Oh, Stop Pretending!


I really want my daughter and her husband to trust me with their kids.

I mean, right now, I’m all they have in the way of day care, and I know they aren’t looking to make a change, but still. I want them to look at each other every night and think, “Gosh, that Nonni is just the best thing ever! Wow! What a woman!”

I know. Gross, right?

This is the same internal dialogue that has me cooking a fresh, home cooked meal with all of the major food groups every single night. Every. Night. For 39 plus years.

I know. I am still desperately trying to be a “good girl.” I still want approval every day.

Anyway, I want my daughter to be in awe of my fabulous maternal skills.

And mostly, she is. She’s quick to praise me and to thank me, and I know they really do appreciate having me there to care for their babies every day.

Today, though? Oh, today.

Let’s just set the stage by saying that last night was Halloween. And Paul and I went out to Trick or Treat with the kids and their parents and a bunch of friends. I was dressed like a witch. I walked up and down the street, often carrying Ellie in my arms. I was freezing. I got home with a cramp in the back of my neck and an ache in both calves.

Today I was tired, achy, a little bleary eyed. I was on duty for two over-tired kids. One wanted candy, more candy and maybe “a little tiny bit more”. At the tender age of two, our Ellie has become a better negotiator than D. Trump ever was even in his best delusional dreams.

She has learned how to pull on my heart strings. For example, when her baby brother cries and needs to be held, she has learned to wail “I need you, Nonni! I need special Nonni time! NOW!” She gazes up with her dark, dark eyes and lets her lower lip tremble, just a bit.

You’d have to be made of granite not fall for it.

And she knows that if I do anything she doesn’t like (like brush her long, curly hair) she sobs as if her heart is breaking, “Oh!!! I want my Mommy! Mommy, I miss you!!!”

I wasn’t born yesterday, and this ain’t my first rodeo, but Holy Crap, that’s hard to take.

And then there is our beloved little man, Johnny Jump Up. Aka: Johnny NoTeeth, Johnny Knuckles, Johnny Tank.  The boy is five months old and wearing 12 month clothes. He’s all smiles, until he isn’t.

Today was one of those days. He was either sound asleep or screaming and arching his back. He didn’t want to be held or rocked or sitting up or lying down or on his belly or drinking a bottle or in his bouncy seat or in his swing.

Every time Ellie stopped asking for “Nonni time!”, Johnny was screaming.

By noon, I was soaked in sweat. My heart was skipping beats. All I wanted from life was five minute alone. I put Ellie in front of a movie and Johnny in his swing. I put the puppy on the deck.

Then I went into the bathroom and locked the door. I turned on the fan and the water. And I sat with my head in my hands.

But that hurt my neck, so I went back out there and tried to face it all with a smile.

Kate gets her to pick up the kids between 4 and 4:30. By 3:30, both of them were awake and both were cranky. The dog kept charging at the living room window trying to attack the squirrels on the lawn.

Nonni was getting desperate.

I finally settled Ellie down to finger paint, and tried to jostle Johnny in my arms. At one point I found myself with John on my left hip, trying to vacuum up the popcorn (from Ellie) the torn paper (from the pup) and the leaves that had blown in. Ellie was demanding that I clean up her finger paints and wash her hands.

My blood pressure was rising. Johnny was whining. Lennie the puppy was demanding to go back out so he could start tearing apart the screen and demanding to be let back in.

I faced a moment of decision.

I could just let everyone moan and wail and cry and wait till Kate got home.

But then she’d know that I was on my last nerve. She’d know that I was asking myself what the HELL I’d been thinking when I signed up for this gig.

Instead of waiting it out, I put Miss Ellie into a nice bubble bath and settled John into his bouncy seat in the bathroom doorway, with his favorite toy at hand. I joked and smiled and waited.

And waited.

No Kate yet.

Ellie looked up at me with her big dark eyes. “Oh,” she said. “I feel a poopie.”

ANNNNND.

Empty the tub, put away the toys, wrap Ellie in a towel. Quick! Plop her on the sofa, grab Johnny and put him in his swing. Ignore his immediate sobs of rage.

Dress Ellie, while repeatedly asking, “Do you need to poop? Do you want to go on the potty?” Get her dressed in record time, throw the towels into the bathroom, grab the screaming baby.

Look out the window.

See the sweet sight of Mommy’s car coming into the driveway.

Think. I should greet her with a smile, show her the finger paints and the nice clean toddler. Smile about the baby.

That’s what I thought.

Here’s what I did.

I met her at the top of the stairs, handed her the screaming baby, told her that the toddler needed to have her hair brushed. Then I growled out the one word that was really on my mind.

“Wine?”

So.

I felt a little bad about the fact that I was not up to my Nonni best. I hated the fact that I had added to Kate’s stress by telling her that I was ready to jump off the nearest bridge.

Know what she said when I apologized?

“Ma, it makes me feel better to see that I’m not the only one who is driven crazy by the two of them!”

I need to stop trying to always be the good girl. I need to admit that sometimes lunch is a bowl of goldfish, that a movie is sometimes all I can manage and that locking myself in the bathroom is probably keeping all of us safe.

OK. Going to bed. Tomorrow is another day.

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