Last week, I could not get my three-year-old to the dentist. It was one of a few times in my career as a mother where I was wholly overwhelmed to the point of paralysis, both mind and body succumbing to the force of my daughter. Mini is too old to be forced into a stroller and too strong and heavy to be carried somewhere against her will. No bribe or sweet talk or forceful words could cajole her to put one foot in front of the other and accompany me the three blocks to the dentist. And so I found myself attempting to carry her unwieldy body under the assault of her swinging arms before squatting down on Amsterdam Avenue as she flailed and screamed, grasping her wrist with my hand to prevent her from sprinting off into traffic, and I thought: “I have no idea how to get myself out of this.”
Eventually, I took a deep breath and let her go. She ran all the way home and then stood in the lobby, heaving those big, fat, chest-filling toddler sobs as enormous crocodile tears streamed down her face. I stood in the doorway of our building and we eyed one another.
“Do you need a hug?” I offered, tentatively. She nodded and I took her into my arms and we stood in the door jamb embracing one another for ten minutes, her tears eventually subsiding into the occasional suck-y intake of breath of a child whose body is exhausted by her own emotions.
The doorwoman, a true angel and beloved part of my daily life here in New York, had made a “tsk” noise of compassion toward me when mini had careened into the lobby — and then afforded us a wide berth. I was grateful in that moment that she was a mother, too. It felt that she knew exactly what I was standing up against and that she also knew — by virtue of the understanding cluck of her tongue and the way she serenely retreated behind the second set of glass doors to preoccupy herself with the stack of papers at the lobby desk — that this, too, would pass.
I had surreptitiously called Mr. Magpie as I embraced my daughter in the doorway of the building, and my voice had nearly cracked when I had said: “I can’t get her to the dentist. I need your help.” He replied, instantly: “No problem.” He reshuffled his meetings for the morning and then met us in the lobby, where I was still squatting with mini in my arms, though she was now poking at my eyelashes and eyebrows and giggling to herself.
Mr. Magpie did not make a fuss. He did not comment or reproach or narrate. He just scooped mini up in his arms with his face arranged into a jovial smile and we strode altogether to the dentist while I silently collected myself in their wake. Halfway there, I watched as she rested her flushed face on his shoulder and said: “The whole family is going to the dentist” with something like happiness. Oh, the mercurialness of a toddler! And oh, the emotional whiplash of parenting in its midst! I am always tender-footed, worrying that I will be too dismissive of something substantive — a true fear, a true anxiety that must be met with dignity — and yet there are also days where I see that her fury is drawn up blindly against the shape of my authority. Was the scene that morning because she was afraid of the dentist or because she is three and did not want to be plucked from her toys?
Because of the dentist’s COVID-19 protocols, only one parent was permitted into the office, and so I sat outside in the sticky August heat on a small folding chair and I took a deep breath and if it weren’t for the diversion of the always-colorful street scene of New York City, I would have hung my head and cried. I felt blindsided by my ineptitude and swallowed whole by my daughter. I could not divine the cause of the outburst and I also could not remember the last time I had felt so incapable. And so I did what every 36-year-old mother does in a moment of parenting duress: I texted my own mother. She offered up a practical observation (“she was probably confused why she had to go back to the dentist”) and then said: “I’m sorry. It will be over soon.”
As I waited, I mentioned something about the morning’s events on Instastories and was positively overwhelmed by the flood of messages from fellow moms:
“Been there, done that.”
“Oh mama! That sounds familiar.”
“But you got her to the dentist — I call that a win.”
“Sounds about right.”
“You’re doing great.”
“Hang in there, mom.”
“Same thing happened to me taking my daughter to the dentist.”
“You’re a great mom — this will pass.”
I have always had a special devotion to Saint Mary and specifically to the second joyful mystery of the Rosary, the Visitation, in which Mary “makes haste” to visit her cousin, Elizabeth, who is aging and has been deemed infertile. When Elizabeth sees Mary, she feels her miracle baby move for the first time. The scene is poignant for many reasons and I have found myself lingering over different aspects of the vignette during different moments in my life. But last Friday, as I sat outside of the dentist’s office, I could only think of Mary’s haste in attending to her cousin: to the immediate, urgent empathy my minor travail elicited from so many other mothers. And not only women I know well, like my doorwoman and my mother, but from readers here who simply saw my flail and made haste to reassure me.
I have been looking for occasions to pay this kindness forward to other mothers, but for now, permit me to make haste to leave this for any mother who needs to hear it:
You are doing great. This too shall pass. Hang in there.
+More musings on the Visitation.
+This dress (originally over $500, now around $100) is perfection for fall.
+If you are still in summer dress mode: this gingham stunner from Loretta Caponi is perfect and on sale.
+A sweet knit dress for a toddler (under $20 — ordered this for mini!).
+This ric-rac trim cover-up dress was one of the most popular items on my blog last summer! I didn’t even realize they’d brought it back — and it’s currently on sale.
+A reader recently asked after chic blazer options for fall. I recommend Smythe, Sandro, and Veronica Beard for investments, J. Crew for something classic and more affordably priced, and Zara for pieces with more dramatic styling.
+Speaking of Veronica Beard, you must check out their insane sale selection — an extra 20% off this weekend with code LONGWEEKEND. I ordered these and cannot believe my good fortune. If they’re sold out in your size, Shopbop has them in on-trend python for even less (under $80!!!) and Nordstrom has them on sale in pink croc for $130.
+This lace collar onesie is darling. And speaking of collared knits for little ones, I often get questions about where to find good quality ones. My absolute favorites are Kissy Kissy for both boys and girls. They last forever, launder beautifully (the collar doesn’t flip up like it does with many other brands). I also like the ones from Luigi and TBBC.