Toddler Tantrums and Lost Dentures: Mama in the Middle
~By Annie Swingen, SwirleyTime.
Chances are, you and I have never met in person. But if you’ve seen me out, I’m sure you’d remember me. I’m the woman at Dominick’s trying to catch a little boy maniacally darting in and out of the aisles while a cane-wielding woman attempts to bring up the rear. I’m the mom whose 2-year-old is screaming, “Walk away, Mama!” while at the same time my own mother is yelling, “Leave me alone, Annie!” Yes, dear readers, I’m a bona fide member of the sandwich generation – taking care of both my toddler and mom – and I’m barely hanging on.
My little guy’s name is Ellis, although for some inexplicable reason he has recently started responding to “Charlie.” One of his favorite past times is calling attention to my boobs in public, referring to any girl whose skin is darker than porcelain white as “Emily” out of visually impaired loyalty to his best friend, and sleeping on the floor ever since he “transitioned” to his toddler bed. We often lock him in his room at night until he falls asleep. Judge all you want, but I am getting a solid eight hours of uninterrupted rest and he has yet to show any sign of developing a complex. Not that I’m looking terribly hard.
My mom, Ardie, meanwhile, generally leaves my boobs out of the conversation but gives me an equally difficult time. She was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) in 1987 at the age of 29 and since then, both her physical and mental health have continued to deteriorate. In 2009, Ardie moved to the Chicagoland area in an effort to streamline her care and improve everyone’s quality of life. And that’s where I come in.
My mom would probably disagree when I tell you that she has benefited from the move, but she has. She’d disagree either because it’s a hobby of hers or because she’s still mad at me for not letting her get another perm. Trust me, a permed mullet is way past ironic at this point, even in Wicker Park.
Unfortunately for everyone involved, Ardie’s psychological state has caused a real crap-storm of chaos over the past few months. Just some of the fun times we’ve had lately include her multiple calls to the police regarding allegedly stolen hair curlers, her gradual morphing into the bag lady from Labyrinth, and three lost (or as she claims, stolen) dental plates, all of which have been replaced by yours truly at $500 a pop. I work with her psychologist to help stabilize her mental state but sometimes, meaning mostly all the time, there’s nothing to do but sigh. And even laugh. Sometimes.
Even with all of the wacky travails in my life right now, at the end of the day I do what lots of parents do; I chronicle the notable moments on my blog, watch TV, or do both simultaneously when I’m too lazy to get up and turn the off TV or replace the remote batteries. To add to the repertoire, I’ll also be hanging out here with you on Families in the Loop every month, sharing stories about grocery shopping escapades, police visits, arguments with store clerks citywide, and all of the other adventures that make my parenting experiences both similar and unique to yours.
So next time you see me at Dominick’s, chasing a screaming toddler and avoiding the tip of my mom’s cane, make sure to watch your toes. And feel free to throw me a smile and wave hi as I and my wild little entourage pass on by.
About Annie Swingen
Annie resides in the Wicker Park neighborhood with her husband, Lee, and two-year old son, Ellis (aka EK). Originally from Wisconsin, she moved to Chicago in 2008 and has since embraced her new Illini identity. With that said, she and her husband are intent raising EK to be a packer fan who isn’t ashamed to put ketchup on his hotdogs.