But in addition to new emotional states, there are also many jobs that you must master as a parent that are not so clearly advertised.
For instance, there is far more waitressing involved in having small children than anyone ever mentions. As a working actress, I was thrilled to retire my food-serving apron two decades ago. If it weren’t for pride, however, I’d wear one all the time again as I’m constantly taking orders, as well as serving and clearing food and drinks for the three demanding customers under five feet tall at my house.
Customers whom I’m also tasked to do the cooking for – and I don’t mean that cute cooking one does for a new boyfriend or girlfriend on your first stay-at-home date. Rather, cooking for kids is like being a short order cook for a bi-polar dictator. You can whip up their absolute favorite meal and put it on their beloved princess/racecar/giraffe plate and still be hollered at. That they hate this food/place/planet just before said food hits the floor, in an unclear manner. Thrown? Dropped? Willed to the ground by their grandmother as some kind of psychic karma towards me?
I was also vaguely aware that there would be a fair amount of “refereeing” as a parent but I didn’t realize how excruciating it is to listen to small people fight over plastic animals and used stickers. It’s so intense it can cause you to say idiotic things like, “Stop acting like two-year-olds!” to a bunch of two-year olds.
But the seemingly obvious job that I really didn’t comprehend until after my children were born, photographed and announced (and there was no real way of pretending they weren’t mine) was that of the resident nurse.
People often refer to “Dr. Mom” but I can assure you that is just flattery. Doctors command respect, or at least fear. They also have key tools they get to use when working with children – like arm restraints and anesthesia.
“Nurse Mom,” on the other hand, is tasked to do all the highly emotional healing work while children are flailing in pain and fear. Like the almost daily pouring of betadine or peroxide on a scraped knee/elbow/chin. Or the ice to the face from the accidental sibling kick during TV time. Or my least favorite Nurse Mom job: removing splinters.
I once thought that convincing a five year old that sticking a pin into the bottom of his foot to “tare it open just a little” was as close as I might ever come to Lucifer’s wrath. But I was wrong. Because during bath time this week, I found a splinter in a much more sensitive area of my five-year-old son’s body.
After immediately throwing out every single wood bench in my backyard, I interrupted the self-chastising rage going on in my head to remember that adage people who don’t have children will tell you – that splinters will come out on their own if you leave them be. Which I have never actually seen happen. Ever.
Then I did what any sane parent would do and waited for my babysitter to show up. When she said, “I think it will come out on it’s own,” I realized there was no passing this task off.
“Remove the splinter when he is asleep”, the more experienced nurse mom – my mother – advised. She said she did this regularly in my childhood. The image of my mother in 1975, with a cigarette and a martini glass in each hand and a safety pin between her teeth or maybe even her toes was so bad – that I figured I could at least best that.
I spent TWO HOURS that night performing microsurgery with a tweezer on my first-born. The only thing that kept me from screaming was the flashlight in my mouth. And what finally stopped my continuous crying, mostly out of pity for myself, was the unbelievable joy I felt after pulling a quarter-inch of wood out of a very tender spot, on my very young man.
I kept that splinter in my hand for the rest of the night though. Because I had no idea that it, and parenthood, could also bring such a feeling of victory.