I was thinking this morning that the best advice I have for new moms is to talk to other moms.
But be selective. Don’t seek out the mom with the perfectly organized diaper bag and the kid who never leaves the house without ribbons in her hair. No, seek out the one who looks a tiny bit insane, who looks as if she’s been wearing the same outfit for three days. Find the one with big-brown-bag sized circles under her eyes.
Go let her in. Just a bit. See how it goes.
It happened to me yesterday. A mom I don’t really know but see around a lot was sitting next to me on a schoolyard bench at pickup time. I know of her three boys—two teenagers and one 7-year-old. I’ve overheard her talking about a lengthy remodel of her old house. I know she carries a not-fancy black canvas purse and that her iPhone cover is scuffed and orange.
“You ready for summer?” I say.
“Agh, I don’t know. I hope so,” she says.
I venture further. “Yeah, yesterday with early dismissal, both my kids were home by 2PM and I was like…” I pause, eyes wide, and she pantomimes putting a gun to her head. I say, “Yes! I was like, man, I better schedule the crap out of this summer.”
And she says, “I know, right?”
So I let her in even more. “Seriously?” I say, “Yesterday, at one point, I was crouched over the toilet, which was clogged with an enormous poop. I had just flushed it and was pumping the plunger when my daughter came to the bathroom door and said, ‘Mom, where’s my end-of-school portfolio party invitation?’ And the poopy water was rising and I was plunging frantically and could barely manage to not yell, CAN’T YOU SEE I HAVE A TOXIC SITUATION HERE?”
This mom has her hand over her mouth then she takes it off, says, “Oh. My God. I’m so glad I’m not the only one. My teenage boys clog the toilets daily and try to blame it on their baby brother. I’m like, No way THAT came out of a 7-year-old body.” She continues. “I don’t know if it’s all this organic food we’re feeding them or what, but GOOD LORD! My husband says we should keep a butter knife next to the toilet to cut the things apart for easier passage. And I told him that we would in no way, shape, or form, ever do such a thing.”
I say, “Well, when I was a kid, we did have a steak knife in the cabinet next to my brother’s toilet and he’d do the deed, come out, and say, in the same tone he used to ask her where his shoes were, ‘Mo-om, I need you to cut my poo.’ And my mom would go slice and flush, slice and flush.”
At this point, my new BFF is doubled over. She says, “Oh my gosh. I can’t breathe.”
And I continue, “But I was always terrified because that steak knife looked just like all the other steak knives in the butcher block. Cutting a piece of brown meat sent my mind spinning. We needed some bright yellow biohazard tape on the handle that said something like, CAUTION: Crap-Slicing Knife.”
By this point we’re both crying and laughing and her little boy comes out of school and sees her smiling so he smiles too, laughs too, and she gets up and says with a big, deep sigh, “Ahhh. Thanks for that laugh. I really, really needed that. Nothing like brut honesty to make a conversation take right off. Have a good afternoon.”
“You too,” I say, and wave goodbye.