Flashing the FedEx Man

...and other true tales of motherhood

| March / April 2004

As I waited for my 2-year-old daughter to finish her turn on the toilet, I idly studied my reflection in the restaurant's full-length bathroom mirror. In jeans and platform slides, I looked almost young. A recent bout of stomach flu had left me fashionably thin, and I wore lipstick for a change. Combing my hair with my fingers, I felt suddenly optimistic and carefree. We zipped up and washed hands, then crossed the caf? to our table. As I squeezed into my chair, I bumped the man behind me. He looked up from his lunch and smiled admiringly.

'You know what?' said my daughter. 'My mommy made a poo.'

This was a new phase of parenthood. One day my daughter was a harmless cherub, the next she wasn't. The moment she handed the electrician a pair of my underpants from the basket of dirty laundry, I realized precautions would have to be taken to safeguard what remained of my dignity.

As I charged the astonished electrician and snatched the panties from his hand, my thoughts turned to my friends' stories of maternal humiliation. They had never seemed real to me before now. Pink plastic tampon applicators fished from the bathroom garbage by Virginia's children and worn as fake fingernails in front of her dinner guests. Kimberly opening her front door to find her diaphragm being thrown to neighbor kids like a mini Frisbee. For me, it began with underpants.

The electrician and I avoided eye contact and acted as if no lingerie had changed hands. Explicit etiquette guidelines for this sort of situation are hard to come by, so we improvised. I offered him coffee. He politely declined. He installed a few dimmer switches. I slunk off to my room. The moment passed. Months passed. I put the experience out of my mind.

The story got more bearable over time. With each retelling, I laughed more and cringed less. I weathered other mothering humiliations. The caf? incident. A colorful failure to buy my daughter's cooperation with jelly beans at the pediatrician's office. Her fixation on the adjective teeny-weeny. And her stalwart refusal to speak aloud the noun it modified. 'Look, Mommy!' she once hooted as we approached a man walking a miniature schnauzer. 'That man has a TEENY WEENY!' I held my head a little higher with every embarrassment, imagining that I was no longer so easily defeated. Then she pulled my pants down in front of the Federal Express delivery man.

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