Fighting Wasps With Rubber Swatters

I often feel like I’m not living up to high enough standards as a mother. I get through each day, sometimes just barely making it to bedtime or Darcy’s nightly arrival. If he’s not traveling, which is increasingly the case.

But today I had a rare win, a victory when I knew I was being exactly the mother I needed to be. This victory was surprisingly literal.

Let me back up. Darcy allowed me a pretty much free day: I slept in and took a walk by myself. I took a bath. And finally finished “Schuyler’s Monster”, a book I’d been wanting to read since it came out in 2008 with lots of bloggy and print fanfare.

“Schuyler’s Monster”, written by Rob Rummel-Hudson, is an excruciatingly honest memoir of a father’s quest to first understand why his spunky, happy daughter Schuyler could not talk, the way he copes (sometimes poorly) with the eventual devastating diagnosis and the triumphant way he becomes a great advocate for her. It’s an ongoing story you can read about on his blog.

I really connected with his memoir mostly because he calls a spade a spade and refuses to sentimentalize his story. An excruciating “monster”, as he puts it, has always commanded part of his daughter’s brain and he explains how powerless he is to fight it and expel it.

“Special needs parents are fools, every one of us. We tilt at windmills and charge into battle with the monster, rubber swords drawn.”

I am lucky to have neurotypical children, but something in the memoir felt deeply familiar yet aspirational. The sense of failure that Rob expresses at being a parent, the fierce loyalty to his daughter, the continual championing against school administrators and teachers which eventually led to her being able to communicate is compelling and admirable. He’s an incredible parent, someone to look to in awe, but also someone human. I needed to hear from someone like this.

Today the twins and I went outside to eat a snack on our patio. It was a gorgeous autumnal day full of bucolic sights and sounds of scarlet and tan leaves slowly falling to the bluestone. We have had a wasp problem on the patio which has not let us enjoy our lovely space. Today I was determined I would provide my children with a wasp-free space: I would protect their enjoyment of the day from an attack of yellow jackets. I got a rubber guitar, a fly swatter I was amused by and purchased in Memphis (it has something to do with Elvis, as most touristy knickknacks from Memphis are wont to do) and manned my space. We had five free minutes before the wasps made a wasp-line to my daughter. I went into battle with that rubber swatter and free of curses and bad words of any kind dilligently chased that yellow jacket until I vanquished it from the bluestone. I swatted three more away before the multitude descended and we retreated.

But not before my kids had enjoyed 10 minutes of an excellent fall day.

I have never been prouder of my skills as a mother.

Because parenting is so subtle and mysterious and confrontational and mind-numbing. Clear-cut victories are rare. And fleeting.

I think all parents chase various monsters with rubber swords. The vast majority of us are incredibly fortunate that our monsters are small, relatively (hopefully) easy to slay. Our monsters are not of the Tyrannosaurus Rex size, like Schuyler’s. And yet, Robert and his wife show us how to deal with them directly, honestly, with insight and most of all with passionate love for their beautiful daughter, who lives her life in laughter and, because of her parents’ persistence, with words.

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10 Comments

Filed under Discovering joy, Family, writing

10 responses to “Fighting Wasps With Rubber Swatters

  1. Clear cut victories are rare!!!!!!!
    So true. And, sadly, failures, at least as we perceive them, are terribly commonplace. This post finds me at a time when I really need it. Parenting can be quite a struggle and right now I am Struggling.

    Wonderful post. I’m so happy that you had a proud moment. We need to hold onto those.

  2. I so love this. I have pulled out many a rubber sword … funny how I’d just read slowmamma’s post before this, too … there seem to be a lot of us in that place right now.

    But one thing I think I’d add is that all of that tilting, all of that emotional (and sometimes physical!) cardio has made me not just a better parent but a better person, failures though they are!

  3. I love this post! And now I’m going to have to get the book, too.

  4. Victorious mama! You vanquished the monsters with nothing more than a rubber hunk of Elvis.

    What a beautiful piece of writing 🙂

  5. Esperanza

    I love this line:

    Because parenting is so subtle and mysterious and confrontational and mind-numbing. Clear-cut victories are rare. And fleeting.

    So true! And why do our perceived failures seem to linger endlessly, never providing us with a much needed respite?! It’s s wonder we think we’re doing anything right ever. (Oh wait, we don’t ever think that!)

    I’m intrigued by this book, as a linguistic major, language teacher and especially parent. Can I borrow it next time I’m over?

    Great job conquering the wasps. You are truly a superhero.

  6. I’m not sure what else to say except that this is another fantastic post. And nice work with the wasps! You showed them who was boss, at least! (I guess I thought of something else to say. hehe)

  7. I really enjoy how your mind works! This post was so well-written and earnest.

  8. Gail K

    I loved that book and love your reference to it and how you became a “super mommy”.
    I am here from Mel’s weekly blog round-up.

  9. Real victories are rare in parenting, and the small tasks that make up most of our day, like the constant laundry, never seem to end. One of my twins is not neurotypical, and the day we could finally call him toilet trained was an immense victory indeed. Sometimes the gift of having a special needs child is how wonderful and concrete the victories are.

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