I don’t mean the warm, fuzzy feeling I get when my 2 ½ year old twins look adorable in their footy pajamas or the way my heart melts when my 6-year-old sings a solo at the school Mother’s Day program. I’m not referring to the magic in motherhood—no— I’m referring to—
The magic that mothers provide.
In my household it works something like this. My children strip off clothing as they’re running through the house to the bathtub till I could follow the trail like I was a bird behind Hansel and Gretel. No matter how muddy or food-slopped that clothing was, it appears, clean, unstained, and folded, in the dresser drawer a few days after being dripped all across the house. And my children don’t give it a second thought. In fact, sometimes they complain that favorite shirts aren’t in pristine condition and back in the drawer the morning after being worn.
More examples: the last morsel of cereal is poured from the box, and another box gets produced from the storage pantry—or something edible appears. Toothpaste sprouts on toothbrushes on frantic mornings; lunchboxes, forgotten on the kitchen counter, are delivered to the school office by noon; the favorite bowl, plate, and spoon set—with the bunny or truck or princess or superhero on it—appears, filled with food, every dinnertime. Lost shoes and homework and action figures are found, and hats, coats, and gloves pop on just before the plunge into the cold outdoors.
No wonder my children have no trouble believing Cinderella had a fairy godmother and the man in the yellow hat can fix every problem for George the curious monkey. After all, they’ve got a magic to top them both.
Too bad for me that it’s—
My kids watched Mary Poppins not too long ago. They were most impressed with jumping into chalk drawings and riding carousel horses across animated landscapes. The scene they were least interested in was the one that fascinates me most. Mary Poppins regards the littered nursery with disdain. Click! She snaps her fingers at it, and—presto! The toy soldiers march into the box. Click! The bed makes itself. Click! The clothes fly to their places in the closet. I paused in my search for miniature plastic people under the couch to gaze in awe. “Oh, if only,” I thought, and tried snapping at the dishes by the sink. Nothing happened until I grabbed a sponge and scrubbed at them. And then—it was like…
I may not like it, but I understood even before I became a parent that mommy magic is part of the job description. After all, my own mother provided me with plenty of magic while I was growing up. When my brother and I both invited friends to dinner—without phoning ahead—we assumed the meal, prepared for four, would magically stretch to feed six, and it always did. When I needed three costumes for my part in the low-budget school rendition of Cheaper by the Dozen, somehow my mother prepared them—and they looked like they arrived straight from the 1920’s. Mom equaled magician, but I didn’t know until well after I gave birth myself how much work this magic actually was.
What I also didn’t know was that the magic would spread. Several months after my first child Emily was born, the dog began searching the house for me—specifically me—whenever he wanted food or to go out. Often he walked right past the man sitting at the kitchen table or in front of the TV in the living room (the man is my husband, and prior to parenthood he was an equal partner in pet care) to find me in the upstairs bathroom. Suddenly I became the only one privileged enough to freeze my tush waiting for the dog to do his business.
Then I realized other children—not my own—had recognized the mommy magic in me. Before becoming a mom, I could have stood in the middle of a playground all day and been used for little more than a center for ring-around-the-rosie or a base for kickball. Now, however, little kids come up to me. “You’re Emily’s mom, right?”
I hesitate before answering. I’m learning. “Ye-es,” I say.
“Well, my little brother just puked on the slide.”
The expectation, of course, is that I will do something about it.
And I will. “Okay,” I sigh. “I’ll be right over.”
The kid nods, not impressed—I just did what was expected—and then stops, his eyes riveted on my huge purse.
“You got any snacks in there?”
Laundry, snacks, cleaning, organization…
I need some Mommy Magic for ME!