Me? I've just been busy backstroking through waves of mucus and phlegm and Goldfish-speckled throw-up.
Surf's up, dude. Hold on, I just found a soggy French fry in my cleavage. Nevermind. I'll get it later.
Initially, I dove into the snotty ocean of kid sickness like an Olympian. The damn Ryan Lochte of parenting a sick child! Gently resting palms on hot foreheads, sweeping sippy cups sticky with old juice off night tables and replacing them with fresh ones like a champion diner waitress named, of course, Flo. I was cradling sweaty heads in my lap while watching Toy Story for the 75th time, using a thermometer like a boss and promptly whisking the kid sporting 103 degrees into a cool bath. The Ryan Lochte of parenting a sick kid, I say!
That was a week ago. Ryan Lochte is gone. He pussied out over the weekend and is smoking weed with Michael Phelps somewhere. Now I'm just the old, tired mom of parenting a sick kid. The mom that never learned how to swim properly and has squeaked by in life by dog-paddling in a manner that sort of/kind of replicates proper swimming. Help. I'm drowning.
Luckily, today was the first day in a week that they were both back to their respective pre-school classes at the same time. Last week Henry was sick but I was still taking Violet to class, then Violet was sick and they were both home at the same time, then Henry was well enough to go to class but Violet wasn't.
Each morning, after groggily swimming toward something that resembled consciousness after a nighttime spent scuba diving through phlegm and cough syrup and more phlegm, I tiredly pulled the lever of the slot machine. Would the cherries line up today and both kids be back in class? Ka-ching? Please? I don't want to beg or anything but PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY I NEED THREE CHERRIES TODAY!
But no. I thought it might happen yesterday. It was Picture Day at the YMCA where they both spend mornings on Tuesdays and Thursdays. But Violet was hacking like a 1970 Ford Pinto recently resurrected from someone's grandma's garage. Other than that she seemed fine, though. No fever or anything. So I figured I'd take them both to the Y, drop off Henry as usual, stick around long enough for Violet to get her class picture taken and then head home with her so as not to inflict everyone with the violent coughing for the entire morning.
I'm sitting in the back of Violet's class, waiting for the photographer to come for the class picture, absentmindedly scrolling through stuff on my cell as the teacher leads Circle Time, when Henry's teacher gently touches my shoulder. "Mrs. Bielanko?"
I still get a kick out of that"'Mrs. Bielanko" business. Not because I'm all giddy about being married. That train left the station somewhere after Brad Pitt but before John Mayer in Jennifer Aniston Standard Relationship Time. I am amused when I am called that because I never realize they're talking to me. Maybe because I never go to the kinds of places where they address you in such a way? Kevin at Chipotle isn't in the habit of announcing "Mrs. Bielanko, your order is ready!" is what I'm saying. If Kevin at Chipotle were in the habit of calling me Mrs. Bielanko you can bet your sweet ass I'd be well accustomed to it by now.
So Henry's teacher is talking to me and I stare at her blankly for a minute before realizing, Oh, hey! That's me! I'm Mrs. Bielanko. Turns out Henry's class is currently getting their portraits taken. Not the class portrait but the individual ones. They're having some trouble with Henry and they figured that since I'm in the building they might as well get me to help out.
Trouble with Henry. Hmmm. I instantly picture a red-faced maniac kicking and screaming because Henry still isn't obliging me with smooth preschool drop-offs, if you know what I'm saying. As I'd left him crying for me only 20 minutes earlier I figured he was still giving everyone The Business when photo time came.
I stride purposefully, momfully, into the room where the photography is going down, expecting to yank my flailing kid up and give him a stern talking to (that will leave all the pre-school teachers in awe over my excellent parenting skillz) when I spot him sitting haughtily on a tiny wicker rocking chair in front of some kind of autumnal backdrop. There is a fiberglass frog resting near his feet. Your typical low budget YMCA Picture Day get-up. Which I love, by the way. I'll take a wicker chair and a fiberglass frog over the current fascination with families ambling down train tracks or lounging on couches dropped, as if from the sky, into the wilderness any day of the week. The more awkward the school photo, the sweeter it is. That's my policy, anyway.
Henry isn't screaming. Henry isn't crying. Henry is not amused.
I stand quietly in the back of the room while the photographer nearly pulls a groin trying to get my kid to laugh. One of the preschool teachers in the room, for photog back-up, steps in and gives it a go. She's dancing, making funny faces, the whole nine. Then a second teacher jumps in on the action because she knows damn well we've got hundreds of kids to shuffle through the wicker chair and, like a cow eating grass on train tracks, Hank is holding sh*t up.
At one point King Henry is sitting there while no less than three adults are dancing, making faces or working puppets at him and he refuses to reward his court jesters with even the slightest twitch of his sweet lips. Regardless, the photog is snapping away and, at one point, beckons me to the camera and asks tiredly, will any of these work? He arrows through 15 photos featuring Henry with exactly the same pissy expression on his face and I can't believe I said it but I did. "Can we try one more?" I'm paying $16.99 for two 5x7's of my kid, the wicker chair and the fiberglass frog and, by God, I'd like to see some teeth.
The photographer sighs and says, not unkindly, "Why don't you give it a try. Maybe he'll respond better if you're behind the camera." He shows me the button on the camera to push and there I am -- in front of an audience -- trying to get my kid to laugh, something I can do in seconds at home.
The pressure is on so I whip out everything in my bag of mom tricks and nothing is working. Isn't it a motherf*cker when your own kid turns on you in such a public way? Like teaching your dog to play dead and he does it every time at home but the one time your friend stops by and you want to showcase the trick, your dog looks at you like you're an idiot and you're all, I swear he usually does this every time. Wait. Just one more time. Hold on.
There I am, sweating profusely, ass crack crawling out of the top of my too tight "yoga" pants (I use yoga in quotes because those pants haven't seen a lick of yoga in months, if not years) while I try to get my kid to laugh or at least crack a subtle smile and he's giving me nothing. Nada. He stares at me, along with the photographer and three preschool teachers, as I jiggle the damn stuffed lamb and make it bite my face and bleat and all the while he's firing The Stink Eye at me but it's not even a stink eye so much as it's unimpressed boredom and a tinge of... Is that disdain? Because I will not stand for that, young man! You will laugh at this stupid f*cking lamb and you will laugh NOW, SO HELP ME...
Please laugh? Everyone's watching.
He doesn't laugh. Doesn't even sneer. And I'd take a sneer at this point. I hitch up my "yoga" pants, click the camera a couple more times and motion the photographer over. "I'll take that one." I say while pointing to a photo of Henry throwing out the very same unamused expression as in the previous 50 photos. The photographer smiles knowingly, tells me he thinks that's a good choice and I usher Henry back to his classroom.
I've got to admit, I'm not entirely disappointed. In fact, I'm kind of looking forward to haughty King Henry perched atop his wicker throne next to his pet fiberglass frog whilst being slightly amused by his subjects. It's going in a frame for sure.