My literary models for motherhood are these insanely patient women. For example, the mothers in Louisa May Alcott’s books, or Ma from the Little House books… I mean, sure, there are hints that these women are just repressing their fury, but still, they are unfailingly gentle, whatever’s going on under the surface, no matter how short the family is on food. And okay, maybe the standards of child behavior were different–Laura notes in one of the early books that children are to be seen and not heard, which had to help a HELL of a lot.
I have yet to even begin thinking about discipline or whatever you want to call it. I know (okay, I’m pretty sure) I don’t want to be that woman from my former baby group who always spoke to her kids in a saccharine, perfectly sereeeeeeeeene tone and who offered lots of opportunity for discussion of every decision, nor do I want to be the woman who roughly jerked her kid around and was always complaining about the kid’s actions.
But while I don’t ever, ever want to be mean, I must now accept that I’ll never be Ma. Certain things just kill my patience dead (like high pitched whining), and I know I have barely begun to taste the joys of irritating child behavior.
Thankfully, I have the Ma Phones.
The Ma Phones are industrial hearing-protecting headphones. My father gave them to me about six years ago, well before I’d begun trying to have a child. He was fond of giving me crap like this, assuming it would come in handy someday. Or maybe he had Mr. Bunny’s snoring in mind? Anyway, they lived in the basement until Bun Bun started having UFOs, or Unexplained Freak Outs. During a UFO she’ll scream for ten minutes or so, even when I put her in the carrier. After a few of these, I pulled out the headphones and made an amazing discovery. They don’t prevent me from hearing her, oh NO. They take the edge off. They’re like a glass of scotch. They extend my ability to do whatever she needs me to do, by, like, forever. I go from gritted teeth to Ma-like gentleness and kindness. AND, they have a second remarkable property. Bun Bun adores them. She finds them very comical. Shortly after I put them on, she’s smiling and touching them. And if not, well, they still take the edge off.
You might think I am kidding about wearing these headphones. I am not. You might think there is something somehow cruel or disrespectful or not self-flagellating enough (because how can you be a good parent if you’re not suffering) about wearing them, and if so, all I can say is…try them. Try the Ma Phones.
And if you’ve not yet hit the baby jackpot, when you do, let these be the very first thing you order. The crib can wait.