My worst nightmares revolve around being unprepared. Really. One of the recurring dreams involves me not being dressed appropriately for a black-tie event that is already underway. I run through an endless hotel hallway in my sweats trying to find my child and formal dresses for both of us. All the while people are telling me I’m too worried.
This scene is ridiculous, irrational and quite simply, me. I thrive on preparedness and control, two things that are hard to achieve when you have a child. Mr. Embee likes that I’m prepared–I think–and he’s a great cook, which is how we decided to ready ourselves for the end of the world, a.k.a parenthood. When I was about eight months pregnant, it started to sink in that life with a newborn would be no cakewalk. Mr. Embee took it upon himself to cook up a storm and freeze everything. We had homemade lasagnas, taco pockets and Bolognese sauce. Then we went and purchased every frozen dinner we could carry out of Costco. We crammed it all into our freezer like the world’s coldest Tetris game and called ourselves prepared.
Eighteen months later, Mr. Embee was chucking meatloaf into the garbage can. We knew it was from the Dark Time because it was vacuum-packed and labeled “Apocalypse.” Not really. Anyway, we’d eaten about a quarter of our stash. In hindsight, we may have over-prepared. Like most of our life, things had gone differently than we’d expected. We held my parents hostage for the first two weeks of Sally’s life and they prepared every meal. And snacks. After that, when your husband repeatedly comes home to find you sitting in the dark, still in your pajamas and feeding the baby in the glider, AGAIN, he learns to order takeout.
Still, I continue to over-prepare out of fear of being caught with my pants down (I’ve had that dream, too). This often presents itself as multiple purchases of the same item. Sally became attached to a particular blanket very early in life. She now owns seven in varied colors. At 10 months she claimed a stuffed duck as her bedtime attachment object. I decided to use ducks as the theme for her first birthday party and bought eight more. Some were given away as favors but we have no fewer than four in our home. . . . And one at daycare. A few weeks ago she fell in love with a particular dress and wanted to wear it every day. So I bought two more (one in a larger size in case the obsession continues long-term). I shouldn’t have. She knows there is an extra and that this means she can wear the dress twice before he has to settle for an inferior ensemble.
I carry extra teeny underwear in my purse. I carry an arsenal of over-the-counter pain killers. I always have a BandAid. I have spare pudding and brownie mixes so that I can whip up a dessert at a moment’s notice. . . you know, in case one of you shows up at my door. I keep five dollars in the glove compartment (something Dad taught me – always have enough money for a gallon of gas). Yesterday I came across my passport, still in my maiden name. I had an urge to get online and apply for a new one even though I have absolutely no plan to leave the country. I thought it’d be handy, just in case.
Before Sally was potty trained, I routinely assumed an exploding diaper would occur every 30 minutes. That never actually happened. Still, I shoved enough diapers into my carry-on that when we were stranded in an airport during a storm I was able to donate one to another parent. Those moments don’t happen often but when they do, they fuel my neurosis. Every other useless act of preparation seems totally justified and I feel like the Martha Stewart of moms.
Of course, life is life and often no amount of preparation can help you. That’s when I end up tearing my hair out because there’s an accident on the highway and I’m late for daycare pickup. Or the meal I prepared is (sometimes literally) shoved back in my face and deemed “gross.” No matter. I will go on trying to be the most prepared mom in town, if only to relish in those moments when I do have everything I need when I need it.
Goldfish cracker, anyone? And when you’re done I have a wipe for you.