Send Me Into the Woods Alone: Essays on Motherhood208
Send Me Into the Woods Alone: Essays on Motherhood208
Send Me Into The Woods Alone is an honest, heartfelt, and often hilarious collection of essays on the joys, struggles, and complexities of motherhood.
These essays touch on the major milestones of raising children, from giving birth (and having approximately a million hands in your vagina) and taking your beautiful newborn home (and feeling like you’ve stolen your baby from the hospital), to lying to kids about the Tooth Fairy and mastering the subtle art of beating children at board games. Plus the pitfalls of online culture and the #winemom phenomenon, and the unattainable expectations placed on mothers today.
Written from the perspective of an always tired, often anxious, and reluctant suburbanite who is doing her damn best, these essays articulate one woman’s experience in order to help mothers of all kinds process the wildly variable, deeply different ways in which being a mom changes our lives.
Reading Pepler’s essays is like hanging out with your best mom-friend—the one who puts it all out there, makes you feel normal and has you laughing so hard you pee a bit."—Kim Shiffman, editor-in-chief, Today's Parent
"Easily the most validating book you’ll read this year."—Ann Douglas, author of Happy Parents, Happy Kids and The Mother of All Pregnancy Books
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The Slow and Tragic Death of Santa Claus
Tiptoeing into my daughter’s bedroom in the middle of the night, I stop to listen for the sound of slow, deep breathing that tells me she’s truly asleep. I hear the thick hum of children dreaming and carefully move forward. There are toys everywhere, piles of books beside the bed. Our cat stares at me in confusion and I will him not to move, lest he wake the child he’s curled up beside.
There’s a subtle shift in position from the small frame on the bed, and I drop silently to my knees. The stillness quickly returns, but I know my time may be short. More panicked than I should ever be in my own home, I quickly place a chocolate bunny at the foot of her bed and leave a trail of Easter eggs back to the door, practically flying back into the hallway. Fuck yeah, I did it! Now I have to successfully repeat the same mission in my son’s room. Only then will I go to sleep—victorious, but also worried the treats will attract bugs in the night.
Just another night as Mom, the keeper of magical lies.
I am of two hearts about the mythical beings of childhood. There’s nothing like seeing your kids’ faces light up with joy at the sight of the Easter Bunny’s chocolate eggs or presents from Santa. A visit from the Tooth Fairy brings them far more pleasure than it should, given the terrifying concept of a small, winged creature making off with teeth in the middle of the night. My own childhood memories are tied up in these moments—Easter egg hunts, digging into a stocking on Christmas morning, coins under my pillow where a tooth used to be—and I’ve done my best to create those memories for my own kids. I want them to feel the same thrilling anticipation when they know magic is near, however strange or unbelievable it might be, willing themselves to fall asleep so they can wake up to something extraordinary.
So I put in the work to make holidays special for my family. I’ve carried on my family’s traditions and helped create our own. I’ve snuck into dark rooms more times than I can count, snatched teeth from under pillows, baked cookies with overtired children on Christmas Eve, chewed on carrots left for reindeer, forged letters from St. Nick, and feigned surprise when my children delightedly told me about these things the next morning.
I’m also over it. I’m more or less ready for my kids to figure out that, much like the Great and Powerful Oz, holiday magic is just me creating illusions from behind a curtain. I may be a fraudster, but I’m one with good intentions.
I’ve never told my kids that Santa is real. I’ve certainly implied it—particularly when I leave special gifts under the tree and sign them Love, Santa—but I’ve never flat-out argued on behalf of his existence. Between school, commercials, pop culture, and grandparents, they’ve been thoroughly sold on the existence of the jolly gift-giver. I just haven’t done anything to make them believe otherwise. And when they ask questions? I become a master avoider. I gaslight the hell out of my children about Christmas, and I will continue to do so until they force me to answer with a simple yes or no.
“Mama,” my younger child has asked me. “Is Santa real?”
“Hmmm,” I reply seriously. “What makes you ask?”
“Because there’s no way Santa can get all the way around the world in one night, and he always leaves exactly what we want, every year. And reindeer can’t actually fly.”
“Those are interesting points,” I concede. “What do you think?”
“Well, I think it’s you, because we tell Santa what we want, and he gets it. But also, the stockings. The stockings always have our favourite stuff, and we’ve never asked Santa for any of that. He wouldn’t know. But you know.”
“I do know what you like,” I admit. “But part of the magic of Christmas is believing.”
“Do you believe in Santa?” my son asks. I hesitate, then answer slowly.
“I believe in the magic of Christmas, and maybe part of that means choosing to believe in Santa. Not thinking about logic or what makes sense, and just believing in the spirit of Christmas. So in that sense, I choose to believe.”
“But you’re the one that brings the presents and does the stockings, probably,” my son begins, then changes course optimistically. “Or maybe you tell Santa what we like?”
“Anything is possible,” I say with a shrug. “You can choose to believe whatever you want to. Do you want to believe in Santa?”
“Yeah, but I think it’s you.”
“Well, maybe just enjoy Christmas then and try not to worry so much.”
He’s satisfied with this, for now, and exudes happiness on Christmas Day.
My older child is either a hardcore believer or a really good faker. Likely it’s a bit of both; she wants to believe in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny so badly that she convinces herself they’re real, no matter the evidence. When her brother questions the existence of Santa’s elves, she is horrified. She tells me about the kids in her class who don’t believe and seems incredulous, but other times she gives me a wink that suggests she knows more than she lets on. Shortly before Easter one year, she casually mentioned how much she liked those chocolate carrots the Easter Bunny had brought last year. Then, looking me dead in the eye: “It would be really great if we got those again this year. You know?”
I smiled and laughed, raising an eyebrow. “Suggestion noted.”
Table of ContentsIntroduction: Motherhood has some universal truths, but it’s a wildly variable experience with many different paths to get you there. Also, Penny from Dirty Dancing did not have appendicitis, as I’d assumed.
The Miracle of Life and Other Feats of Strength: Growing and birthing a human being is no joke, and it’s not always a good time—but yes, it’s worth it.
A Million Hands In One Vagina: A personal essay on letting student doctors into your vagina so they can learn, and being in labour for over 50 hours.
When The Baby Snatcher Is You: Walking out of the hospital with a newborn can feel a whole lot like kidnapping an infant, even when you know the infant is yours. Now take that baby home and raise it to adulthood! No pressure.
Lullabies From Pop Radio: Pop songs can be perfect lullabies—especially if your kids don’t know any better.
Everyone Lies On The Internet: Everyone lies on the Internet, including moms, and it’s making it harder for all of us to feel good about ourselves and our parenting.
The Art of Beating Kids at Board Games: Playing with your kids doesn’t have to involve dolls or imaginary play—sometimes, it means crushing them at Monopoly or chess (and then, feeling proud when they start crushing you).
Something Terrible is Going To Happen To Your Family: A personal essay on motherhood and anxiety.
Interludes in My Driveway: Sometimes, a mom just needs to sit in her car in her own driveway and pause before going on with the rest of her life.
The Thing You Love Most Isn’t Always Fun: Being a parent can be really lovely at times. Those times are pretty rare.
I Want To Be A Park Dad: A woman imagines what it’s like to be a dad at the park for just one day.
My Feral Child, My Love: There’s something wonderful about raising a child who is perfectly, terrifyingly wild at heart.
Zombie Rats: A personal essay on catching an injured rat in Tupperware.
The Slow and Tragic Death of Santa Claus: Being a parent means being the keeper of magical lies of childhood: Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy.
The Suburban Dream: A city woman moves to the suburbs and falls apart, but eventually finds her way.
You’re Not Superwoman And That’s Okay: There are impossible expectations on women in life and in motherhood, and we’re set up to fail. No person can do it all, and that’s okay.
Places I Have Failed: Sometimes, you set out to teach your kids about the world and then realize you’ve taught them very little about a lot of important things.
Why Mommy Drinks: A personal essay on the demeaning and damaging effect #WineMom culture can have on women.
My Job Is Not A Hobby: No matter how hard women work or how much they achieve, they are forever treated as support staff to their husband’s CEO.
Sure, I'm A Painter: Trying to get to the bottom of why my son inexplicably thinks I'm a professional painter.
Watch Me Hold A Grudge: A man insulted my toddler son in 2015 and I’m still mad.
Send Me Into The Woods Alone: Even if you love your family more than anything in the world, the idea of hiding in the cabin in the woods for a few days is extremely tempting.
All Tragedy Is Yours: When you’re a parent, you absorb the grief of other parents in an act of empathy. While this can be painful, it also makes us better in a lot of ways.
Your Parents Were Never Old: It’s easier to have perspective on your childhood and your own parents when you’re looking back and seeing things more clearly.
I Don’t Want To Sleep Through The Night Anymore: Getting the thing you want sometimes means missing what you used to have — even sleepless nights with a young child.
Babies Are Going To Smash The Patriarchy: If every generation does things a little differently and a little better than the last, then our kids are going to be the ones to break down walls and smash the patriarchy (or so a mom can hope).
Please Don't Grow Up to Be Assholes: As a mother, I have one request of my kids: please, don’t grow up to be assholes.