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Mary Poppins Meets Birth ControlPosted Tuesday, May 19, 2009, at 1:11 PM
At one point in my life, many moons ago, I considered myself a normal female with normal female instincts. I knew one day I wanted children -- five, to be exact-- and I had already thought of distinct and unique names for them. I finished high school and continued on to college, still under the impression that I, one day, would be ready for motherhood. I should have known that when my mother would smile vaguely at me and tell me it would be years, if ever, that I was ready for children, I should have asked her to elaborate.
One day, I woke up to the discovery that I do not like children. Not only do I not like them, but I completely lack the maternal instinct. This reverie came to me when I graduated from college and spent Easter with my brand new infant cousin who sneezed, snotted and drooled on me within the first thirty seconds of me holding him. Physically, holding a child is not difficult. It's the questions that pop into my mind afterward that I cannot deal with: "I'm holding him, now what?" "Why is he looking at me?" "Am I supposed to bounce him?" "How long before I can return him to his rightful owner without being considered rude?" It did not take long for my baby cousin to begin screaming in protest, and I was all-too-quick to hand him to someone who was a Baby Professional. As if family functions aren't enough to drive the thought of motherhood right out of my uterus, I signed on to substitute teach at the surrounding schools to pick up some extra cash before moving from Missouri for good. All of the applications asked me which grades I was available to teach. Trying to up the moneymaking ante, I decided against my better judgment of working with high school students only, and instead checked the box that said "Any grade." My temporary career as a substitute teacher began fairly well; for the first few weeks, I would get phone calls to fill in for high school teachers who would leave me a checklist of homework for each class to complete. For the most part, I handed out the homework, and settled into an online apartment hunt in New York City. This gig was easy.
Then, one day, a smite from God came that rocked my world and sent me into acute panic attacks. I was asked to fill in for a preschool teacher. After weighing my options (A: Do the work and get paid or B: Snub the offer and hope I don't hate myself for turning down a paycheck) I picked my jaw up off the floor and hung up the phone. After deciding wearing a dress and high heels to chase small toddlers was not an option, I donned a sensible pantsuit and even more sensible shoes, hopped into the car, and drove to what I can only describe as Birth Control.
After arriving at the school, I was given directions to the designated preschool room, along with pointers on how to relate to them. I've had boyfriends who had the mind set of a five year old, so I figured it couldn't be too difficult to get on their level.
My first duty of the day was to get the children from the room to the cafeteria for breakfast. This task seemed easy enough, until I opened the building doors to a monsoon relieving itself outside. Suddenly, getting fifteen children to the cafeteria seemed about as intimidating as walking into a burning building with only an ice cube for protection. By the way these small beings acted, I wasn't sure if they'd every seen rain before. And, after ten minutes of corralling them under the awning and away from mud puddles, I succeeded in getting them safely, if not dryly, to breakfast. Later, I would realize that transporting these little raindancers was just a warm up for what lay ahead. After breakfast, I was instructed to bring them back to the main building, where they would play in the multi-purpose room. As I lined them up and led them back toward the building, it occured to me that it had been raining for over a week straight, which means these kids had spent every recess indoors for days upon days. They were bound to be wound tightly with pent-up energy. I was no longer a teacher. I was their warden.
I opened the doors to the multi-purpose room to find that three other classes were already in there, screaming at the tops of their lungs and hurling anything not attached to the floor at each other. In my head, I cringed, but on my face, I smiled encouragingly for the children to join their fellow classmates and have fun. After all, recess was only thirty minutes, right? No biggie.
Within three minutes, I was under just as much supervision as the children were. It didn't take long for the other teachers to realize my maternal instincts were nonexistent, so my safety precautions and their safety precautions slightly differed. It all began when a handful of wet-dog-smelling children asked if I would hand them basketballs to play with. Glancing around the room, I noted the floor had lines for a basketball court, and it had basketball goals, so in my head basketballs seemed necessary. I passed each child a ball...almost. As I turned to hand the last ball out, one of the other teachers came running at me as if I had explosives under my shirt. She grabbed my wrist, and in a stern voice she said, "We do not give them basketballs in here!"
It wasn't like I gave the children live hand grenades and said, "Tick tock!" I assumed basketballs were harmless, recreational fun. Of course, as soon as I finished that thought, a basketball from an unknown assassin flew past my head and creamed the wall right next to my face. The other teacher, looking a bit smug, finished her reprimand by saying, "They're too hard for indoor use." I felt betrayed by these rugrats; I had gone out on a limb for them, and they got me in trouble. No more Miss Nice Children Hater. Finally, it was time to take them back to our room and finish their coloring assignments. I glanced at the clock and, to my horror, it was only 9 a.m. Within the first hour of my debut as a preschool teacher, I had aged fifteen years. Exhausted, I flopped into the my desk chair and closed my eyes for a second, praying for strength to finish the day.
"Ms. Maica! Ms. Maica!" I heard someone screaming. ("Jamaica" is too hard for preschoolers to pronounce.) "I need a tissue! I sneezed!"
My worst germaphobic nightmares were personified. I opened my eyes to see one
of the basketball throwing raindancers running full force at me with eyes wide and a green rope of snot stringing from his nose to underneath his chin. Forcing the bile back down my throat, I sprang for the box of tissue and all but launched it at him. He took a single tissue out--as if one lone tissue could clean THAT up-- and held it toward me.
"My mom always holds it for me while I blow," he explained. Blah. Of course she does.
Grabbing six more tissues, I closed my eyes and pictured myself in a snot-resistant suit of armor, then plugged the wad of booger cloth around his snot-blowing device. Cringing as only a non-mother would, I prayed no germs would skip the tissue and plop onto my hand, thus causing infections, fever, and inevitable death. He tapped my hand when it was over, and I buried the tissue in the trash can, pausing for a moment to consider setting it ablaze, then proceeded to douse myself in Germ-X as if it were Chanel No. 5.
When the day was over, I patted myself on the back. In the beginning of the day, my goal was to keep the children happy, upbeat, and busy. I had envisioned myself as a modern-day Mary Poppins who sang chipper songs to make the day tolerable. By the end of the day, my goal was reduced to just keeping them alive.
Seeing the look on my face when I crawled into the house, my mother finally broke it to me that I might just be too selfish to think about children right now, and it may be a permanent trait. All along, my mother knew that I didn't have the patience, the focus, nor the selfless attitude to bring another human life into the world, yet she allowed me to think for years that one day having a family was a goal of mine. She says it is because I have a long time to get rid of my selfish traits, and nowadays women are waiting until their forties to start families.
That means I have a little less than twenty years to decide if being selfish is a virtue or a vice. In the meantime, I hope my family stops trying to toss babies in my direction on Easter.
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Follow the events of a young, single female who just graduated college and is looking for the next chapter to begin. The Fabulous Chronicles of an Average Bombshell looks at what life is like for a young woman in her 20's, living in a small town, who has nothing in common with her friends: she's not interested in marriage, she wants a taste of the city life, and dating is for fun not so much for finding The One.