I am not going to judge Mrs. Federline.
Britney Spears has had another mothering incident. On April 1, her tot took a spill in the care of a nanny. Though examined that day at home by a doctor (house calls!), Britney and her husband brought the baby to the emergency room six days later to have him checked out. The paperwork generated by the emergency visit resulted in child protective services appearing at the pop tart’s door this week since California law says domestic accident injuries involving kids have to be checked out.
This event came on the heels of a February story, when the singer was photographed driving her car with her infant son in her lap–no car seat, no seat belt. The social workers showed up then as well, tipped off by the photo. Spears claimed she was making an emergency getaway from the paparazzi. She admitted it was a stupid thing to do.
At first I thought, oy, what is she doing? But then I thought being a new mother is nerve wracking enough without paparazzi. I’ve never had paparazzi chase me–but I’ve been a new mother (four times). Unlike Mrs. Federline, none of my mothering mistakes have ever made it to the gossip pages.
Why just today, I was ushering three of my four kids out of the minivan and my six-year old decided to sit in his seat reading a comic book. If it’s one thing for which I have zero tolerance, it’s parking lot nonsense. I had a twenty pound baby on my hip and an errand to complete before picking up our nine-year-old from tae kwon do. The first grader was supposed to hop out of the car and take his older sister’s hand. Since he didn’t, I grabbed his arm and pulled him out.
“Owwwwww!” He wailed, the most injured child in the history of pain, eliciting stares from shoppers all over the lot.
I knew everyone around me was thinking: What’s that monster doing to that skinny little boy? He was gripping the upper arm which I’d accidentally pinched in my haste. The injury also caused him to bend over at an acute forty-five degree angle and limp–a broken little man.
Then I looked at my eleven month old. He’s got a bump on his head from cruising. He crawls to the furniture, stands up, smiles, then keels over. Ninety percent of the times he does this, he’s okay. Ten percent of the time–not so good.
The first few months of his life he looked like Edward Scissorhands because he was always scratching his face with his tiny sharp nails that I never had a chance to clip because I couldn’t do it when he was awake and, when he was asleep, I was so happy, I was not going to be in there clipping his nails and possibly waking him up. I could be working. Or bathing, or eating, or collapsing.
When our daughter (our first child) was about eighteen months old, she tipped over a glass at my mom’s house and a little piece of glass nicked her wrist.
Within moments, we had two parents, one grandmother and an aunt running through the streets of New York with one little tyke in a stroller all the way to the emergency room. Luckily it was quiet day there and they saw us coming. A couple of paramedics were chatting just inside the entrance and they signaled us over away from the official sign in desk.
They looked at her tiny arm, gave us a Band-aid and sent us away. We were overreacting. But perhaps if we had gone through the admissions process and had a paper trail, child services would have shown up at our house as well. And there would have been nothing to report but, since we’re not famous like Britney Spears, (although my husband has won three Emmys, hosted an HBO show, and starred on Broadway–still, he’s no Britney), our incident didn’t make the papers.
In my almost twelve years of motherhood, I’ve lost a child in Central Park (two minutes, terrifying, found him.). I’ve called the pediatrician in hysterics because one of our babies knocked into a table and got a goose egg bump the size of a goose egg (those cartoonish lumps that rise up before your eyes). I’ve also occasionally sent kids to school with wet hair…even in winter (don’t tell my mother), and I’ve packed jelly sandwiches in their lunchboxes on days I need to grocery shop.
So I’m not going to judge Mrs. Federline.
I hope she takes advantage of this fleeting time with her baby. He’ll be up and around in no time, then in school. These first years are precious and I wish her nothing but the best.
–Susan Konig, a journalist, is author of Why Animals Sleep So Close to the Road (And Other Lies I Tell My Children).