The Born Identity

August 4, 2010

I was chatting with one of our friends, also a mom of two kids, at lunch this past weekend. She has much older kids – I think they’re 9 and 11 – and so I look to her for hope that one day I will be able to sit and hold a conversation with our friends and enjoy my food instead of bouncing around like a spring with a kid in a baby carrier trying to shovel noodles in my mouth every fifth bounce.

She had already identified all the ways that my son or daughter could be hurt or get into trouble, and with nary a word to each other ahead of time, our hands were meeting at the ends of sharp table corners and keeping small people from falling off chairs mid-sentence. She said, “You know, it never really goes away.”

I’ve decided it is the “Born Identity”. My favorite line from the first movie is: “I can tell you the license plate numbers of all six cars outside. I can tell you that our waitress is left-handed and the guy sitting up at the counter weighs two hundred and fifteen pounds and knows how to handle himself. I know the best place to look for a gun is the cab of the gray truck outside, and at this altitude, I can run flat out for a half mile before my hands start shaking. Now why would I know that? How can I know that and not know who I am?”

From the moment my first child was born, I saw the world through different eyes. Danger where there was none before. Instead of license plates, I see people not paying attention to anything (or anyone) lower than waist height. Instead of the dominant hand of my waitress I see the grandfather who will help pop up one end of my stroller when I get off the subway car. Instead of the guy at the counter, the person who I should not sit next to at the restaurant because my daughter is about to go into “whine-only” mode, and instead of the gun, the pedophile at the park. And I know that at this current moment, in an emergency, I can grab my kids and get away to safety in 35 seconds flat.

I think moms really are kind of like secret agents. Often in high stress situations, we are constantly looking to problem solve, cobbling together solutions from whatever is available within arms reach. I often joke when I have particularly stellar moments of resourcefulness that I am “Mommy MacGyver”. I hope that I’m more MacGyver than MacGruber, but I have my days.

I do wonder sometimes if really pushed, I might find myself saying, like Liam Neeson did in Taken, “I don’t know who you are. I don’t know what you want. If you are looking for ransom, I can tell you I don’t have money. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills; skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. Now lie down and take a nap before I Ferberize your behind.”

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