When I first started my column for Lowcountry Weekly three and a half years ago, I was tasked with the assignment of coming up with a title. Trust me, this is not as easy as it sounds.
For one thing, the name should be authentic to the writer, not one note, or trendy, or gimmicky. The title should never be a vast generalization or the briefest of summaries. No, instead, it should deliver a clever, razor-sharp glimpse of the writer's singular voice. It's a tease into the mindset, secret inner workings and stylistic leanings of a sole person that must be delivered on one-page time and time again. On top of it all, it can't be boring. It has to be catchy and fresh, only not in a sing-songy, overly produced way . . . oh, and in five words or less.
So, you can see how difficult a feat this proves to be. And yes, understand my very real fear that I would let all of you down. Terribly.
At the time, "What I've Learned by Accident" seemed the only five words I could string together and deliver with authenticity. Still does. Because I'm sure, with pinpoint accuracy, that I am not sure about anything. As in I have not one, single, solitary clue about the inner workings of life. This is neither catchy nor fresh, but my own individual mindset and secret workings of an over-scrambled brain. And one of the biggest things I have learned, stumbled, and tripped over without meaning to, as in by accident, is motherhood. If I have ascertained anything at all, it's that I kind of, really do suck at it.
I never intended to get pregnant, y'all. I was happily married and young and free and still had a thing for high end, low heel pumps, happy hour cocktails and pocket change. Then Charlie and I went up to Ann Arbor, Michigan for his cousin's wedding one April in a snowstorm. I don't do snow, people, especially in spring . . . well, never really, unless there's a lodge with a walk-in fireplace and hot chocolate spiked with peppermint schnapps. So, nine months later, here I am toting home this slightly yellow and awfully gaseous wrinkled newborn back to our house in a carrying contraption I couldn't work and into a crib I couldn't bear to leave her in alone . . . in case she like stopped breathing and like DIED.
I had no idea what I was doing. It wasn't that I just didn't know, it was that I was royally going to or already had messed it all up somehow. I ate a black bean burrito covered in jalapenos and hot sauce while breastfeeding and neither of us slept for a solid week. I put her in her baby carrier, glowing with pride that I'd secured it tightly and safely in its base that I'd strapped correctly to the car seat for our first morning out and about. Only to get to Target, I take her out and realize I never buckled her, the actual baby, into the safety harness in the actual carrier in the first place.
I left laundry detergent on the floor without safely securing the cap, so I could sit down already. Poison control suggested I flush her out with a few sippy cups of water. I set her down on the ground another time, so I could unload the groceries from the car without the added hip weight.
At least when I called them for the third time in three weeks, a nice man assured me my baby would have to actually ingest the whole Oleander flower to go into cardiac arrest, so it should be fine that she just licked it.
Then we had the bright idea the baby should have a sister. As in maybe I'd do a better job the second time around. After all, I'd been around the block with a lightweight, collapsible stroller thousands of times, I ought to go pro by now.
The second one fell down the front stairs -three flights, y'all - because I set her down for a sec to find my keys I'd buried in the bottom of my purse. I let her cry herself - with agonizing, hot, squealing tears - to sleep in her crib at night so I could catch Survivor and few z's. Not too long after I introduced her to solids, I said what the heck and threw caution to the wind and fed her scraps from the table the rest of were all eating from instead.
I have yelled.
I have cried.
I have said things I shouldn't have.
I sucked. Like big time.
I was thinking about this yesterday as I sent them both off, one almost 15 and the other two months shy of 17, for a 4-day state theater competition representing their high school. I told myself it is what is. My time with them all to myself is slowly and selfishly coming to an end.
They'll be on their own soon. Let go, Laura. As sad a job as you mustered at the time, you did do your almighty, honest best. They are grown-up ladies now and lovely at that. It's time to trust you did some things right along the way seeing as they turned out okay.
It was still dark as we pulled into school and behind the Atlanta bound school bus for a 5 am departure. I had a few minutes to procure a missing hairbrush, a lone theater shoe, some spare change as well as utter a few hasty goodbyes while reminding them to:
Break a leg.
Give it your all.
Every single ounce and smallest drop.
And never fear failure because learning something, anything, especially if steeped in and stomped by crushing defeat, is not only a precious gift but life’s greatest lesson.
If I have learned anything by accident, my dear readers, its yes, accidents do happen. All the dang long day. But the simple, beautifully basic truth lies in what you learned from messing up as you stumbled along your way.
In the end, it seems I do know one thing for sure about motherhood from all those thousands and thousands of miles around the block in collapsible strollers, bikes, skates, boards, carts, and cars after all; practice what you preach. Always. Word. To your mother.