Dead Weight and the Barnacle — Special Mother’s Day Edition!

There are, generally speaking, two kinds of Mother’s Day experiences. There is one in which Mom is pampered, adored, blessed with obedient, kind children who think only of her and her happiness on this particular day. That one basically just happens in movies. The other one is much closer to reality — Mom continues to be a doormat and punching bag who can scarcely use the bathroom in solitude without unexpected, or at least uninvited guests.

The Mother’s Day experience is a fabrication, a farce orchestrated by greeting card companies, florists, and chocolatiers in equal measure. And while some mothers may enjoy something approaching experience the first, moms with young children usually “enjoy” the second.

We have two children, Joshua and Jack. Joshua is four years old and already an intelligent, curious creature who flits back and forth between self-reliance and utter dependence. For his first several years, I was the other creature upon whom that dependence rested. He has fully and totally transitioned to Mom. He is in desperate, dire need of her every word, thought, and deed for every single moment of his day. Jen has likened him to a barnacle, and that’s at his most endearing. He’s more of a succubus, slowly and steadily leeching the very life out of his mother until with frayed nerves, a spent spirit, and an exhausted will, she spends her Mother’s Day frustrated by motherhood itself.

Jack, at six months old, is essentially dead weight. He can’t really do anything meaningful. He rolls over, drools, and cries. At any given moment, he will be doing any combination of these things. This is fine. It’s how babies are. They’re boring and little more than encumberance to be carried around or deposited elsewhere when you’re doing things. Never before in your life, and never again will you be so skilled at performing all your daily activities with one hand while holding a 15-pound fleshy lump with the other. The drummer from Def Leppard isn’t this good at folding laundry or sweeping the floor.

Each of our children on his own is taxing. This isn’t to say that they don’t have redeeming qualities or that we don’t love them — of course they do and of course we do. But Joshua’s soul vampirism together with Jack’s physically draining dead weight means that Mother’s Day, and every day spent in the company of both boys is a Pyrrhic enterprise that bends the arc of our lives toward entropy.

So, on that happy note, Happy Mother’s Day!


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