When you’re a working mother (and of course I get that all mothers work, yo, so don’t call me on that shit) and rely on someone else to provide child care, you entrust all that is precious to you to another. That is a mighty tall order.
One thing I have embraced from the first day I dropped off my three month old daughter is that the sitter will never be perfect, but they will be good enough. A hired sitter deserves the same respect and standards that I apply to myself — I am not perfect as a mother, but I am good enough, and good enough is good enough.
Today I picked up Mary Tyler Son at 5 on the button. I rushed to get there, as he is often the second to last to be picked up and this morning he told me he wanted to be first. Ugh. You know I was thinking about that all day. George W. taught me that no child wants to be left behind; watching all his playmates get hugs and kisses and trot home with mom or dad while he’s still waiting around is not fun.
I was feeling pretty good seeing three other kids walking down the sidewalk with my boy. Good! Not next to last today. I pulled over, hopped out the car, and found “Auntie” who pulled me aside with a furtive glance. You see, she had something important and private to say — adult ears only.
In a concerned tone, Auntie revealed to me that she had put Mary Tyler Son’s boots on a little girl close to his age during puddle time this morning. He was wearing girls’ boots, you see, and Auntie takes her gender politics serious, yo. Ladybug boots were the offending footwear.
I took a breath, smiled calmly, and explained that, yes, they were girl boots, as they were his sister’s. Yep, Donna wore those boots first, so um, yeah, technically, I guess you could say I put girls’ boots on my boy. Bitch, please.
If there is one thing that is a certain in my life, it is that any time I bring up Donna as justification for anything, ain’t nobody gonna argue with me. I know that to be a fact, and still, I went ahead and said it. I wanted to shut Auntie down. Who in the hell cares that a three year old little boy is wearing ladybug boots? And if you do care, well then, let me give you a quarter so that you can call someone else who cares, cause it sure as hell isn’t me.
This is not the first time Auntie has taken it upon herself to school me on what is gender appropriate for Mary Tyler Son. All last winter I had to suffer through her telling me that every time one of the other moms saw my son’s winter coat, they thought that Auntie had taken in another little girl to watch. The offending coat was green and gray. Yep, apparently girls have now cornered the market on pink, purple, and lime green. Full disclosure: the coat was also Donna’s. I mean, why pay for another winter coat for a kid when there was a perfectly good one in the closet?
When we got home this afternoon, I asked my boy if Auntie had talked with him about his boots. “No,” he said. “She didn’t tell you they were girl boots?,” I asked, knowing full well it was a leading question. Objection! “No,” he said again. Well, good, there’s that.
Last year, I thought Auntie had shamed the pink out of my boy. For the longest time, pink was his favorite color. It was a whole big deal for me last year. I had to search far and wide to find masculine looking pink shirts for my boy. I was fine (sort of) with him wearing pink, but I drew the line at all the ruffles and lettuce edging that came with the pink tee shirts at Target. When I finally found pink shirts (thank you, American Apparel), I bought two. Mary Tyler Son wore those proudly for months. And then one day he stopped. He refused, telling us that pink was for girls. Hmmmm . . .
Overall, Auntie is good enough. She serves fresh fruit and vegetables and reads to the kids and doesn’t have a television for the kiddos and has a sweet dog and teaches the little ones how to weed her garden. She is relaxed and old enough to have seen enough to teach me a thing or ten about child rearing. Her home is clean and well maintained.
All of those things are in her favor. But every once in a while I hear something coming out of her mouth that makes me want to write a blog post with the words, “Bitch, please,” liberally sprinkled throughout. She tends to shame the kids that develop more slowly than others. She calls out the boy in the green coat and ladybug boots and pink shirt.
I don’t like that.
In six weeks, this will be a non-issue. Mary Tyler Son will move on to pre-school and I will have a whole ‘nother set of folks helping to care for my boy with tics and quirks that are different than mine. They will rub me the wrong way and I will make my peace with them as best I can. In the end, Auntie is good enough. She’s not perfect and her odd need to masculanize a three year old boy is beyond me.
But there will be no show down at the Auntie Corral. I don’t have the fight in me right now. When you trust another human being to help you care for your child, you must learn to embrace the good with the bad, while ensuring there is much more good than bad. When you isolate and identify the bad, you compensate and teach and correct, just as you would any other outside influence.
While I don’t like Auntie genderizing my boy, I have learned to live with it. It punches me in the gut when she brings her gender mandates into the lives of one, two, and three year olds, but not enough for me to look for another sitter. And what does that say about me? Am I settling for my boy? Ugh.
And more than calling out a three year old for what their parent dresses them in, I’m angry that the saga of the ladybug boots makes me wonder what else she does that is unacceptable that I don’t know about. Such are the worries of the working mother. It is a leap of faith, my friends, every day that I leave my boy with another.