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You go into this parenting gig with such high expectations. My baby, you think, will cure cancer, solve the Mid-East peace conundrum and adopt every infant in Malawi before Madonna can get her hands on it. A year into your kid’s life, you really just hope it’ll stop sticking peas up its nostrils. Still, deep down, you can see your kid doing something really important. Curing cancer may not be in the cards, but maybe, just maybe, there’s hope for at least one Malawian baby.  

Then you have a second kid. You realize just how full of crap you are about a lot of things, like how you know how all babies work just because you figured out your first one and like how you think raising two is only twice the work of raising one.

Additionally, you realize that having grand expectations are a quick route to Disappointmentville. Expectations must be kept low; therefore, my current vision for the future is that I will be spending a lot of time in the ER with kid number two. While we’re there, I expect kid number one will be hanging on my legs and whining about how we just don’t love her.

Let me admit that at this point, we haven’t been to the ER yet. It’s a matter of time, though.

Just the other day I was in the kitchen, cooking dinner. From the living room came a THUD.

This is not unusual. One of the cats weighs well over 20 pounds. When he jumps off of the furniture, it sounds like a bowling ball hit the floor. I did what I usually do when there are THUDs. I ignored it.

Five seconds later – THUD. Then ten seconds after that – THUD. Then screaming, followed by a second human voice whining “Moooo- oooom!” And so I whisked myself into the living room, where I found the Boy, bleeding from a cut lip and wiggling to his feet. On the couch was a small stepstool. Near as I could figure out, the Boy was climbing onto the couch, then onto the stool, then flinging himself off the back of the couch. THUD.

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So I did what any mom does -- stop the blood with a dish towel and pull the child onto my lap to check for further wounds and to ensure that blood didn’t get on the upholstery.

Just as the Boy stopped crying, the following words whined out: “You only love him!”

This is the Diva’s new favorite phrase. It is slowly driving us all around the bend. Even the cats are starting to get a little twitchy about it.

When she first started this, I did what a good parent would do, which was engage the jealous, neglected child in a dialogue. “Sweetie,” I’d say. “Who do you love better – me or Daddy?” And when she’d say, “I love you both.” I’d say, “And that’s how we feel about you and your brother.” You could hear Dr. Phil smiling at such a cozy domestic scene.

But her game has changed, which has become one of my other expectations, frankly. The game will change right about the time you start to figure out the rules. Now when you ask her which parent she loves best, she always picks the one who isn’t in the room. Or, if we’re both around, she’ll reply: “no one loves me!” Which isn’t the case, of course, but after hearing this nearly continuously for two weeks, I’m honestly starting to not like her a little bit.

It’s getting to my husband, too. He does the day care drop off each morning. The Boy is chucked into his room first, then the Diva gets her story in her classroom. One morning, Scott accidentally knocked the Boy over, simply because he’s become an expert at camping out in your blind spot.

As Scott was comforting the Boy, the Diva whined, “you love him best.” It took an act of incredible will-power, he reports, to not offer to knock her over as well, if only to prove the depth of his affection.

Perhaps the Diva wouldn’t be flogging us with this phrase so much if the Boy weren’t so very good at getting attention via physical injury. Ever since our “baby” hit the 18 month mark, he’s made a study of flinging, pitching, tossing and/or leaping off of a variety of objects, almost as if he’s testing that gravity works everywhere. I’m always amazed at how babies transform into proto-children once they hit that magical mark. Gone are the days of near-constant tending; replaced by hours of independent acts of derring-do and moments of heart-stopping terror.

Hence my reduced expectations. My kids probably won’t cure cancer or war. Orphans will remain in their native lands. But I feel certain we will make it to the ER numerous times and we will have hours and hours of accusations about how we don’t love the other, non-bleeding kid. It’s a target I know we can hit.
About the Author:

Adrienne Martini  has been a theatre technician, apprentice massage therapist, bookstore bookkeeper and pizza joint waitress. Eventually, someone started paying her for her words and an editorial mercenary was  born. She has written theatre reviews and features for the Austin Chronicle, blurbs about tofurkey and bottled water for Cooking Light and a piece about  knitting summer camp for Interweave Knits. She is a former editor for Knoxville, Tennessee's Metro Pulse and recently picked up an AAN award for feature writing. In July 2006, her first book Hillbilly Gothic: A Memoir of Madness and Motherhood will be published.  During the day, she fields freelance gigs and crams knowledge into the heads of college students in Upstate New York. At all hours, she is mom to Maddy and Cory, and wife to Scott. 


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