didn’t mind that I was only 23 or didn’t attend seventeen weeks of prenatal boot camp. I bought Nathan used clothes (and still do) and couldn’t connect to women who were so proud to soak through their shirts with breastmilk or shake bottles in front of their infants’ faces and say things like, “Do you want some breastmilk? Yes you do! You do want some breastmilk!” and I had such. a. hard. time. breastfeeding. and would look at them and think, “Your kid doesn’t know it’s called breastmilk, there’s no need to show off.”
My kids don’t know this is how I feel because I don’t say, “We can’t go out today because your mother can’t get over the one time she felt bad about herself and guess what, she still feels bad sometimes! Maybe she’ll grow up one day but until then back to your room!” I do want them to live in this world as special snowflakes, but empathetic ones, who make jokes and tell funny stories and see other kids who might have trouble with a toy and instead of laughing in their faces, say without any prompting, “Here, let me help you.”
We made funny poses in the mirrors and walked around and looked through all the displays that asked questions about science and taught us about how the world works. After a few hours of exploring, we ended the day with a Michael Jackson laser light show. I didn’t know how the kids would respond to something that might seem so simple in comparison to all the video games and movies and special effects, but they loved it. Nathan sang and danced to the Jackson 5 songs and I rocked TJ in my arms and he fell asleep to “Man in the Mirror.” Nathan said to me as we walked back to the car, “You’re the greatest mom in mom history!” Too bad the Guinness Book of World Records folks weren’t around to verify that this was said and give me a plaque to that effect. I guess I’ll just have to notarize this blog post.
Parenting is this constant lifting and knifing of my heart. I let so much in–the vulnerability, the constant questioning of myself as a good mom, a good person, someone who is doing a sufficient job of shaping these two boys into decent, empathetic human beings. I want them to remember me, not as this oversensitive brooding woman, but as one great mom in the history of moms who let them sit on her legs in a cramped, hot photobooth just to get a picture of us together.