My daughters, hard up for entertainment, took an impromptu journey through their baby books. It was the night the eldest had officially turned 18 and was (apparently) already nostalgic for her youth. (Man, old age hits earlier and earlier these days.) Of course, the youngest turned 16 a month earlier and had to join in on the fun. The fun taking a sharp turn as the girls noted their mother’s illegible handwriting and one too many unanswered questions.
If you want to feel the spoon-to-the-heart that is a parental failure, watch your child read through their baby books. The apples of my loins noted my multiple failures in legible cursive and inability to answer every milestone question.
In my defense, I think I did a pretty good job. Yes, my handwriting leaves much to be desired. The bank teller always questions my deposit slip. Is that your signature or are you robbing us? Plus, a mom is pretty busy with all that business of feeding, burping, diaper changes, more feeding, burping, diaper changes, and that was just my taking care of their father. The baby books — after a point — tend to fall short. Once lengthy paragraphs akin to great classics such as Moby Dick and Go the [You know what] to Sleep become a handful of words like “hostage situation, send help” and “Is it too late to change my mind?”
Still, as a mom, and as moms are wanton to do, I felt guilty and to make up for it, I set about filling in all those unanswered questions. I will never sleep again with those blank milestones hanging over my head. After all, my daughters will be in charge of pulling the plug on me someday. I can hear the conversation now …
Child 1: “Well, what should we do?”
Child 2: “I don’t know. She wasn’t too bad.”
Child 1: “Yes, but she didn’t answer all the questions in the baby books. Remember?”
Child 2: “Oh, right. WHAT a slacker!”
Child 1: “We should just pull it already.”
Child 2: “I agree. We don’t want to be like her and not finish anything.”
Better late than never, I say, while cracking open the first milestone book of the eldest child to answer the first unanswered question.
“My first food was …”
OK, so this feels like a trap. Free-range kids were all the rage around the eldest’s birth. Parents near and far were throwing open their back doors, drop-kicking their youth out the door, and giving a quick wave. “Good luck, the apple of my loins!” This decision meant eating what was immediately available and for our family that would have been grass.
Now, I can understand the simplicity of free-range and grass, but can’t imagine tackling all the grass stains. Let’s skip this one because when it comes to motherhood, mom-shaming follows and I’m about to be slaughtered. One cannot be outside the loop of whatever happens to be all the rage in a fleeting moment. It means the next two questions are going to be left blank, too. “My favorite activity was …” coupled with “My favorite place to visit …” The answers are running and the mall. You loved to run and once did so at the mall. Yes, I lost my child at the mall but shouldn’t that work into the whole free-range thing?
Keep moving forward, they say and so we shall.
“Your first movie was …”
I honestly do not recall. I did a quick Google search, and the movie Hannibal came out that year. What memories! I can picture it now. Everyone in the theater looking at you, the star attraction. They don’t say anything because, for starters, mom-shaming is a social media thing. Second, they are speechless and overwhelmed by the beauty of a six-week-old taking in her first movie.
“My favorite book was …”
This baby book is starting to age me. I can’t remember. If I think back to 18 years ago, I recall, Under the Skin. It only makes sense as wanton to raise feminists. What female child doesn’t want to hear a story about aliens farm factoring males, and there are only so many hours in the day. Two birds, one stone. Best life hack ever!
Of course, not wanting to be a slacker, I opened the second child’s baby book, and the questions got a little personal. I mean, how did mommy break the news to daddy? Well, as an introvert and not much of a conversationalist I blamed it on gas right up until labor.
“We named you after …”
I’m sorry to say. We used a cootie catcher to figure that one out.
Perhaps this exercise is more along the lines of better never than late. The funny thing about it, it won’t matter how I answer the questions. No one can read my handwriting. They’ll assume it is my secret manifesto and all will be right with the world once they pull the plug.
Bethany J. Royer-DeLong holds a bachelor’s in psychology with an emphasis in organizational psychology and a master’s degree in organizational leadership. She has held an assortment of jobs over four decades from columnist to librarian, newspaper reporter to a program director for a nonprofit. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.