There is absolutely nothing that can prepare you for the fascinating and tumultuous first year of parenting. It’s a twilight zone of bliss and exhaustion, a time paradox of long days and fast years, a balancing act of efficiency and predicting the unpredictable.
Alone. With a baby. I mean, that’s what a stay-at-home-mom does all day. Hang out, alone, with her kids. Often times without any help. But even almost a year into this very underestimated profession, I am still trying to figure out how to go about my daily tasks — alone, with a baby.
Just last week, I had to take a trip to the store with Josephine strapped in the backseat by herself. The usual fifteen minute smooth drive into town turned into fifteen minutes of Josephine’s livid wailing and rattling in her carseat. I could feel the heat in the vehicle rise as Josephine continued to scream inconsolably. So I did what any kind mother would do and turned up the air conditioning and classical music for the duration of the ride.
By the time I reached the parking lot and opened the car, I could feel bystanders gazing in my direction, listening to the unhappy child bellowing from the back of the car and wondering if they should call the authorities. I smiled at the guy who was lingering curiously by his car next to me. “She just hates being in the backseat alone,” I reassured him, bringing a sobbing Josephine into my arms. So I stood there, in the busy parking lot of the town shopping center, comforting a disconcerted baby while thinking up ways to put her in her stroller without a fuss. God, help me.
Anyone who has ever done any Baby Wrangling in their lifetime, whether it be their children or someone else’s, knows how it is. They know you only have two hands for a job that requires a hundred. And every once in a while, these Masters in Baby Wrangling can see, or in this case, hear, the struggle of a mother.
There I was, in the middle of the busy parking lot, attempting to put a sobbing and resilient 11-month-old in her stroller. As soon as I lowered her into her seat, she’d stretch out her limbs and shriek. We played this “put-the-crying-baby-in-the-stroller” game for a good five minutes, all while shaking off stranger’s comments (which frankly, I couldn’t hear through the screaming child). Then out of nowhere, a Master in Baby Wrangling showed up. A kind yet assertive lady with long black braids approached me and said, “Here, let’s try this.” She crouched in front of Josephine and broke out into a dynamic performance of “If You’re Happy And You Know it, Clap Your Hands!” offering just enough distraction for me to slyly strap Josephine into her stroller. Thank the heavens, it worked. The Master in Baby Wrangling even managed to strap on one of Josephine’s shoes, which she kicked off during our little battle. Then as swiftly as she came, she left, but not before I thanked her over and over for helping me when I didn’t ask for it, but needed it.
This incident reminded me of the time just a week prior that Josephine and I were hustling our way through TSA on our trip back home from visiting my parents. As if TSA isn’t hard enough, they require that families traveling with small children take their babies out of their carseat, detach the carseat from the stroller, and collapse the stroller, all while taking your shoes off and carrying your baby. Though I’ve become somewhat of a pro doing these things while toting Josephine in one arm, the lady traveling alone in front of me didn’t let a single second pass before she said, “If you need any help, let me know. I’ve traveled alone with 3 kids before. I know how it is.” It made my heart feel so at ease in the midst of hectic traveling to hear a fellow mom willingly offer help.
All this to say one thing: THANK YOU, fellow strangers and Masters in Baby Wrangling. The moments of time you take out of your day to offer help instead of sly commentary makes this parenting thing that much easier. Your help reminds me that, yes, it does take a village to raise children. And even while I try to wrangle my own child through the day all by my lonesome, the village still exists. One day, I will become confident in my own experiences to call myself a Master in Baby Wrangling, and even then, I will still rely heavily on the village.
Again, thanks for all your help. I’ll be needing it again soon.