Face the emotional issues

Book excerpt from "The Perfect Stranger"

Around this time the doorbell rings, signaling the changing of the guard. And there she is, carrying a takeout cup of tea-- the tag on a string draped over the side--and a couple of warm muffins in a sack for the kids. Fragrant, ample of bosom, put together. Awake now for two hours at least, time enough to get here from a distant and very different neighborhood, she's in step with the day, in control, ready for anything. The children streak toward her and grab her legs, crowding her about the hips. And as she moves through the house, the kids trailing behind, asking for Cheerios/raisins/juice (for they know there's a very good chance that she can actually meet their needs; that's why she's here), she glances left and right, assessing all that must be done. Not just the beds to make and the littered, gummy surfaces to wipe down, but the jazzed toddlers who need settling and focusing, and the irritable mother who must be transitioned out of the scene intact so that the day can officially get under way. It is time now for you to move on, feeling good about the arrangement you have made and confident that the woman you have chosen to care for your children is as perfect as she seems. And is in no way a threat to your role as Mom.

Then you head for the door with newspaper and keys, a study in shades of black and gray. At which point, as if on cue, your son races toward you with butter-smeared paws and a board book about a duck family that he'd like you to read to him. What could be better? What could be more delicious than taking a little time out for that? But the skirt is expensive and the meeting is in an hour--what choice have you got but to turn him away?

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