We are crowded into the examination room- Minnow, Peanut, Peanut's stroller, the nurse, and I- for Peanut's one-month well-baby visit. I am holding Peanut as the nurse wraps a tape measure around her head. Minnow is humming the "Sofia the First" theme to herself.
"What's new with you, Minnow?" the nurse asks cheerfully.
"Peanut pooped in her car seat yesterday and Mommy still hasn't cleaned it up," Minnow replies.
The nurse's eyes dart to the car seat attached to the stroller and- sure enough- a dried stain the size of a silver dollar, which until then could have passed as mustard, boldly beams up at her.
"That must have just happened," I lie. Inside I am dying. Did my toddler really just rat me out?
"Here," the nurse says, holding out a pair of latex gloves and a sanitary wipe. "Do you want to clean it up now?"
Well, of course I do! I rub at the stain with the wipe while Minnow, with arms crossed, oversees. Do I detect disdain in her blueberry-blue eyes?
Later that day when my husband comes home from work he comments on how nice the house looks.
"Thanks," I say proudly. "I swept and vacuumed all the floors today."
Minnow, standing nearby in a tiara and pink plastic shoes, corrects me.
"But you forgot to do the stairs and the hallway, Mommy."
No, you little twerp. I didn't "forget" to do anything. It's just that Mommy isn't a work horse and between feeding you, nursing your sister, going to the doctor's office, swim class and the post office, doing two loads of laundry, and playing 'princess tea party' for the billionth time this week, there was no time to vacuum the stairs and the hallway. Jeez!
"Haha, Minnow," I say. "You sure are observant!"
The next day after we get to Minnow's soccer clinic I realize that I've left Minnow's Minnie Mouse thermos on the table in the foyer at home. I am hoping we can go an hour without hydration, but 15 minutes into practice the coach yells out "water break!" and all the kids run off the field and toward their mommies. Minnow reaches into the pocket of the diaper bag where Minnie Mouse usually resides and comes up empty.
"Mommy, can me have my Minnie Mouse cup?"
"Oh, I'm so sorry, sweetheart. Mommy forgot Minnie Mouse at home. But you can have a big hug instead!"
Minnow glares at me, then saunters back onto the field and approaches her coach.
"I didn't have any water because Mommy left my Minnie Mouse cup at home."
"Haha... tattler!" I laugh, although I'm starting to see that in Minnow's eyes I am failing miserably at this mother-of-two gig.
The coach laughs, too, and says to me, "That's nothing. You should hear what the older ones tell us."
And that's when I realize that motherhood is one big Orwellian trial that we are all evidently losing. Our children are meticulously monitoring and logging our every step- and misstep- so that they can testify against us at their whim. I used to congratulate myself for being a stellar parent in public, and when I slipped up in private I'd think, "It's okay. Nobody saw that." Wrong! My toddler saw it and stored it in her airtight memory, probably forever.
If you're curious about how you're doing as a parent, pay attention to how your toddler treats her toys. One afternoon while washing dishes in the kitchen I heard Minnow give all her blocks a timeout. "That's it!" she yelled. "Five minute timeout for not listening! I'm tired of it!" Then she stomped out of her playroom angrily while I looked on in alarm.
Be mindful: Big Brother is watching. And imitating.
I may have been embarrassed that Minnow told the nurse about the old poop or her coach about the forgotten water bottle, but how much more embarrassed would I have been if, instead, Minnow shared that on the way to soccer practice, Mommy called the driver in front of her a "jerk-face" for cutting her off.
"Mommy, I need you to stop yelling," Minnow had said.
"Yeah? Well I need this guy to stop being a jerk-face!" I replied.
I am certain that I am destined for "unpersonhood"- or at least "unmommyhood"- in Minnow's world when we meet up with her former babysitter for brunch in Bronxville last Saturday. Somehow we get on the topic of ice cream and Minnow's babysitter asks her, "Does your mommy let you eat ice cream?"
"Not really," I say. "I'm a mean mommy."
"You're not a mean mommy!" Minnow retorts. "You're the best mommy."
I am astonished, mainly because her words are so... unrehearsed! I feel redeemed. It is clear that Minnow is aware that I am flawed, but at only two years and nine months old, she seems to understand that I am doing my best to be a good mommy to both her and Peanut, every day.
And that is the truth.