The Mother/Daughter Dynamic + Caregiving
Mom’s been talking about buying these barstools for under the counter for a few months now. She wanted chairs with a height control so her elderly body wouldn’t have to crouch to sit down. Mom’s been saving up to buy them.
And I put myself right in the middle. Husband held protests to prevent any-more-furniture. But still, I was able to convince him that 4 bar stools were a good idea. Besides, she really, really wanted them. I helped her buy them from one of those huge online sites that has cheap furniture. She was happy: hers had an adjustable lever thingy so the chairs could go up and down or swivel.
Today they arrived and I didn’t hesitate to set them up. Turned out, they needed pretty much full assembly. And a vacuum because they sucked up the rest of my afternoon.
There were a few barriers to their assembly…
#1: A Football Field’s Worth of Bubble Wrap:
It’s usually the other way around: internet bought stuff typically comes barely clinging to the box. But not these chairs. Created by a company that has ‘America’ in its name, they were built in China. And they wrapped it up like a mummy so that they could get back to the U.S. So well, in fact, that it took me 25 minutes to unwrap each chair. 25 minutes each.
#2: the Infant. He’s 11 months old and he screeches. A lot. It is a loud, high-pitched screech, one that bounces off the walls. I am certain that his screeches are my karmic payback for any time that I have ever judged a crying kid in a restaurant.
When the Infant is having a hard day, he screeches. Like today. Today, he must have been cutting a nasty tooth because he was been screeching all day long. He screeched when I put him in his playpen. He screeched when he was in his high chair. Sometimes he did it just to test his volume. He screeches and screeches.
He wanted to be held. I don’t blame him. Ordinarily this would not be a problem. I would love to hold him all day long either in my arms or the baby carrier. He’s a big slobbery bundle of love. But I chose to put together the chairs instead and needed the free arms.
And when I gave up after hearing too many screeches and let him toddle around, he went straight to “help me”. Nothing, aside from the screeches, can be more exciting than mounds and mounds of squishy bubble wrap. Then I was wrestling a drooling, wobbly baby while screwing together a chrome chair.
#3: the After Effects of Ordering Crappy Online Products that Entice with Low Prices and Great Pictures:
After I managed to assemble two of them and try to give each a good sit, neither one were functional. One chair had a missing part. The other didn’t swivel the way it was designed to swivel. I called the company. They tried to convince me that I should assemble the other two chairs so that they would know how many replacement parts to send. No dice. This time, after investing too much time and swear words, I had had enough. I made up my mind to return them. It was over.
I called the ‘returns’ 800 number and quick as a ninja, I shoved the chairs back into boxes. As I did, I grew mad. Questions bubbled up, like, why did I go along with this? Surely, Mom wasn’t putting the chairs together. Why did I do this for her? How far will I go to please her? Is it worth a whole afternoon of my time? Time was so scarce as it is.
Then I realized that she has always had this bewitching effect on me. All she has to do is suggest something and then I end up doing it. It's automatic now, maybe.
Yes, I am my own woman now. I answer to no one. But, I guess in some ways I still do.
I do most of the errands for my mom. I schedule the doctor’s appointments. I cook the dinners. But she still has a way with me. I guess all it took was cheap online chairs to bring it all forward. Acting as her caregiver blurs the lines and the roles we assign ourselves, so it seems.