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Motherhood: The ultimate learning curve

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Any parent will tell you that parenthood is full of surprises. There are joys and challenges. For me, as a perfectionist, I knew what a lot of those things would be going into this project. I studied enough books and various forms of information on the subject to complete a Master’s Degree in it. I gleaned as much knowledge as I could from friends and family members who had been there. And, I’m just enough of a perfectionist to know that I’d have to jump in with both feet, not look back, and go with the flow.

(Apparently my Master’s Degree came with a concentration in Cliché Usage.)

I couldn’t wait to experience the challenges and see if I could handle them.

There were the obvious challenges ranging from “how to maintain an adult conversation after having only two hours of sleep” to “how to take a relaxing shower when you’re home by yourself with the baby” to “how to carry a baby in a car-seat-carrier and the groceries at the same time” to “figuring out the best way to maneuver over kiddie gates without tripping yourself.”

But hidden beneath the surface are the things that you don’t read about; the things that make you question whether you’re cut out for this kind of work; the things that you only discuss with your best girlfriends, in a hushed voice, and you only talk about them if someone else brings it up first. These are the things that make you wonder if anyone can ever take away your real college degree, because there’s obviously been some kind of mistake.

There’s the morning at 3 a.m. whenyour wonderful just-a-few-days-old newborn is screaming her fool head off and you can’t figure out how to make the fancy swaddling cloth (complete with handy Velcro tabs!) work. The baby on the package looked so happy. You had laughed out loud at the fact that there were detailed instructions on how to use it. Who needs detailed instructions!? It’s so obvious…in the light of day…with a baby that isn’t thrashing around. And, will you ever learn how to concentrate in the midst of all the screaming?

There’s the afternoon you took apart the car-seat because you wanted to wash the cover and then took a good 30 minutes trying to figure out how to get the cover back on. The straps go where? Where does this metal piece go? Why is there an extra piece?

But, as with anything, things start to go smoothly, and all the challenges of the past fade away. You learn how to use the fancy swaddler and you pride yourself for being able to do it in the dark with your eyes closed. You’re a pro at installing, uninstalling, and taking apart the car-seat…and getting all the pieces right the first time. There’s the day you finally figured out how to open the kiddie gate at the top of the stairs without having to yank on it a couple times. Gone are the days of startling yourself as the kitchen cupboard door snaps back, being held securely in place by the kiddie latches you should know are there, because you installed them.

The only constant is change, and the swirling waters of parenthood are never stagnant.

Just as you get a confident footing, you’re faced with new challenges that you didn’t even know existed.

I’m in the middle of one of those now.

My nemesis? The blue race-car cart at the grocery store.

You know the one: the fancy cart with the faux steering wheels. It looks like a race-car, but it’s a grocery cart. The kiddo gets to go for a fun ride in a race-car, and Momma gets to shop.

It’s a win-win…right?


It took me about 30-seconds to realize I’d met my match.

Only, now the stakes are higher and the game has changed. Before, my foolishness was only evident to myself or my baby girl, because the game was played in the privacy of my own home. Now, the general population and my very vocal preschooler know that Momma is incapable of pushing a race-car cart properly.

“Momma! Don’t bump into that! That’s not good, Momma.”

“Thanks, Claire. I know. Momma is havin’ troubles getting this thing to go where it’s supposed to go.”

Who designed these things? Am I doing something wrong? By the time I get the monstrosity moving, I need to negotiate some kind of turn, which is practically impossible. They don’t turn the way you think they need to turn, and they certainly don’t go in a straight line. They stick out in weird places. And, if that’s not inconvenient enough, you can’t actually reach the basket from the handle-bar, so you have to walk all around the semi trailer-sized cart to put your groceries in it.

But, Claire loves it. She loves steering. She loves the novelty of it. She begs to ride in one, so I use this to my advantage. The odds of having a tantrum-free experience at the store are greater when the race-car is involved. So, in that regard, it makes the grocery shopping experience somewhat enjoyable…if you can overlook all of the near misses and apologizing to unsuspecting shoppers.

“Oh my gosh…I’m so sorry!” I say to another mother, her baby babbling away in front of a normal, wonderfully easy to maneuver, but boring cart. They are now trapped in an aisle because I can’t move my race-car. “This is so hard to move! Who knew?? It just does not want to go where I want it to go…” I say with the biggest apologetic tone I can muster through my laughter.

Because, really…if you can’t laugh, you lose.

“It’s okay,” she says smiling. “My little girl hasn’t noticed those yet.”

“Be thankful for that,” I say, longing for the day when Claire was oblivious to their charms. “Be very thankful for that. Avoid them as long as you can!” I call over my shoulder, having finally gotten my race-car to go where I wanted it to and without hitting anyone.

So, what’s the learning curve on the blue race-car cart? Will Claire be too big to ride in them by the time I figure out how to do it? Avoiding them is not an option at this point. She’s had a taste of what it’s like to ride in one, and there’s no going back.

I could convince her that it’s her fault that we keep running into things…I mean, she IS the one with the steering wheel. But, that would be wrong. Right? 😉

And, the part of me that likes to jump ahead and see what’s next is really curious as to what our next joy or challenge will be. But, don’t tell me. I want to be surprised.

-JoAnn, the Casual Perfectionist

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