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As much as I hate to admit it, I am a writer. It isn’t as practical an occupation as say plumbing, but it can be useful on occasion. I have a knack for drafting a kick-ass Christmas card letter. I can type upwards of 80 words per minute so I can always find work as a temp. And I can always think of something pithy and wise to write in a greeting card. 

Except, of course, for right now.

Friends of mine just had their first (and probably only) baby. My tiny and tired brain has been working overtime to come up with some words that will sum up the experience of having children to write to them in a thematically matched card. I got nothing, frankly, and will probably have to stick to the old chestnut “Congrats!” if I want to get the greeting in the mail before the kid can read it himself. It makes me sad that my one talent has let me down.

The irritating thing is that I’ve been trying to figure out how to put the kid thing into a few clever words for the last four years. I still have nothing. Shortly after the Diva was born, I ran into another new mom. She saw that I had that glazed-over look so commonly found in woodland creatures shortly before they are hit by cars, and simply said “no one can tell you what it’s like, can they?” While that is true, it’s not so much that they can’t -- like it was a secret Masonic handshake and they’ll be shunned if they spill the beans -- but that there so many words to describe babies and kids that you end up talking for hours and only chipping the paint. 

To get it down to something useful that one could write in a greeting card has become my Grail. So far, the best I can do is to rip off a movie tagline. Part of me wants to write “Welcome to the suck” and be done with it.

The suck, of course, is what we all hear about, mostly because it’s the most gripping topic to tackle. It’s like reading Paradise Lost. No matter how omni-everything the god character is, the devil is just always so much more interesting. He steals every scene he’s in because he’s just so damn much fun to write about. 

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It’s like this: think about the last movie you saw that you hated. You could go on and on about the specifics of how and why and where it hit the crapper. Now think about the last movie you loved. Give me a description of exactly what you loved. Harder, no? It gets even harder when you think about the last flick you were indifferent about. Can you come up with more than “eh?” 

Parenting is the same. I can write volumes about the ways in which the children – either alone or in pairs – have bunched up my knickers. Just this morning the Diva woke me up by poking me repeatedly on the forehead with one pointy little finger, incrementally increasing the pressure each time. I was half-tempted to keep my eyes shut long enough to discover if she would actually drive that digit into my skull. Prudence, however, prevailed. 

Irritation makes for good copy, as does anger and disbelief and, frequently, wackiness. But it’s harder to put words to the quiet moments without trotting out threadbare clichés.

This morning, when I went in to wake the sleeping baby, I did feel like my heart might swell up and explode when I saw his angelic little face. There are moments when the girl will snuggle against me, resting her head against my shoulder like she used to do when she was tiny enough to fit completely in my lap, when I truly wish that I could capture time in a bottle. If you have kids, there are no other words I can give you. You can feel it without my having to describe every last blessed detail. You know how soft a baby’s cheek is when you rub it against your own. You know how one little “I love you” can make not killing your four- year-old worthwhile. While profound, these moments aren’t dramatic, nor can they fully be expressed by words. 

Even harder to flesh out is the mundane. Most days, while they are good days in the sense that we all lived to see another sunset, are pretty boring. There are meals. There are baths. There are stories. The earth makes another revolution on its axis. The end. Believe it or not, I toyed with the idea of putting that on the card. “There are meals. There are baths…” You can see why Hallmark has never returned my calls. 

I thought that I might come up with something pithy and profound if I focused on the experience of when you realize you’re a parent. It started to become like a bad Jeff Foxworthy routine. (And, yes, I firmly believe that there are good Jeff Foxworthy routines.) You might be a parent if you match up a sock with apples on it to a sock with cherries on it because they are both fruit. You might be a parent if you’ve ever told someone to stop licking the dog. You might be a parent if you know every rest stop on every interstate within a hundred mile radius. And, now, of course, you can see why Jeff Foxworthy has never returned my calls. 

It’s just so hard, this putting words to the parenting thing that you can see why so many of us take the easy way out and spend all of our most purple prose on the unpleasant moments. And “Welcome to the suck” works on a number of different levels as your kids will move from literal sucking to time sucking to cash sucking. But they also suck out so many of your impurities, simply because it is frightening to see them repeated by someone so young. The void is filled with soft-hearted clichés and those warm moments that just can’t be limned by language.
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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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