Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Mommy Test

I like to think I am a pretty good mom. Sure, I could be better but there is room for improvement in all aspects of life. One of my greatest strengths as a mom is accepting who my daughter is and allowing her as much freedom as I deem safe. Sometimes this attitude works out better than other times. Sometimes I get tested as a mommy and pass, and sometimes I get tested and fail. Tonight I failed.

Bathtime is a little different in our house. Sam quickly outgrew the infant tub so I started bringing her into the shower with me, until she got too squirmy to safely handle. Squirmy and soapy is a bad combination. By this point we had moved to our new home in NJ with a deep double kitchen sink. I started bathing her in the sink, which worked out well until Sam became fascinated with the shiny faucet. She started turning the water on, and pulling the spout into her half of the sink. Since I always put her in the left side (the dish drain being on the right side) it was only a matter of time before she scalded herself with the hot water. Now what? Sam was sitting up well but still fell over a lot so bathing her in the bathtub was painful on my back and I always ended up soaked so I started getting in the tub with her, and this is the system we stuck with. She sits in between my outstretched legs and we have a nice, relaxing time at the end of each day playing in the water.

At the conclusion of the bath, I wrap Sam in a towel and place her in the bouncy seat while I dry off and get dressed. Lately she has gotten impatient and has been climbing out of the seat to run around naked, squealing with excitement as she goes. She runs to the door and opens it up so she can run around the hallway, overjoyed in her naked glory. When J is home I call him up the stairs and they play their little game through the railing. He stands on the stairs and she runs up to grab his nose, then runs off squealing and giggling.

Is there anything as simple and joyful as a naked baby? Wet hair all a mess, completely secure in her life and our love, Sam runs around giggling in these few minutes of freedom from clothing and diaper. J & I giggle ourselves as she is just so darn cute! How could one not share in her joy?

It's all fun and games until she pees on the floor is what I think. J is convinced she is going to poop on the floor, which I of course will have the honor of cleaning up since it is I who allow this behavior. Since she pees without warning I am still convinced the floors will first be christened with urine, and I'm not wrong. Tonight, as I was lotioning my face I hear her fall and turn to see she has peed on the bathroom floor and then slipped in her own pee. I've already cleaned up the bathroom from the bath so the shower curtain is drawn and the tub mat picked up. I scoop her up (not holding her close - I'm in fresh clothes and Sam is partially covered in pee, after all) and push the curtain in to plop her in the tub. I start the water to clean her off, still not having drawn back the shower curtain, and she starts to cry. Not just her whimpery, things-not-going-her-way cry but a real, upset/hurt cry.

Crap. I start damage control, apologizing and telling her she is a good girl. I wrap her in a towel and throw a used towel on the floor to mop up the puddle of pee, all the while she is still crying.

Somewhere I messed up. Was it the shower curtain, the fact that I wouldn't hold her close, the putting her back in the tub when she was sure milk was soon to be offered? Or was it my failure to reassure her after she peed on the floor, or just a delayed reaction to the fall compounded with lack of cuddles post-fall?

I try very hard to encourage and support Sam in all that she does, bodily functions included. The world is a tough place and insecurities abound but it is my job as her mommy to make sure she doesn't learn those insecurities at home. It is my aim as mommy to build in my daughter a self-confidence and strength that will carry her through those tough times ahead when I can't be with her, cheering her on. Sam is strength, intelligence and beauty and I will do my best to make sure she never doubts these things in herself. This confidence-building starts at birth. I've never said a negative word during a diaper change, instead congratulating her on how well she has filled it. I don't complain when it leaks and I have to change her clothes and bedding at 3 am - I apologize to her instead. An active system is a sign of a healthy body, after all, and healthy and happy is the goal.

Tonight, somewhere in my reaction to Sam peeing on the floor I failed her. Next time I will do better. Next time I will know what not to do, and will try a different tactic. In retrospect I should have thrown the used towel on the puddle first, as my concern was having to rebathe her completely when we had just gotten out of the tub, hence my removing her from the puddle area so quickly. Mopping up and reassuring her all is well before the washing would at least not give Sam any idea that what she did was wrong.

Some would dismiss this incident, saying we all make mistakes, she won't remember it tomorrow or some other platitude. I disagree. It is the little moments that color the big moments. Just like a large painting is made up of dozens to hundreds of tiny brushstrokes so too are our lives. Put a small stroke of black where yellow belongs and the color of the image changes. Whether or not Sam remembers the details of today when she awakens tomorrow is uncertain and irrelevant. Too many black strokes in a field of yellow and it turns brown. Our child is a warm, sunny baby. I'd like her to stay that way.

I failed tonight's test, but perhaps I passed it in a bigger way. Perhaps tonight's incident wasn't so much a test as a quiz, and in failing this quiz I learned enough to pass the real test, to be given at some later date. Like everything else in life it is all supposition. I did learn from tonight's incident, be it test or quiz, and perhaps that is what is really important. I guess we'll find out the next time she pees on the floor.

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