seriously the pretzels though

We sat on the floor of the aquarium and ate the lunches we brought from home.

Chicken pulled out his container of pretzels, pried the lid open, and said, “Alright! Pretzels!”

Alright, pretzels, indeed, my son.

Dear Chicken,

Your pretzel container was a small stainless steel cup, about the size of a tub of chewing tobacco, with a blue rubber cap and a piece of masking tape with your name written on it in Sharpie.

That cup did not just happen.

I learned about BPA. I learned about plastic waste. I searched for sustainable food containers. I checked what I found against the household budget for food containers. I purchased the stainless steel cup. When it came to my door, I opened the box, cut its seams with kitchen scissors which I replaced in their high jar because you, my son, were tall enough to reach them but not old enough to understand the consequences of cutting your brother’s doughy thighs with them.

I broke down the box. I set it in the hall, where I invented a place when we moved into this house, the Place of the Broken Down Amazon Boxes, and I asked your dad to take it out to the recycling bin when he got home from the work he did to earn the money that we used to buy the container that had arrived on our door in the box I had just discarded.

Still with me?

Then I washed the container. I learned about warehouses and contaminants and water pollution. I learned about chemicals in dish detergent. I searched for safe, sustainable cleaning products for our home. I checked what I found against the household budget. I purchased dish detergent.

Oh, FYI, the whole reason I bought the container was because I’d just enrolled you in preschool.

Do you know how I found your preschool? I don’t have enough words to explain the process of finding a preschool, but if I did, I guarantee you that at least 60% of them would be some form of “fuck.”

The fucking tuition is what? For nine fucking hours a week? Fuck! Who can afford that?

How long is the fucking wait list?

I toured an outdoor school today and the kids go to the forest and hang out with their outdoorsy teachers and then the forest groundskeepers come by all the time with little presents for the kids, which I thought was cool until one of the other moms was like “And are those groundskeepers background-checked?” And the director of the school was like, “Oh, um, I’m not sure,” and all the moms in our tour group just looked at each other and we all shared this perfect unspoken moment of fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck this. Also it was $600 a fucking month for 3 half-days. I know. Fuck.

Should we try a fucking co-op or what?

We tried the fucking co-op.

The pretzels didn’t just happen, either.

I bought the pretzels at the grocery store where I took your little brother while you were at school, last Monday afternoon.

Last Monday morning I packed both of your lunches, remembered to slip your Friday folder in at the last minute, zipped up the right coat for you (warm but not necessarily waterproof, because I checked the weather), and walked you into school the way you like.

When we arrived at the eagle on the rug in the entryway of your school, which is as far as parents are allowed to come at dropoff, we both said hi to Swoops, which is what you named the Eagle and which I remembered both because I love you and because I know that it’s important to you that I remember the names you bestow upon animals both real and polyester.

Then I got back into the car and drove your brother to preschool. The whole way we talked about what he’s excited to do at school because I noticed he’s been having a harder time at dropoff lately and talking about it before we get there is more effective than trying to cheer him up at the moment I’m saying good-bye.

Then I wrote for two hours. See, I’m writing a book. I’m not sure you believe me about the book; all you ever see me do is cut up fruit, yell at Twitter, and sit at my computer with a mug of coffee too late in the afternoon, muttering to the monitor. Sometimes I just stare for minutes, precious minutes, my fingers on the keys. I only get these two hours most days, unless I steal time from you, kiddo, and fail to do the million things you need me to do if I am going to be your real great nice shit-together mother.

I can put off laundry for exactly the number of days as pants that still fit you. We’re on a 12-day cycle right now unless there’s a drinkable yogurt spill at breakfast, but you’re eating a lot, which was why I had to take Buster to the store on a school day. I already have the next size pants in my cart. I’ve checked the household budget.

I can’t pop a can of soup for you every night. Besides, Buster is off soup right now. These are dark days. Thank God for the Uncrustables.

After preschool, I took Buster to the store where I taught him how to choose avocados for the non-soup, non-Uncrustable dinner I scheduled for us on Wednesday night. I held his hands inside the cart as we passed a glittering display of pink champagne on special, and then we turned down the chip aisle and I grabbed a bag of pretzels: the waffle kind. Not the sticks because sometimes Buster gags himself with them. Not the twists because, honestly, I don’t know. But you’ve expressed strong preference for the waffle pretzels and that is a request that I remember because I love you, and because I absolutely refuse to fight with you over the shape of your goddamn pretzels. They’re the same price, anyway.

Today we went to the aquarium and you opened your lunch and there were your favorite pretzels in a familiar cup, and you said, “Alright! Pretzels!” as if you’d just won them from a mystery machine.

I am the mystery machine. Your dad and I both are, but it’s really mostly me. We are Santa (I pay attention to what you’d like because I love you) and the Tooth Fairy (I buy the toothpaste that I learned about and checked against the household budget) and the Easter Bunny (I labeled the tub in the garage with a thick black marker so we wouldn’t have to buy new eggs and baskets every year.)

I’m the woman who taught in your co-op class because I’m the woman who did not put you in the hands of friendly groundskeeper with a mysterious past, a man who would win your trust with flowers and birds’ nests, and who would probably, probably never steal your irreplaceable innocence.

On our way to the aquarium with the pretzels rattling in their stainless steel cups in the lunch boxes in the backpacks that we selected and bought and labeled inside with our phone numbers but not your names, for safety, we reminded you of stranger danger and how to reach for starfish at the touch tank.

I don’t expect you to be aware of the amount of work that went into that those pretzels in the cup on the floor of the aquarium, but sometimes I have to remind myself that the smile on your face didn’t just happen.

It’s there because I worked my ass off for years to give you a safe, healthy, nutritious, delightful, goddamn magical childhood. I have to remind myself that the work that’s grown habitual is still hard fucking work. I do it every day and so do millions of my friends and co-workers.

I might have written this post to you, kiddo, but I wrote it for them.

All right, pretzels indeed, my son, my friends, my mothers.

All right, pretzels indeed.

Please share this post with someone who put the damn pretzels in the damn cup for someone they loved today!

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