Being a first time parent is insane. We are encouraged to revel in our every whim, just like the baby we care for, screaming for things we don’t need. To accept every baseless fear as fact, to adhere to the logic of a Dr. Seuss character at best. To purchase every product as if it would stop our helpless child from dying helplessly in the dead of night. Every impulse — is the baby sick? Deranged? Breathing improperly? Getting enough protein? Too much (or not enough) exposure to brands? — all of this is indulged with unbridled sincerity and seriousness, as if we are the first parents to experience each bump in the long and endless road. This rash, it’s never been seen before in humans, surely. Every tooth springs fresh as if no other child ever got a tooth, and then another, until they have a mouth full of pearly whites with which to bite us.
For a brief moment, just a few weeks ago, I felt unexplained panic because my twenty-two-month-old daughter had learned about Elmo away from home. “Emmo!” she declared when faced with a print ad for organic toothpaste in a copy of US Weekly. I was floored. I never told her about Elmo. SHE DIDN’T GET THAT FROM ME, I proclaimed, proudly at first, my pride dwindling quickly as I realized that none of the other parents at her school were ashamed of their children’s knowledge of Elmo. In fact, at school, Elmo was just fine. Elmo was a favorite and beloved character. The other children knew about Elmo. It was only my daughter who had learned about Elmo second hand, away from home. I felt generic and sad — like a Whole Foods bin of granola — for a few minutes faced with her exuberance at the prospect of Elmo, the Brand, in front of the other parents. Here was my only spawn, so enamoured of Elmo, simply because she had never FUCKING SEEN HIM BEFORE. Here she was, child of mine, dazzled by a furry, red, brand. She didn’t have her own Elmo, so she had to search for him (or her?) in US Weekly ads. “Emmo!” “Emmo!” she sputtered from her dumbass, two-year-old mouth as I stood by, thinking of all the times I’d played Sonic Youth for her.
I felt inadequate. I had failed. I had failed to provide my daughter with the knowledge of Elmo, or of being too cool for Elmo, and now, all these basic ass fucking parents at her school knew it. I must run to Target and get her an Elmo. I must expose her to television. She doesn’t know a single brand. Is my daughter a loser? Why does she flip her lid when she sees Elmo? “Emmo.” “Emmoooo,” she cried as she slipped off to dream town for the night, leaving me in a misery of self-questioning. Everything I know is wrong.
Over the past year-and-a-half I have spent a lot of time writing about my experience of being a mother. I am, some might say, a Mommy Blogger. Mommy Bloggers receive a lot of email. However, I am not actually employed by The Awl, so, over the past-year-and-a-half, the editors of The Awl have received much mail on my behalf. It landed in their inbox, unasked for and unwanted. It was forwarded onto me, Laura, Mommy Blogger Extraordinaire. My only regret for 2015 is that I received this mail second hand, via forward. I wish it had come straight to me. I wish it had only sullied my own inbox, not the inboxes of the happily childless. Here is a tiny sampling of the subject lines of those emails from just the past few weeks. There are hundreds more. I feel no regret. I feel only anxiety because I haven’t responded to these emails.
1. Fwd: Give The Gift of Beauty for the Holidays
2. Fwd: 49 year old female doc unfreezes eggs to start family….
3. Fwd: No need for fear and frustration over fertility anymore with TempCue
4. Fwd: Do These Pills Make Me Look Fat? Antibiotics, Obesity and Other Negative Effects
5. Fwd: It’s like deodorant for your clothes
6. Fwd: Holiday Conversation Starters: What to Talk about Besides “Pass the Turkey!”
7. Fwd: Article: Five Tips for a Happy and Healthy Plant-Based Thanksgiving
8. Fwd: Limited Edition Holiday Product
9. Fwd: Show Your Gratitude, by Giving H.O.P.E.
10. Fwd: Delicious Simple Green Smoothie Recipes for Glowing Skin, Stronger Nails & A Younger You
11. Fwd: Home or Away for the Holidays…Bring Your Mobile Devices!
12. Fwd: Boost Your Brain to Get Through the Busy Holiday Season
13. Fwd: The Cooking Essential that Will Make Your Life Easier This Thanksgiving
14. Fwd: MEDIA INVITE: Jane Lynch and Matthew Morrison for Febreze
15. Fwd: How to MAINTAIN HAPPINESS during the Holidays
16. Fwd: Story Idea — Tips for Purchasing A Drone This Holiday Season
17. Fwd: Feat/Int: “The War Comes Home” Struggles and Heartbreak for Military Families
18. Fwd: Edible Stocking Stuffers
19. Fwd: Recipe: Pumpkin Pie Tamales
20. Fwd: Healthy Halloween Treats
21. Fwd: Timely — National Sandwich Day
22. Fwd: Food Story: Halloween Treat Ideas Without Scary Ingredients
23. Fwd: Story: Cure one family holiday fight before it starts
24. Fwd: HOLIDAY STORY IDEA: Modern Day De-Stressor… Your Dog
25. Fwd: Follow Up: No More Holiday Stress: Author & Coach Talks Tips on How Not to Lose Your Mind
26. Fwd: URGENT CANCELLATION: KOHLS HOLIDAY GIFTING TRUCK
27. Fwd: Follow Up: Item? Claire Coffee, Star of NBC’s Hit Drama Grimm, Talks Natural Birth & Breastfeeding in Exclusive Interview
28. Fwd: Last chance to RSVP
29. Fwd: You’re Invited To Cuties’ Snack Time Sweetness Twitter Party
30. Fwd: Fun gift for parents & grandparents: What kids say about God
31. Fwd: New Children’s Book Speaks on Self-Esteem
32. Fwd: New Year resolution for education: “Every child succeeds”
33. Fwd: [Parenting Pitch] Sponsored Posts + Giveaway Opp
34. Fwd: Creating confident readers
35. Fwd: WINTER BREAK: Expert Tips to Re-energize Students & Inspire a Strong Second Semester
36. Fwd: Story: App takes Santa’s Elf is watching to a whole new level
37. Fwd: Simplifying the Home, Even with Young Ones
38. Fwd: Timely-Why Vitamin D for kids?
39. Fwd: Expert Unveils Most Important Thing You Can Do to Help Your Child Succeed
40. Fwd: Timely for Vitamin D Day
41. Fwd: Perfect gift for baby!
42. Fwd: Do New Yorkers Have the Most Healthy Smiles?
43. Fwd: The Happy Kid Handbook (Tarcher/Penguin; Oct. 20, 2015)
44. Fwd: Mindful Parenting Event
45. Fwd: Timely- busy moms & holidays
46. Fwd: Chat w/ Unconventional Mom on Hilariously Honest New Book
47. Fwd: 56% Say It’s Okay To Discipline Someone Else’s Child
48. Fwd: NETFLIX Tween Star, Shares Personal Cyberbullying Story!
49. Fwd: Talking to Your College Student: Now, The Expert on Everything
50. Fwd: Former Celebrity Wife Writes to Help Kids of Divorce
51. Fwd: 17 year old Entrepreneur Story Idea
52. Fwd: Feat/Int: “From Divorce to Discovery: The Path to Ultimate Happiness”
53. Fwd: Steven Berzner Implements Collaborative Law Strategies To Help Couples Going Through Divorce
54. Fwd: Marriage, Baby…Will?
55. Fwd: Safety in Schools: What Will it Take?
56. Fwd: Life-Saving Family First-Aid Product Instantly Stops Even Severe Bleeding
57. Cyber MOMday: Special offers to thank the Moms who do it all!
Since finishing this draft several days ago, I have received more emails. And here is where we end 2015.
58. Fwd: Physical Dangers of Being Ungrateful This Holiday Season
59. Fwd: Freeze Sperm without Leaving your House
60. Fwd: Doc’s on Placenta Eating
Photo by David Goehring
Save Yourself is the Awl’s farewell to 2015.