Blogs Are Stupid

Doesn't anyone believe in Dear Diary anymore? What happened to the joy of putting actual pen to paper? And why does every ordinary Jane and John think they can write well enough to burden the world with their scribblings? It’s a mystery that badly needs solving. My first entry contains my thoughts about blogging and will set your expectations. The rest will probably be stream of consciousness garbage, much like you’ll find on any other blog. Perhaps we will both come away enlightened.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

No Small Thing

Before I was old enough to hold a real job, my main source of income was babysitting.

I always had plenty of work, because I was a good at it.

I wasn't one of those babysitters that plunked themselves down on the sofa with chips and soda while the kids ran amuck. Unlike a lot of girls my age, I really liked kids, so I played with them, read them stories, took them to the park. Most of the homes where I babysat were within walking distance of my own house, and sometimes I would pile the kids in a wagon and take them to visit my Mom, who would feed them illicit goodies.

I didn't leave a mess or eat all the food or have boys over or talk on the phone all night or steal beer from the fridge. I did snoop though. Folks, if you think your babysitter is not the type of kid that would snoop, you are deluded. They're all the type; even the nice ones. It's just too much temptation. It's almost like being invisible.

Who, if granted powers of invisibility, would not spy upon their unsuspecting fellows?

We don't have babysitters regularly, but on the few occasions that we have used them, I made sure our extensive porn collection was under lock and key.

I kid.

With the internet what it is today, I can get all our porn on streaming video.

KIDDING! Honestly.

But there are certain things that I made sure were safely away from prying eyes.

Anyway, I was in high demand, and always had a pretty steady flow of cash. It wasn't unusual for me to have more offers than I could handle on the weekends, and often, I had to turn folks down. Of course, I always chose those who paid the most and whose kids were well behaved. Plentiful snacks and amenties such as a VCR definitely helped sweeten the deal.

But I did have dry spells, and during times of economic want, I would be forced to babysit for the undesirables.

There was one woman in particular that I absolutely hated babysitting for.

She was single mother. She was also a boozehound and a, erm...very friendly woman. She was hard. There was nothing soft or feminine about her, and I never understood how or why she became a mother. She wasn't nurturing. She wasn't even nice.

Of course, now, I understand how she became a mother. There was no carefull plotting of her menstrual cycle, I can assure you of that. You can be certain that there were no birth announcements or pink hued baby showers.

She lived with her two young daughters in the upper level of a once graceful victorian that was slowly crumbling into a state of thorough and inexorable disreputability.

There was no television and very little furniture. There were sheets tacked over the windows. There were no rugs on the scarred and worn hardwood floors. There were no homey touches anywhere. It was a cold, barren, depressing place.

There was never any food in the refrigerator, but always plenty of beer. Once, she gave me a knowing look, laughed harshly and said, "Help yourself."

It wasn't beer that she was offering me. She might as well have said...Help yourself to hopelessness. Help yourself to not having any choices. Help yourself to a future as bleak as mine.

I never did help myself.

The girls, who were 4 and 2, slept on a ancient iron bestead in a room that was mostly empty. No toy chest, no toys, no cheery curtains at the windows, no sign at all that little girls lived and played there.

The bed had only a bare mattress upon it, that was stained and sagging in the middle. I hated putting them to bed on that thing. They had no pillows and each had one blanket that was scarcely large enough to cover them. They slept in old t-shirts that were so thin I could see their slender bodies and their drooping, threadbare underpants right through them.

Every time I put those little girls to bed I felt terribly sad. It was a maternal sadness, though I couldn't recognize it such since I was not yet a mother. But the sight of their bare feet poking out from beneath those threadbare blankets made my heart feel like a two ton anchor.

One night, she came home even later than usual; almost 4 am. As usual, she reeked of booze and cigarettes, but tis time, she was drunker than I had ever seen her, and though I didn't realize it at the time, probably high as well.

The man she was with had to practically carry her up the stairs. She giggled and groped him as he tried to wrestle her onto the mattress that served as her bed. He offered to take me home, and looked at me in a manner I knew all too well. As usual, I declined. I walked the two blocks home alone, in the dark.

When I got home my Dad was waiting up. He told me tersely to go to bed and then he put on his coat. As I watched him walk down the street in the pre-dawn haze, I knew that although he was outwardly calm, he was very, very angry. There were many reasons for his anger that I couldn't understand at the time. Naievely, I thought it was because she had come home so late.

But my Dad was no dummy. He knew what was going on in that dingy little apartment. And the time had come to put a stop to it.

I never babysat there again.

Years later I found out that not only had he paid her a visit, but he had called the authorities and those little girls were taken away. He just needed to see for himself that he was doing the right thing. And he was.

So...what is the point of telling that story? know...I read so many posts here in the blogosphere about our inadequacies as mothers.

I feel them myself.

I yell too much. I'm not consistent enough with discipline. I rely on punishments and lectures far too often instead of finding really positive and effective ways to teach my kids. I forget to check agendas, sign permission slips, send in supplies they need. I miss PTA meetings. I skip doctor appointments now and then.

On several occasions, I let my kids stay home from school because I just didn't feel like getting out of bed and facing the Herculean task of getting them ready. In my defense, that was when they were in kindergarten or pre-school. I don't and wouldn't do it now.

I don't always meet the challenges of parenting them with patience or good grace. Sometimes, I resent not having "normal" kids. Oh, they're smart and creative and just...fantastically unique. But they're not easy. And sometimes that pisses me off.

The list goes on. The point is, I can always find plenty to say about what I am doing WRONG as a mother. All of those things make me feel like a bad mother.

But do you know...just the simplest things we do, matter.

Putting fresh clean sheets on their beds.
Washing their clothes when they are dirty.
Making sure they have a coat when they need it.
Feeding them.
Bathing them and brushing their teeth (or, if they're older, making sure they do it themselves)
Reading stories.
Hugging them.
Giving them medicine when they are sick.

They are, to us, things unworthy of praise singing. It's just what Moms do. I don't think we realize that so many children don't have those things. And we don't give ourselves credit for doing something right by providing them.

Every morning, I get up with my kids, fix them breakfast, sit beside them while they eat, pack their snack, give them their meds and a vitamin, and supervise personal hygeine. I wait at the door, sipping my coffee and watching until the bus comes.

I wave.

And sometimes I think...if something happened, if they were taken from me, either by a person or a twist of fate...I know that at least I did that for them. In that small way, in those too short moments...I was a good Mom.

I fixed them breakfast and stood waving.

Such a big small thing.

I don't think to be proud of that, but I should. So should you.

So the next time you're folding clothes, or making a bed, or fixing yet another snack, or ferrying them to yet another appointment, stop and congratulate yourself on a job well done.

And try to remember that when it comes to Mothering...there is no such thing as a small thing.


Thanks to everyone for the terriffic music suggestions! I can't wait to sit down this weekend and go through and listen to all the choices. There's a lot of stuff there I don't recognize, so I'm anticipating some new and wonderful discoveries.

I knew you wouldn't let me down!


  • At 7:30 AM, Blogger All Things BD said…

    Thanks for that awesome post.

  • At 7:54 AM, Blogger Dori said…

    I feel so helpless and inadequate as the mom so many times--but I *know* my children are loved beyond life itself. But, yes, sometimes/always we need to be reminded of the fact! So, thanks. I needed that.

  • At 8:08 AM, Blogger Woman in a Window said…

    Wow, as I was reading I wanted to swoop into that apartment and hug those girls and slip a warm fuzzy sweater over them. It makes me so sad to know that this is true, that there are kids out there with those kindnesses they deserve. And your father...Oh, your father...but in the end, I'm still sad for those girls and I wonder who they are today.

  • At 8:39 AM, Blogger Alison said…

    BA, I'm about to cry. Those poor little girls in their threadbare t-shirts...but thanks for the reminder that those of us who are taking care of our kids are showing that we love them. I'm not perfect, but my kids are well cared for and loved and taught how to act, so I must be doing okay.

    Of course, they are watching TV right now while I read blogs, but that is just necessary for Mama's sanity!

    Off to look at the music suggestions, which I obviously need since I didn't contribute much.

  • At 9:52 AM, Blogger Unknown said…

    You should be proud of that. Too many of the children that I see every day at school have two hot meals a day - the two they receive at school. When they go home, it's to take care of their younger brothers and sisters because the adults aren't home. The lucky ones have parents who are working. Far too many have parents that are in jail, getting high, or working the street.

  • At 10:01 AM, Blogger Middle Girl said…

    Your tracker will tell you that I was here a long time. I composed an erased two "War and Peace" type comments. I'm paring it down to say simply this...I know both sides of that family story. Kudos to your dad for making that call and kudos to all parents who care to do the simple things, day in and day out. That is large.

  • At 10:02 AM, Blogger Avalon said…

    There were so many occasions where I felt completely inadequate when my daughter was young. Now she has grown into a young woman and I relish the little things we do together. She has turned out great both because of and despite me.

  • At 10:38 AM, Blogger Notes and letters to myself.... said…

    You know I was one of those snoopy babysitters as well who snopped before there were cameras to see if the babysitter was snooping. And I found a lot of risque things I suppose back in that time. I remember finding a vibrator once and wondering what it was. And then years later being totally freaked out when I realized what it was, and where it had been because I had picked it up and touched it. Eek!

    Do I yell too much? Probably. Am I consistent when it comes to discipline -- not always. But my son has two meals a day from me during the week, plus snacks, and more importantly than the clean sheets, clean clothes, meals and what not, is we spend time together. And I often find out what's going on with him and why he's behaving a specific way and yes I still yell at him:) Because sometimes he does those dumb things he knows he's not suppose to and knows better.

    I think each one of us at one time or another has had the experience of knowing a family like the one you babysat for. I know I babysat for a family who's priorities were clearly not on their children but themselves and the dad always wanted to walk me home and like you I always declined. Back in the day before Child Protective Services was a big deal we didn't have a lot of resources when children we felt were being mistreated -- so kudos to your father for doing the right thing. I am sure that was a scary thing for him to do.

    Do you wonder what ever happened to those little girls? I think that's what haunts me about the family I babysat for. They had four children and I always wonder how they turned out.

    Your writing is amazing, I am sure you have been told many times over -- but you have a real gift.

  • At 11:11 AM, Blogger sltbee69 said…

    What an awesome post! Thanks for reminding me that we, as mother's, shouldn't take our day in and day out tasks for granted. That there are a lot of lost soul kids out there that would give anything for the mundane.

  • At 12:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Your post reminded me of this:

    A hundred years from now it will not matter what my bank account was, the type of house I lived in, or the kind of car I drove...but the world may be different because I was important in the life of a child.

  • At 12:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Stories like that make me sad. When socks have holes, I throw them out. When underwear is too small, I get the next size up. When legs or hands are cold, I get out blankets or start a fire in the fireplace. I wouldn't think twice about doing any of those things. I can't fathom the selfishness that woman had to stock her fridge with beer and not take care of her girls. It makes me mad. Good for your dad for doing the right thing, but I fear that the state childcare system is not a whole lot better. Hopefully those girls found out what motherly love really means. And hopefully not before it jaded them too badly to not know.

  • At 1:16 PM, Blogger Amy Y said…

    Gee, thanks, now my mascara is running down my face. ;)
    Seriously, though, great post Mama.

    My grandma says it's so hard to be a good mom... to be involved... to pay attention... do your best to meet their needs... help with homework... take an interest in their education...

    But I like this perspective better. I like to think I'm above average as a mother, but it's hard when I realize I make mistakes on a daily basis. The worst part is, I know I'm making the mistakes and I continue making them. And then I think about the therapy bills when they go tell a shrink how bad their mom fucked 'em up. ;)

    But I know I do a lot of things right, too. Hopefully more right than wrong. And I appreciate that reminder!

  • At 1:20 PM, Blogger Amy Y said…

    PS ~ I, too, was the girl who couldn't wait to turn 12 and start babysitting. I loved interacting with the kids and always brought fun things for them to play with. I was often booked on the weekends, until I was old enough that I found other interests ~ namely boys. I read all the Babysitter's Club books and dreamed of starting my own. I had favorite clients but never experienced anything like this... how tough. I will count myself lucky!

  • At 1:32 PM, Blogger Girlplustwo said…

    BA, for many, many reasons you've made me cry this morning with your words. i sit here crying still.

  • At 1:56 PM, Blogger Mitzi Green said…

    thanks--i needed that. so often i feel like everything i do just isn't enough, will never be enough...

  • At 2:18 PM, Blogger Mental P Mama said…

    Great post. Know that you are a fantastic mom. And God bless your father for doing the right thing.

  • At 2:44 PM, Blogger Namito said…

    Perspective is a wonderful thing, isn't it?

    This was a good dose of it. Thanks.

  • At 3:01 PM, Blogger kevin black said…

    Though not technically snooping, I did once show a home to a real estate client while the owners weren't home, and low and behold, the "toy drawer" was left wide open. Apparently the lady of the house was a fan of the rabbit.

  • At 6:47 PM, Blogger Lara said…

    i'm no expert, because, well, i don't have my own kids yet. but from the experiences i do have, i sometimes think that motherhood is just one HUGE good deed, made up of a million tiny bits of seeming insignificance. good for you, and for all the moms out there who do the right things for their kids.

  • At 7:36 PM, Blogger Major Bedhead said…

    What a lovely post and something I desperately needed after the last few days. Thank you.

  • At 8:40 PM, Blogger Terri said…

    You are so right. It's the small things that are a big deal. When I think of kids in situations like those two girls you babysat, it breaks my heart. I've heard stories of drug addicts leaving their infants in their crib for days at a time. It's so, so sad. Although my girls may not fully realize it now, I am fully aware of how blessed they are and am thankful I can provide a comfortable secure environment for them to grow up in.

  • At 7:57 AM, Blogger Tania said…

    This post was very timely. Thank you.

  • At 11:36 AM, Blogger Sarahviz said…

    For some reason, this post brought tears to my eyes, BA.
    You're awesome.

  • At 10:48 PM, Blogger Cathy Burke said…

    I love this post! We are all so hard on ourselves. I try so hard to catch my kids doing something "right" but I don't do it for myself! I am sure for every thing I am doing WRONG there are 10 things I am doing right. Things that will make a difference in the kind of people my kids turn out to be. Thanks for the reminder!

  • At 2:12 PM, Blogger Ms Unpacked2.0 said…


    I am not sure how I happened upon your blog, super post! Bravo to your Dad.

  • At 5:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    This is so true. I wonder what happened to those little girls...

  • At 5:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    This is so true. I wonder what happened to those little girls...

  • At 7:27 PM, Blogger luckyzmom said…

    This made me cry.

  • At 9:49 PM, Blogger Amy said…

    Oh, thank you for this. Thank you. So moving.

  • At 11:40 PM, Blogger Crazed Nitwit said…

    Happy Mother's Day to someone I consider an exceptional mother! It's not a small thing. You'll be amazed at how the smallest of actions will be treasured by your boys!!!


  • At 3:46 PM, Blogger Shelley said…

    Thanks, B.A., for reminding me that I don't have to be perfect to be a good mom. I forget that sometimes, and I'm way too hard on myself, as we all are. Great post.

    Happy Mother's Day. :)

  • At 3:58 PM, Blogger nina said…

    I hope your mother's day was wonderful hon. Thank you for this post. It rang true to me.


  • At 11:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    This post is so right-on. I have learned a lot about forgiving myself for little imperfections in the last year, but you said it beautifully. And your father did a very good thing.

  • At 11:54 AM, Blogger Jen said…

    I don't even remember how I came across this post but I'm so glad I did. It's exactly what I needed today. Thanks for the reminder that when it comes to being a good mother, it's the little things that matter. I seriously want to print out this post and keep it on my fridge.


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