I recently visited the Toledo Zoo with my daughter Helena. As we viewed the exhibits, I couldn’t help comparing my mothering abilities to those of the animal kingdom.
Of course, barring species who have a tendency to devour their young — a thought that may cross maternal minds during the teen years — I believe all moms have to channel a bit of the “wild side” to survive and navigate their way through the crazy jungle called motherhood.
Thankfully, I never had to contend with picking pests out of my offspring’s fur. A friend of mine, however, turned into a mama gorilla on turbo as she endured an elementary lice infestation so rampant that she actually Googled the availability of obtaining Haz Mat suits for her yet-infected family members.
I found my inner “monkey mom” as well. I have removed hardened frosting and sprinkles from Corgi fur, a missing Band-Aid out of a batch of chocolate Buckeyes that were hand-mixed by my little one with a boo-boo, a pea out of the left nostril of my youngest child, and (my all-time favorite) extracting a freaked out, squealing Guinea pig from a Barbie Dream Car after my then eight-year-old took for him for a spin around the kitchen.
At some point of the parenting adventure, moms will morph into the strong “Queen of the Beasts”. Unfortunately, it will not be to yawn and lounge in the warm sun as the cubs frolic about in the distance.
Stalking the aisles, coupons in paw, Mama “lions” bring home “the latest kill” from the local market to placate the never-ending hunger of her growing family while simultaneously trying to please the herbivores, carnivores, and gluten-free members of her pride.
Her great strength and fearlessness will be called upon to remove unknown objects from garbage disposals, spiders, and remnants of strawberry passion lip gloss from the inside of a drier. She must stand stoically upon hearing the words, “Team dinner at our house”, “Let’s go get my temporary driver’s license today” and “It’s not as bad as it sounds”.
Maternal beings of all species would benefit from having eight appendages. Exhibit A: Atlanta Airport. Solo mom. Stage four cling-on toddler whose vocabulary consists of “Mama” and “up”, a four-year old with a history of spontaneous sprinting, an overtly friendly first grader wanting to bond with everyone in the terminal, one stuffed carry-on suitcase with a temperamental wheel, and a carry-on bag holding snacks and crafts to feed and amuse anyone in a three-row radius. Extra tentacles, as well as a few suction cups, would have come in handy.
Who’s In Your Zoo
I also felt a kinship with the diverse set of species in the maternal being’s care. Sometimes I think my critters are all grasshoppers — they come, they eat, they leave — but thankfully, they are far more evolved. In my pack, I have Lauren, an ICU nurse/grad student who is part “night owl” and hummingbird. She flits from room to room in the middle of the night, pollinating her patients with tender loving care and medical expertise.
Helena, a special education teacher, appears to have the paper-thin wings of a butterfly due to her incredible sensitivity to our harsh world. Appearances can be deceiving. She is one tough bug that could easily migrate to Mexico or, in her case, eradicate prejudice. She continually shows the world the beauty of the kids she teaches.
Maria, who is studying in Australia, is my leopard who will never change her spots. On the first day of preschool she demonstrated her independence with a, “Mom, you can go now”. Maria pounces on any obstacle in her path and fearlessly seeks out experiences from skydiving to taking college courses “down under”.
May, our international student, has lived with us for the past four years. Like an eagle she is about to soar across the sea and grab a new adventure with her strong mind and talons.
Thankfully, I come from a dependable “golden retriever” laid back mom who only seems to get temperamental if you misplace her good scissors or beat her at canasta. I’m blessed to have a good gal who never “strays”and is a never-ending source of unconditional love. She continually sheds a bit of warm “fuzzies” wherever she goes.
Me? I think I’m an elephant. I lead, or attempt to anyway, a matriarchal, benevolent, democratic, social system. Like the strong women before me, I try to guide my family through life and annually to water (in our case to Maple Lake in Canada).
I have a tough and increasingly wrinkled exterior from surviving a few trials and far too many days spent in the sun. However, I’m a total softie inside. I’m happiest when I get to chill out in the mud and chomp on some greens with my herd. Post chemo, my short-term memory is still a bit rusty, but I will never forget, like the other mothers in this incredible kingdom, the joys of being a mom.
Mary Helen Darah is an award-winning columnist who has appeared in numerous publications in the Toledo area and beyond. She has also been honored for her work and inspiration as a breast cancer survivor.
“The Mother of Mayhem” has a continual source of material through interactions with daughters Lauren, Helena, and Maria; and international student, May Liu from China.
Mary Helen looks forward to writing and sharing the stories of members of our community who turn the ordinary into the extraordinary while delivering a dose of what she feels is the best medicine — laughter — in her monthly column, The Mother of Mayhem.