I’m a little late to the party. I’m sorry. I didn’t even celebrate St. Patrick’s day this year. But when a family member wrote to ask if my 18 month-old daughter was on March Break, it prompted an idea. I thought: “well, it’s always March Break for her. Actually, it’s kind of always like St. Patty’s day for her. It’s a non-stop baby bash!”
St. Patrick’s day is perhaps the most blatant example yet of how much my life has changed since becoming a mom. In years past I would have celebrated as most of the world does: by getting shitfaced. This year, I just get a face full of shit (har har)!
I had an epiphany. My daughter, in most respects, is very much like a St. Patty’s day reveller…in perpetuum. For the purposes of this post, we shall call her “The Drunk.”
4:30 pm: the phone rings. It’s time to go get The Drunk again. She can’t make it home on her own; it would be far too dangerous and I doubt she could find her way. I get in the car, turn over the engine, head on my way. I arrive at the doorstep, the lady of the house giving me a lowdown on her behaviour — this time, it wasn’t too bad. I have no choice but to carry her to the car. She is half-dazed, whining in the back seat.
I look at her in the rear-view mirror on our short drive home. She’s rambling incoherently, undoubtedly trying to tell me about the festivities that transpired during my absence. The closer to home we get, the more impatient she becomes. She’s flailing her arms, obviously trying to escape whatever feeling of entrapment or nausea that’s overtaken her. I park the car, and lug her heavy, limp body through the front door. Why does she always have to play dead when I pick her up?
We cross the threshold together, her leaning on me for support. The Drunk is home again. I’ve seen it a thousand times: despite her best efforts, she cannot compose herself enough to remove her outerwear. Sitting bent in half on the floor, she’s getting frustrated and starting to grunt as her mitten-covered hands fail to undo the complex velcro workings of her white and pink boots. I sigh, knowing I will have to help her yet again.
Liberated, The Drunk pitches herself down the hall toward the kitchen, teetering and tripping dangerously on several occasions. Apparently the afternoon’s revelries have created quite an appetite. I was expecting this. I’m on edge, anxiously awaiting her inevitable demands for the 3 Cs – rather, the CT&A.
“Yes honey, yes, mommy’s coming, just let her get her boots off and…”
“No honey we don’t have any more, and you had too many the last…”
The routine commences, and like most defeated family members of a drunk, I cave to her demands out of a mixture of exasperation and pity.
The snacks are served, and she triumphantly plops in front of the TV and her regularly scheduled programming, stuffing her face and leaving a mess of crumbs and water in her wake while she zombie-zones into Caillou-land.
The rest of the evening consists of taking care of The Drunk. She must be fed supper, which she often refuses in a sudden rage, smacking away my hand and the spoon it holds, smearing the food across the table and throwing her drink at the wall. I struggle to nourish her, and after 30 minutes or so, I wipe up the the remnants of the ordeal, noting that it looks like a battle has taken place. As for the victor, God only knows.
Filthy and ragged, The Drunk is extracted from her chair. She rolls on the floor and laughs like a madperson. While I do the dishes, I stop, taking a deep breath. How did we get here? Was it always like this? Scrubbing the last of the sippy cups, I brace myself for what I know must come next. Now, it’s her turn.
The chase begins, The Drunk screaming hysterically as I run after her, catching her for a second to strip off an article of clothing, only to lose her once again. By the time she is in the bath, we are both panting. Splashing ensues, and I quickly and efficiently wash her the way one would a barn animal. She thinks the whole thing is quite comical, but make no mistake — this is not a pleasure soak, more a necessary decontamination process. When I try to take her out, she pushes me away. I regain my balance, focus all my remaining energy and heave her out into a warm towel, wrapping her in my embrace.
And finally, finally, she must be given her recompense. Her demands are insistent and try as I might, this habit shall not be broken. I take her into her room and struggle to keep her in place long enough to put some pyjamas on – it is Canada and it is winter, for goodness’ sake. She doesn’t respond to such logical pleading. She writhes and screams, demanding her one and only true love: the Bottle.
We are in the kitchen again, her pyjamas successfully on. She hangs off my hip as I pour the cursed ambrosia into her favourite decanter. She rips it from my hands and shoves it in her mouth, her thirst overtaking her. I move us back to her bedroom, turning off the light. I sit on the chair, and, cradling her in my arms, listen to her gulping until it finally slows, until I know the liquid has done its job. I lay the comatose creature in her bed, removing the evidence from her hands. Another day down. Another bottle drunk.
The next morning, after her cries awake me, and as I am changing her diaper, she asks me for a song. Having exasperated my repertoire over the past week, I have to reach way down into the archives. I find the file I’m looking for: the old reliable Pattycake nursery rhyme. After a few fumbles coordinating my hand movements and verses, I get it right, and it’s a hit. The remainder of the morning is spent singing Pattycake. I just so happen to make her blueberry pancakes for the first time, replete with cinnamon and syrup. They of course become “pattycakes” too. Perfect hangover cure.
So in the spirit of St. Pattycake Day, I reflect on my newfound life as “Mother.” I look back on my own escapades and realize…I wouldn’t trade this for the world. This is the best St. Pattycake ever.