On Saturday afternoon, my eldest daughter and I went to Dollarama to stock up on slumber party supplies. We skipped into the store holding hands because she was happy to have her mother to herself. She wore a pink dress over mermaid leggings and couldn’t stop twirling in the aisles.
We filled our cart with an assortment of candy, nail polish, glow sticks, and decorations.
“This is going to be so expensive,” Cailena said as we approached the till. I laughed and said her dad and I were happy to celebrate her. She leaned into me, her head now reaching my chest, and I wrapped my arms around her.
“I love you, Mom.”
“I love you, CailyBaby.”
The women in line behind us sighed. They were probably about my own mother’s age and looked misty-eyed at the moment Caily and I had just shared.
“Is this for a birthday party?” one asked, gesturing to the haul.
“You look so pretty in your dress,” the other said.
“Oh yes,” I replied. “We’re having seven little girls sleep over in the basement, but first we’re making slime and painting nails. It’s going to be a busy night!”
The women laughed. One told me to enjoy it. Her only daughter had moved overseas as an adult and now her home was very quiet. Never leave your mother, she jokingly made Caily promise.
“Can I give you a little advice, from a mom who’s been there?”
“Please,” I nodded. She placed her hand on my shoulder.
Her friend laughed. “Like she hasn’t already started,” she said, gesturing at the coffee cup in my hand. “What’s in there, eh Mom?”
“There’s tequila in my truck if you need something harder!”
I smiled and politely chuckled and mumbled something like, oh, I think we’ll be fine.
And then we said goodbye and left, just slight disappointment, unease. I don’t have a problem with other people drinking, but something just fell really flat. I guess I actually did hope for advice from that veteran mother. I don’t know if enough older women realize this, but there are many younger women like me who don’t have enough access to people like them. We are actually parenting in the wilderness and yeah, we’re thirsty for the wisdom of other women in a check-out line, The Ones Who-Have-Been-There:
Take a photo while she’s sleeping.
Wake her at the hour she was born.
Write her a letter.
Take a moment in the craziness to just give thanks.
Get to know her friends. Appreciate them.
Buy extra paper towels, and just laugh it off when punch spills. They’re old enough to help clean.
Hold her face and look into those eyes.
Reflect on how far you’ve come.
Tell me what to do!
But it’s okay. Humor is good too. Jokes unify us, bond us. Those strangers didn’t know I am a sober person. I know that when the women advised I get plastered at my daughter’s ninth birthday party, they were really trying to say:
I see you
I miss that
You’ll miss this
You’re doing a good job
Hang in there
This part is beautiful
This part is worth it