It's a rookie mom's mistake. Choosing which check-out lane
to stand in at the grocery store merely by determining
which has the shortest line. If it isn't listed in some
parenting book yet, it ought to be...
Rule #1 of Shopping: Never stand in a line behind a woman
who is more than ten years older than you and has a kind
face. Inevitably, she will notice you, and worse, she will
notice your baby.
Now, don't get me wrong. At first, that will seem like a
wonderful thing. The woman, who most likely will have
thin, streaks of gray through her perfectly styled
strawberry blonde hair will say, "Just look at that sweet
child. I don't think I've ever seen a more beautiful
baby," and she will give you such a sincere smile through
her coral lipstick that you will think
about asking her to be your son's godmother.
"Thank you," you will say, and for a second you will
forget that your adorable bundle spent three solid hours
screaming himself silly before you left for this little
jaunt today (never mind the fact that it's not even
noon yet), and you and the woman will spend a moment
looking at him with great awe and admiration.
And that's when the well-meaning soul with fingernails
painted to match her blouse will ask the dreaded question,
"Is he a good baby?"
Note to self: If you're ever in a court of law and get
asked a question like this, it is absolutely essential
that you plead the fifth. I mean, let's be honest, any way
you respond could either be constituted as outright
perjury or as undeniable proof that you are one of those
mothers, the ones who are outwardly pitied but secretly
labeled as a failure for having a difficult
Much to your shame the only time you could truthfully
answer yes to the question, "Is he a good baby?" was the
first two days of your son's life, the two days you spent
in the hospital. Once you came home and Junior displayed
his true colors by working himself into a red-faced rage
that tended to last the majority of each day (and
sometimes night), you decided he was in reality a
con-artist. A bald, toothless con-artist who had duped you
into bringing him home to wait on hand and foot for
eighteen plus years. (Call it sleep deprivation if you
So thrusting a pacifier in your two-month-old's mouth,
which has begun to scrunch up into what you've come to
recognize as the precursor to a long, steady wail, you
pull the old "look over there" trick on Miss Well-Meaning.
"I think you're next," you say, nodding politely to the
open space between the woman and the check out clerk.
If you're lucky this will buy you ten to twenty seconds to
collect your thoughts because, let's be honest, you can't
tell this woman - someone who's obviously never been
exposed to a "colicky," "difficult," "strong-willed" or
whatever other label you want to slap on a kid like this -
that you wouldn't exactly say he's a "good baby." And when
she turns back, you will be prepared to lie through your
teeth. "Oh, yes, definitely. Such a good baby. Amazing
really. Never gives me a minute's trouble."
And she will inevitably ask the follow up question, "So he
Now this is the part that can trip you up. Because
internally, you're going, Does he sleep well? Let's see.
He wakes up five times a night. If I'm lucky, takes three
twenty minute power naps during the day, one of which I
have to rock him through while he's attached to my breast.
And the other two he cries for thirty minutes before
finally passing out. But after a slight
pause, you say, "Yes. I think he sleeps pretty well."
And that will be the extent of your conversation. The
woman will pay for her groceries, and turn to give you a
smile that acknowledges your success at motherhood before
making her way gracefully out of the store.
You, on the other hand, will be soaked in sweat, partly
due to the adrenaline coursing through your body after
telling such a pack of lies and partly due to the fact
that you have been swaying from side to side for
several minutes with the little guy in your arms hoping to
make him too dizzy to cry. And finally, after waiting the
excruciating last minutes as your groceries are scanned
and bagged, and your baby does indeed begin to wail, you
will be free to go, having navigated a successful morning
On your way to the parking lot you will vow 1. to stop
eating. That way frivolous errands like grocery shopping
can be done away with and 2. to pull
out those bags of M&Ms and Cheetos as soon as you reach
After all, even rookie moms know the value of comfort
ANGEL RUTLEDGE is a novelist and freelance writer who
lives in Charlotte, NC with her husband and two children.
(She refuses to identify which child was
the bald, toothless con-artist.) Angel is presently
working on her third novel, a mommy-lit. story about a
private investigator turned stay at home mom. Most
recently she published an article on:
Charlottemommies.com entitled "Good Kindling Wood and
Other Uses for Parenting Books."