By Josie Beets
I am a parent to a one-year old boy and three-year old girl. They are magical beings, and they are cuter than your kids. (Sorry.)
From time to time, my beautiful, joy-filled children are like little foreigners to me, speaking some strange language and hailing from some despotic country with an un-benevolent dictator teaching the children in his/her image. When that moment strikes, I normally can hand them to their dad and let him know I’m going to go stand on the porch and yell “GET OFF MY LAWN.”
The inability to hand off my tiny despotic bundles of joy has generally gone better than I expected. Our weekends have been mostly filled with playdates, birthday parties, and trips to the farmer’s market. Granted, each excursion, no matter how short, has been excruciating, but only very slightly more insane than when we are practicing “man-to-man” rather than “zone” coverage.
But, occasionally, in the midst of handing off only to realize there is no hand off, I have found myself wondering when exactly it was that I decided I wanted kids. My perception (pram through the Park Slope Coop, breastfeeding while the New Pornographers play Celebrate Brooklyn, and co-parenting with your 50-50 partner) has tuned into reality (Wal-Mart tantrums in west central Louisiana, baby’s first Army FreedomFest with Trace Adkins, and always-on, 24/7 parenting).
It is in the moments that a fresh fear approaches me: I worry Neko Case thinks I’m a bad mom.
Neko Case, for those of you who don’t know, is an angel alien sent to us from that place where awesome things are born — Canada. (Technically, she’s American but I think she would agree that culturally she’s Canadian.) Her voice parts seas. Her songs haunt my waking dreams. And she just released a new album, called: The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight. The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You. That title alone launched me into tears on my morning commute — which, truth be told, is not all that difficult. The list of tear-inducing incidents this week include a toilet paper commercial and a really really bad Trent Reznor interview.
On this new album, there is a song, “Nearly Midnight, Honolulu.” She told Steve Inskeep about it on NPR:
“I was waiting for a shuttle to go to the airport and a mother with a little girl who was about 5-ish, I think, and the little girl was singing a song to herself. She’s being cute,” Case says. “And the mom was screaming at her — ‘Just get the F away from me.’ Like, ‘Don’t you ever shut up?!’ And I was like, ‘That’s too close to home.’ ”
The song is a capella, beautiful, and brutal. I was listening on a Tuesday after our first three-day weekend just me and the kids. I had convinced the three-year-old that Neko Case was actually Rapunzel’s mom, so in essence we were listening to the Tangled CD that she was so very politely asking me to play.
During that weekend just past, I was so tired, so hung on and pulled down and needed, that I lost my patience way too many times. It was a low point with no conceivable hand-off. Listening to that song, I saw every snap I made at my little girl, every moment of exhaustion and failed parenting that I couldn’t take back. And it was too much for me to bear.
Neko Case, of course, is doing what every amazing rock god does: she writes songs that we all think are about us. When instead, like most great music, her songs are a mirrors that show us truths about ourselves. Her songs have pulled me from the bottom of a well too many times to measure and have defined every momentous event in recent memory. I sang “Favorite” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SyZJnX-BnPY) to calm myself down while my second was born.
I know that I will keep making parenting mistakes for as long as I am a parent. I am thankful for the opportunity and for music that shows me how I can improve. And I think I’ve got Neko Case on my side. I mean, to counter the beautiful musical observation that led to my anxiety, she does a joke about feeding children to captive tigers on her live album The Tigers Have Spoken that I’ve always loved. Let me be clear, I would never feed my kids to tigers.
And for our next three-day weekend? Road trip to grandma’s, with a soundtrack of Neko Case.
Josie Beets is an attorney, military spouse, and mom. When she’s not at her day job (which she loves – hi boss!) she is Online Editor of the Military Spouse JD Network. You can also follow her on Twitter @JosieBeets.