photo: GMW/Lori Buchanan Photos

The other day I was standing in line at the grocery store and there was this woman ahead of me and she was having a time. And when I say ‘a time’, I mean she was dropping things, couldn’t find her wallet, left mid-checkout to retrieve a gallon of milk but came back with a bottle of bleach — the works.

It’s hard being a new mom. You lose sleep. Your boobs leak. You can’t remember the last time you showered or what day it is or if you accidentally took your allergy medication three times instead of once because every time you go to antihistamine up the baby screams and cries and screams some more and then you scream and cry and scream some more at your husband for having the audacity to tell you he’s tired because you’re tired and doesn’t he know that? Doesn’t he know how difficult it is to function on three hours of sleep or locate a pair of pants without a zipper just so you can drive to the grocery store to buy a goddamn rotisserie chicken, which by the way, this mess of a woman dropped face down on the floor then somehow managed to step on.

Okay, fine. It was me (circa 2020) and while I’m well out of the infant stage, I will never quite forget how difficult it was dislodging a greasy, meaty poultry bone from my snow boots, trying to soothe a screaming baby, all with a gallon of bleach in tow while I’m sure someone filmed me.

So I never want to say to new moms that this is the easy part, this whole crying and pooping and puking stage, this “singing ‘Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star’ 16 times in a row while running the dishwasher and pushing a jogging stroller up and down your kitchen because it’s the only thing that will keep him sleeping” stage; that this “when will the lower half of my body not feel like it got run over by a truck and then dumped in the Norwalk River because you pushed something the size of the great pumpkin, Charlie Brown out of your hoo-ha, hooray the baby’s finally here” stage of your life will actually seem like a honeymoon in comparison to the next 18 years.

I had a lot of time to think about this, I guess, while I sat in the bleachers along with a few hundred other devoted parents whose asses also likely fell asleep somewhere around a (soothe a screaming baby to sleep) version of “Bridge Over Troubled Water” on June 18 at Wilton High School’s 2022 Graduation.

When your kids are little, it’s all spit up and spills and ‘shit, I dropped the pacifier in my latte again,’ and then they get a little bigger and start figuring out things. Like, if I stand on top of one box and then another box and then a remote control car, could I maybe, possibly, probably reach the freezer and an entire box of Hood ice cream sandwiches for breakfast? Or could I maybe, possibly, probably just fall on my head and start screaming bloody murder because this whole box on top of box on top of car operation wasn’t the hottest plan to begin with? Not that it matters really because crying will get you ice cream, at least in the Kirschner house, so win/win.

But then commence the school years and it’s good stuff because finally, they’re out of diapers and by now most things have been spit-up and so they learn skills, like actual skills. Like this one time, I went to pick up my younger daughter from her after-school art class. She was maybe 5- or 6 years old and it was one of those classes that you paid an arm and a leg for so they could come home with stuff that looked like a Parsons graduate did it. I’ve never known ceramics scarcity another day in my life, also… good thing we have ample shelf space.

Anyway, I went to pick her up and the art teacher looked pained (which, if you’ve met my daughter, isn’t exactly an uncommon expression for anyone being paid to put up with her), and then she hugged me, (the teacher, not my daughter) and she said, “I can’t believe you’re here,” followed by, “I lost my mother, too last year.”

My mom is very much alive so you could see how this might have thrown me a little. When we got back in the car, and I asked my daughter what the teacher was talking about and why she would say that, my daughter replied, “She was giving out stickers to the kids who were being good and I was never gonna be that so I figured it was easier to just tell her Grandma got dead.”

Then they hit the tween years and you want to talk about troubled water? Try explaining to your 11-year-old why she can’t go out of the house wearing a handkerchief for a shirt. Ever heard of something called Hollister? Well, apparently they make some very expensive handkerchiefs, call them shirts and then sell them for roughly 25 times the cost — just in case you were in the market for tops you can also blow your nose on, which is nothing to sneeze at. Trust me.

But then one day you find yourself singing along to an old Simon and Garfunkel song, straining to make out the speck that is your daughter’s graduation cap while you fumble with the camera, and why is it always at the exact worst moment that the storage is full? And it’s then that you realize you never put underwear on but it doesn’t matter because it’s a proud, proud day. And not just because you can finally wear pants with a zipper even if it took 18 years and that have a generous amount of elasticity in the waistline, but because she made it.

She graduated.

And you know I’m cautious about giving advice, mostly because I have no idea what I’m talking about but here goes: parenting doesn’t get easier, it just gets different. One day you won’t wonder what that smell is then realize it’s you. And your boobs? Just don’t look down. Eighteen years goes by fast. So does graduation apparently. Seriously, try not to lose sleep over it.

Columnist Lesley Kirschner grew up quiet, in the woods, and devoid of siblings so her hobbies quickly became reading, writing, and talking to inanimate objects. She also spent a considerable amount of time doing voice-overs for her dolls and watching too much daytime television–channel 3, sometimes channel 8, if the weather was good and the antenna wasn’t acting up. She was in attendance at school, graduated from a very much not notable college not worth mentioning, and was transplanted to Wilton with her husband, Ambler Farm‘s Farmer Jonathan and their (baby makes) three children almost a decade ago. Although she never quite found her calling in life, other than perhaps the doll voice-overs, which in hindsight were eerily convincing, she’s happy to try her hand at writing and is thankful for the support and community she found on Facebook’s Buy Nothing Wilton. Lesley realizes while this is all very exciting, she’s not winning a Pulitzer so she’ll wrap it up and be quiet. She’s had a lot of practice.