Mommy Piñata Syndrome

pinataThe flu is on every mom’s mind these days.  Apparently, mutations to one of the active strains of the virus have rendered this year’s vaccine less effective.  That’s why you and your family and all of your friends and neighbors are getting sick, whether you were vaccinated or not.  At this rate, the flu might become almost as serious of a threat as Mommy Piñata Syndrome.

What?  You’ve never heard of Mommy Piñata Syndrome?  I guess I have some explaining to do.

Mommy Piñata Syndrome is a condition that I self-diagnosed in the greeting card area at Target one day last year.  I was shopping for birthday cards and came across one with a picture of a piñata on the front.  Piñatas are usually associated with birthday parties, but this little guy wasn’t dangling from the ceiling, full of candy.  He was lying on a psychiatrist’s couch saying, “The sick part is, I kind of like it when they hit me.”

Ironic, right?  For most of us, the idea of blindfolded partygoers taking turns bashing us with a stick is extremely unpleasant.  But a piñata is built especially for that purpose.  The birthday beat down is his opportunity to fulfill his destiny – to do what he was made to do.  And that can feel very rewarding, even though it’s also rather painful.  Who knew a piñata could be so masochistic?  And why did I feel like I was identifying with him?

Because I have Mommy Piñata Syndrome!  Don’t get me wrong – this has nothing to do with domestic violence or physical abuse or anything like that.  It’s just the emotional thumping that we moms inevitably suffer in the course of our everyday duties.  You see, we really put our hearts into raising children and running households, and when you do that, you’re bound to get your feelings hurt once in a while.

Like when you’re making dinner and your kids walk into the kitchen and say, “Ewww, what’s that smell?”  BAM!  Or when your child says loudly in public, “Remember that time you made me go to school and it turned out I had strep throat?” THWAK!  Or when you pick out something for your teenager at the mall and she says, “No offense, but it looks like something you’d wear.”  KAPOW!

It’s not just the debilitating one-two punches that contribute to Mommy Pinata Syndrome.  Routine wear and tear can really shred your crepe paper as well.  When your child awakens you at 2:00 a.m. with a Very Important Issue on her mind, what do you do?  You get up and talk it out.  Then she drifts off to sleep, while you lie awake worrying until dawn.  MOAN.  Or how about your efforts to encourage your son to read?  You spend an hour carefully selecting a book you’re sure he’ll like, then he spends just a minute flipping through it and says, “It looks boring.”  GROAN.  Back to the library!

And that’s just it – no matter what, we moms keep going back for more.  We really want everyone to eat well, stay healthy and sleep soundly, and we feel it’s our duty to continue trying until we succeed.  It’s what we’re made to do, and like a piñata at a birthday party, we find satisfaction by fulfilling our destiny, no matter how many lumps and bumps we acquire in the process.

Alas, there’s no cure for Mommy Piñata Syndrome, but many moms have found that group therapy – in the form of a girls’ night out, book club meeting or the like – can help alleviate the symptoms.  In extreme cases, one-on-one counseling with a skilled professional – such as a long phone conversation with the patient’s own mother – may be prescribed.

Ironically, the most effective treatment of all comes straight from the source of the affliction.  Anecdotal evidence is scarce, but I can share one example:  Three days before Halloween, I realized that the fleece character hat I had ordered for my daughter – the central element of her costume – would not arrive in time for trick or treating.  In true Mommy Piñata form, I assured her that this was not a problem, because I could easily drop everything and MAKE a hat just like it.  She looked doubtful.  I headed for the fabric store and, in the waning hours before Halloween, managed to create a reasonable facsimile.  She tried it on and said, “It’s perfect!  I can’t believe it!”  A moment later she added, “And it’s even more special, because you made it.  Thank you.”  I’ve been in remission ever since.

So the good news is there’s hope for all of you Mommy Piñatas out there.  The bad news is we still have at least a month of flu season ahead of us.  Stay well.

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