To follow is an exclusive interview with one of the authors of Just 18 Summers, Rene Gutteridge, conducted by herself, about herself, for the self promotion of her book about her parenting self. Warning: Reader discretion advised. Some of this content may be highly offensive to those of you who came out of the womb with all maternal instincts intact.
Rene: Thanks for agreeing to be interviewed today. Now, you’ve just written a novelization on parenting, based on a script written by Marshal Younger, Michelle Cox and Torry Martin, which was based on Michelle Cox’s original idea. I’m assuming before they asked you to write this novelization, you were thoroughly interviewed to assure them of your qualifications as a parent.
Me: Absolutely. They asked, “Do you have kids?” I’m like, “Yeah.” And they’re like, “Cool. You’re in.”
Rene: That doesn’t really sound like an extensive vetting process.
Me: Well, I mean, I’ve got pictures of my kids all over my Facebook page, so automatically it’s clear that I’m totally qualified.
Rene: How do we know those are even your kids?
Me: Look, have I airbrushed dirt off their faces when I’m trying to get that perfect family picture? Sure. Guilty. But otherwise, I mostly just yell at them to smile for the camera or we’ll be out here for as long as it takes. And not the fake smiles either.
Rene: Okay…well, maybe we should start from the beginning. What’s one of your earliest motherhood memories of your first child?
Me: I remember being so overjoyed. And so afraid too. I was in charge of a little bitty human being! I didn’t want to leave the hospital. It was so scary to think of doing this on my own, without the nurses giving me guidance. I remember one really nice nurse was encouraging me as she was showing me how to properly clean his belly button stub. I said, “I’m just so afraid it’s going to get infected!” And she said, “Sweetie, the belly button is the easiest part. It will be just fine, I promise.” So we left the hospital and drove home in this horrible rainstorm, almost getting into a wreck. I was pretty frazzled and swore I wasn’t going to leave the house ever again. I settled down a bit as he slept. Then it was time to change his first diaper. I had the whole changing station perfectly arranged with wipes and diapers and creams and everything else I might need. He was screaming like crazy on that table. The next thing I know, there is a stream of urine arching high like a rainbow, then coming down…right into his mouth.
Rene: He drank his own urine?
Me: Not willfully, sheesh. You make it sound so…yeah, it was bad. Crying hysterically, I rushed him to my husband and immediately called the hospital that I’d just been discharged from—the one that said we’d be fine. They transferred me to the nurse’s station and I didn’t even really know how to word it in a way that wouldn’t get my parent card revoked. But I just came out and said it. “My son just peed in his mouth.” I held my breath, ready to hear the worst news, that we were going to have to rush him to the hospital. The nurse on the other end said, “Honey, he’s been drinking his urine for nine months. He’ll be fine.” So, that was my first full day as a mom.
Rene: Wow. Well, accidents do happen, I guess. But everything else went OK?
Me: Yeah, for about four days, until we had our first pediatric appointment, where the doctor informed me his belly button was infected.
Rene: I thought that was virtually impossible.
Me: According to available data, yes. I must’ve said, “I swear I’ve been swabbing it with alcohol,” forty times in that little exam room. We actually had to go see a specialist. It’s a little known sub-sub specialty of physicians who are experts in catastrophically incompetent parents. Thankfully, it’s almost always covered by insurance.
Rene: Well, there’s a learning curve to be expected on the first child. By the second one, things surely got easier. You have a daughter too.
Me: Yeah, I mean, I thought so. No stubs got infected. She didn’t eat anything meant for our pets. So I felt good about myself, you know? But then my mom pointed out when she was two that she probably needed her eyes checked. And I said, “How do you know that?” And my mom said, in the nicest of ways, “I’ve noticed she holds everything about two inches from her face to look at it. And also her eyes are crossed.” I was with my daughter every day. How could I not notice that? But at least I haven’t, you know, lost my kids at Disney World.
Rene: You haven’t taken them to Disney World.
Me: The point is, I’ve done some things right.
Rene: On a scale from 1 to 10, how much are you going to fudge these examples?
Me: I’d say a seven, because I’m going to pretend that everything I did right came from the maternal instincts all girls are supposedly born with.
Rene: Where did they come from?
Me: Parent magazines. The Today Show. Watching my friends make it look easy and then me trying to fake it.
Rene: At the risk of your parenting skills making Octomom look like Mrs. Cleaver, was there anything you did right?
Rene: Anything at all?
Me: Hold on, I’m thinking.
Rene: It’s just getting awkward.
Me: Got it. Every night I tuck them into their beds and tell them that I love them. And I tell them that God loves them and that there is a purpose and plan for their lives. I tell them I’m sorry when I fail them. I tell them there are always second and third and thousands of chances when they fail me. I tell them that no matter what happens, God will never leave them or forsake them, and that if they ever get in trouble, He will hear their prayers. I pray for them every day. I teach them to pray for others. I show them all the opportunities they have in their lives to be compassionate to others. I point out how much they bless me. I ask them to bless other people. I remind them that tomorrow is a new day, filled with brand new mercies and grace.
Rene: Uh,wow…that was kind of poignant. Do you have any other words of wisdom for fellow parents out there?
Me: “Motherhood ain’t for sissies.”
Rene: I would quote you on that, but you’re a professional writer and you used the word ain’t.
Me: My kids aren’t even allowed to say that word under my roof. It’s sort of like cussing.
Rene: So I guess all this is leading me to ask the question, when you wrote Just 18 Summers, which parent did you identify with the most?
Me: I suppose the manic one. No, maybe the worrywart. Now that I think about it, I’m more like the strict disciplinarian. I’m like the kitten-downed version of Tiger Mom. I know I don’t look all that tough, but you should see me when I find underwear on the floor. You can guarantee that I won’t see underwear on the floor again at least until the next time they take them off.
Rene: So what you’re saying is that Just 18 Summers will give hope to parents everywhere?
Me: Oh yeah. You’ll totally feel good about yourself when you’re done with this book. And more importantly, you’ll begin to see every summer you have with your kids in an entirely new light.
Rene: You just enrolled your first born in high school. How was that?
Me: Tearful. Just yesterday he was peeing in his own mouth. Look at him now.
Rene: Time flies.
Me: And summers get shorter with every day that they grow older.
Rene: I’m afraid to ask, but any parting words?
Me: Hang in there. Someday you’ll get to be a grandparent and make up for everything.