Emma is only four years old and she’s driving me to the brink. She never lets me do anything by myself anymore. For four years now I haven’t used the bathroom or showered alone.
I took Emma car-shopping with me today. As soon as we walked through the dealership’s doors, Emma took off running in fast figure-eights, flapped her arms and yelled something that sounded like ‘whoop-whoop-whoop!’
A Salesman approached me and asked, “You ever tried ritalin?”
“Yep,” I answered, “but it makes me fall asleep.”
I got a call from the school. Emma has only been in Pre-K one month, but she’s been in the Principal’s office three times. I went down to the school and found Emma crying in his office.
“What did she do this time?” I asked.
“She was licking another girl in the bathroom.”
“Did you say licking?”
“Licking another girl,” Principal responded.
I bent down to Emma. “Honey, why did you lick another girl?”
“That’s what puppies do,” she said. “I’m a puppy today, Mama.” She wagged her tail at me and licked me on the cheek.
I scratched her behind the ears and smiled at Principal.
I drove Emma and her little friend, Amy, to gymnastics practice. They were both in their car seats in the back seat. I overheard Amy ask Emma, “Why do you have two mothers?”
I held my breath.
Emma answered, “Just lucky, I guess.”
I really thought I could balance writing and parenting. But how the hell can I concentrate when Emma is constantly shouting questions in my ear. My muse screams in one ear and Emma screams in the other, “Who invented cheese? What color is heaven? What’re clouds made out of? Why are you crying?”
I give her quick, one-shot answers, “Mr. Cheddar. Pink. Marshmallows. Because you won’t stop asking questions!”
I got a phone call from a neighbor. “What’s happened to Emma?” she said.
“What d’ya mean?” I asked in a panic.
The neighbor explained, “I just saw her walking down the street. She’s wearing sunglasses and is tapping a cane in front of her and has your dog on a leash.”
“Oh,” I said. “She’s got an obsession with disabilities right now. Do me a favor and don’t stare, it just encourages her.”
A few days later the same neighbor called again. “Emma’s in a wheelchair this time.”
“Wheelchair?” I asked.
“She must’ve found that old one in the alley. She’s rolling herself up and down the sidewalk.”
“Well, don’t stare at her,” I said.
“Whoops! You better get down here! She just upended herself in the gutter!”
It took me nine years, but I finally came up with a plan to buy myself some time to write. I grabbed a handful of loose change and told Emma to follow me out to the back yard. I threw all the coins as far as I could. They scattered like shotgun pellets over the entire yard.
“The money’s yours,” I told Emma. “All’s you have to do is pick it up.”
That bought me two hours.
I turned the t.v. off in Emma’s bedroom. “It’s time for bed,” I scolded.
“Turn the t.v. back on,” she said.
“No. You can’t watch t.v. until you fall asleep. That’s a bad habit to get into.”
“Are you aware,” she said as she squinted one eye at me, “when you two are sexing in your bedroom that the hallway acts like a giant megaphone? I can’t go to sleep with all that.”
“What channel do you want?” I asked and turned the t.v. back on.
I handed Emma a salt shaker. “Go catch some birds.”
“Why salt?” she asked.
“I can’t believe you just asked me that,” I said.
“Why?” she asked. “What’s with salt and catching birds?”
“You haven’t ever heard? Or learned about it in school?”
“You take this salt shaker. You sneak up on a bird. If you can sprinkle salt on its tail, it’ll be paralyzed and you can catch it.”
“If I catch one, can I keep it in my room?”
“Sure,” I said.
Every half hour or so I got up from my computer and looked through the window. I laughed at her as she ran around the yard and threw salt at all the birds.
I heard a shrill scream. I jumped up and ran to my bedroom. All my drawers were opened and Emma stood there with a dildo in her hand.
“What is this?” she asked and held it out to show me like I’ve never seen it before.
“Well… that is called a… prosthesis.”
“It looks like a giant purple penis,” she said.
I should never have sent her to that human sexuality course offered by the Unitarian Church.
“Well…” I said again, buying time. “You know how some people get their leg chopped off and get a fake leg to replace it? The fake leg is called a prosthesis. Or they get their hand blown off by a bomb or something? Then they get a fake hand? Well… that’s a prosthesis, too. So, that’s a birthday present for your uncle who was in the Vietnam War.”
“Oh,” she said.
I shoved it back in the drawer and added, “Now stay out of my drawers. There’s all kinds of presents hidden in there.”
Note to self: Find a better hiding place.
“You have an ugly attitude and a blech face and you’re the worst mother in the whole entire world!” Emma yelled at me.
She slammed her bedroom door in my face.
All I did was wear my “BadAss” t-shirt to the parent-teacher conference.
Emma gives me a goodnight kiss and throws her arms around my neck. She whispers in my ear, “I love you so much it makes my heart swell up.”
I love being a writer. But I love being a mother even more.