Lowering the bar

emergency sign
(Farm and Dairy file photo)

I have not always been a good person. I have definitely not always been a good mom.

I have admitted, with candor, that I went overboard on pina coladas at Mr. Wonderful’s 10-year high school reunion. Unfortunately, this was two weeks before I became aware that I was already expecting our first child.

In my defense, if anything would drive even a teetotaler to excessive drinking it is someone else’s high school reunion. I spent the next six months worrying that my baby would be born addicted to rum and tiny umbrellas.

He wasn’t. Born normal and not at all addicted, BoyWonder would nonetheless have his first run in with the demon alcohol, when at age 3, he was “helping” me clean out an old cooler someone had left at our home after a party.

Heard an explosion

I was gathering bottles from the forgotten, now hot, cooler and transporting them to a large trash can while my preschooler and infant played nearby. My back was turned to the trash for what couldn’t have been more than 30 seconds when I heard the explosion.

We believe he tried to pick up an armful of bottles destined for the trash like he had seen me do. When he “clinked” them together, the overheated bottles exploded.

Beer and glass flew everywhere, with one piece impaling him in the chest. It was actually minor but I didn’t know that in the moment. All I knew is that I had a shocked small child with glass in his chest. I knew the advice was always to not pull it out. This is how I ended up running into the Emergency Department on a humid summer evening seeking treatment for a preschooler covered in beer and broken glass.

To really round out the “I probably-shouldn’t-be-allowed-a-house-plant, let alone children” vibe, I was toting my infant daughter on my other hip. She, happily playing in the sandbox prior to the explosion, was clad only in a diaper and sticky popsicle stains. Even the least stringent of parenting guidelines don’t give out gold stars for that.

Minor injury

For all the furor, the injury was minor. Boywonder ended up with a tiny scar from the minimal stitches. We like to think it makes him look tough.

He has answered questions about the scar, usually from swooning girls, over the years with “oh that? it’s from when I couldn’t hold my liquor.”

He does a mama proud, I tell you.


For her part, GirlWonder has not been without her own “how I survived my parents” stories. She was disciplined at age four by Mr. Wonderful, who sternly sent her to stand in a corner. She was sobbing — angrily I am told — into the wallpaper when suddenly she fell over in a dead faint.

Seconds later she came to in her terrified father’s arms where she spit out a nickel. He believes but cannot prove that she had stuck the nickel in her mouth during her angry tirade, swallowed it while sobbing, choked and (possibly) dislodged it when she fell.

Thank God for Guardian Angels who look out for angry little girls. Later she would thrill to the time her entire family forgot to pick her up after practice “twice in one week.”

Boywonder, for his part, would like us to recall that it wasn’t his job to remember her. He was, however, the one to retrieve her from school where she sat on a bench after practice wondering if it was too late to be adopted by a much more conscientious family.

True story

I have colleagues who laugh to recall that the first time they met her she was “sleeping on a table” in the office kitchen. This is true.

Not my finest mothering moment but one we all survived. Attention, love, food, stability and yes, even a few thousand parental apologies are all it takes to raise confident, capable young people who know they can make mistakes too.

I have laughingly called myself “The World’s Okayest Mom.”

It’s my wholly honest bid to never raise the bar too high. Frankly, if you never climb up on that pedestal you never have far to fall.


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