It’s 6:56 a.m. on a Saturday, and not just any Saturday, but a highly anticipated September day when I’m going to be the best woman at my dear friend’s wedding. But the hair appointments and the back-up pantyhose and the sewing kit and the carefully steamed dresses are all at the back of my mind for the moment. That’s because it’s also the day that comes just three times a year, when Toronto parents register their children for a veritable smorgasbord of inexpensive but highly coveted parks-and-rec programs. In mere moments, the phone lines will be opened, the Internet connections activated, and 347,271 parents will vie for a fraction as many opportunities for their kid to learn how to swim, fold origami birds or read Sanskrit. It’s competitive parenting at its most ruthless, and you’ve got to be prepared — finger on the redial button, mouse ready to pounce.
But it’s four minutes to liftoff, and OUR F’ING COMPUTER HAS CRASHED. “I thought you said we were going to try the phone,” says my husband (a.k.a. lamb being led to slaughter), inadvertently revealing he knew the tired old laptop had conked out the night before, and that he didn’t go though the seven-minute reboot process at that time, when our child’s extracurricular life wasn’t hanging in the balance. A scene unfolds that would make Jerry Springer run for cover, only it’s not the wife whose husband has been banging her best friend who is doing the proverbial chair throwing. It’s me, an otherwise reasonably well-adjusted person who, in this moment, has morphed into a wildly irrational being whose dreams of winter Saturdays at the ski hill (vacations in Vale, raclette in Davos, my son confessing his first crush while we ride the ski lift) are going up in a smoky busy signal that announces, “There will be no parent-and-tot ski lessons for your child, lazy slacker mom!”
When the tantrums subside, it’s crazy-making moments like these that leave us wondering whether motherhood has always been so high-pressure. But compared to our mothers and grandmothers, do we have it tough or do we have it pretty damn good?
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