don't get me wrong, i'll take a foot massage

Taking Chicken out in public has been like unshackling a death-row inmate in the middle of Bonnaroo.

As soon as he's out of the stroller, Chicken takes off toward the nearest bear pit, off-the-books construction site, rickety scaffold, or hole in the fence over a rushing river. I am basically trying to keep him alive, against his will, 24/7/365.

Yesterday was really bad.

After a particularly panicky trip to the zoo during which not one, not two, but four helpful strangers helped me locate and then restrain my free-range fowl, Chicken looked at his options for the naptime hour and opted against Door #1 (sleeping, being happy), and went full-steam ahead with Door #2 (almost falling asleep in the car, keeping self awake with screams of rage and demands for random seasonal treats that cannot be purchased at this time of year even IF I were so inclined.)

I drove around for one hour and twenty minutes, watching him nod off for the count of ten, then snap awake and shriek for WAYNEDEER COOKIES, then start the whole shit show all over from the top.

Whoever talked to this kid about Christmas pastries in April should be shot in the street.
By the time I got home, I was done.
I was done with Wednesday.
I was done parenting.
I was done speaking.
I was done moving my body through space.
I was done with eye contact.
After the day I had, I thought, yeah, I'm done.

And THEN... the worst thing happened.

Chicken grabbed a soft puppy lovey from Buster's basket of toys and started to play peek-a-boo with his little brother. They sat on the floor together, calmly, happily. Buster batted at the lovey. Chicken stroked his brother's hair and cooed, "oh Buster."

Their giggles, as effervescent and intoxicating as for-realsies Champagne, emerged from petal-pink, bowed angel lips and floated on the air like happy wishes from a dandelion.

What went through my head at the sight of this adorable cutefest?

Oh. Oh, I see. You're hugging now? Oh REALLY.
Uh... NO. 

Those darling cupid mouths? TWO SECONDS AGO they were yawning suck holes belching forth the screams of despair and madness that you hear from pigs on their way into the slaughterhouse. 

To my credit, I knew I was having a crazy reaction. Why was I so angry that they were happy?

Because I was still done, you guys.

It was like these two had dragged my pathetic butt through the mud.
And not just any mud.
ZOO mud.
Zoo mud that had been standing for a few days, baking, getting thick and funky like the gelatinous goo in the bottom of the turkey roasting pan, collecting stray hairs and soggy crackers.
That's the mud we're talking about.
So we got home and I sat stinking, crusted-up, wearing the mess of my day like proof of how hard they were, and how much harder I was.

And then they got easy.

All of a sudden, I wasn't this warrior mom anymore, shining and gritty from victorious battle.

I was just a hot mess in wet socks, lying on the floor, nursing her butt-hurt, scowling at two laughing babies.

When I worked at Nordstrom, another salesperson stole a big sale from me. At the last minute, she swept in, tacked on a pair of socks, and rang it all up for herself. I confronted her. She claimed ignorance (she said nobody was helping her, so...) and then precedent (she's my personal customer. She always shops with me. She said she would have shopped with me if you hadn't snapped her up so fast) and then seniority (you're not going anywhere in this company and I've been here for 22 years. It's one sale. Get over it.) At the end of the day, there was nothing more I  could do - as much as I wanted that sale and knew it was rightfully mine, I wouldn't embarrass the company or the customer by calling her and asking her to confirm that I'd been the one to assist her with her shopping that day.

Later that day, the salesperson who stole my sale helped me hang up discarded clothing from a fitting room. "See?" she said, slipping a jacket back on its black plastic hanger, "I'm nice. I'm part of the team. I'm helping you right now."

Suuuuuure... but you still stole my sale.

That's like punching me in the face and then giving me a foot massage.

My feet feel amazing. Seriously. Wow. You've got a gift. I'm walking on sunshine and butterfly wings. 

But I've still got a black eye, asshole.

That's exactly how I felt about peek-a-boo after Shitstorm at the Zoo.

I loved watching them play so sweetly together. They gave me the gift of a brief peace, when it could very easily have been otherwise. But I couldn't let go of my memory of the morning's frustration, the frantic search of the Zoo Family Farm, scanning all of the little brunet heads crowded around the goat pen. Where is he?? Where is he?!? Oh, God...

So I lay there on the floor, just stewing about everything I'd done for them that day, the snacks I packed, the energy I spent chasing Chicken and holding his hand gently when my red-lining body would have had me grabbing him with my trademark claw hands. I stewed because it's lonely, feeling exhausted and angry in a room with happy babies. I stewed, tallying up all of the patience that I'd never get credit for, all the bombs I'd disarmed with 0:01 left on the clock.

Chicken looked up at me and asked for "milk, pweese, Mommy?" For an instant, I wanted to say no.

NO, you can't have MILK. You scared the shit out of me today. I would rather have my ear canals drilled with dental equipment than give you something that will make you happy right now.  You hid from me. At the zoo. During SPRING BREAK. NO. NO MILK. You know what I did today? Not drink water, that's for sure. That's right. Be THIRSTY. 

And then I took off my wet socks, filled a sippy cup with milk, and sat down to play peek-a-boo.

Ain't nobody got time for holding a grudge against a baby.

I'm pretty sure it's part of my job description to saddle up and be the bigger person. And I'm pretty sure it's part of his to give me black eyes and foot massages until the day I die.

Momlife. Can I get a hell yeah?


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