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Friday, May 12, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Northwest Lite

Fear not, Mama Brit: I'm a sage 4 U

Special to The Seattle Times

I lean toward distraction while pretending to be captivated by my son's Little League games. Yesterday, we baseball moms were comparing 911 calls, when talk turned to the misadventures of Britney Spears. I opined that the much-maligned Britney is just another new mom in desperate need of some been-there-done-that advice. Forget hiring that fancy male pediatrician to give her an in-home pep talk — "You'll be fine" — he's lying! Motherhood is an extreme sport few men have the right to comment on.

In honor and recognition of Britney's first Mother's Day, and in anticipation of her becoming a mother again soon, I offer the following friendly advice for the perilous road ahead.

Dear Britney,

Wow, it's your first Mother's Day already!

It seems like only yesterday you were all dressed up in your schoolgirl uniform and hanging out on MTV. It is tough having a kid, huh? Brace yourself — it doesn't get any easier, but there are high points: naptime, bedtime, all-day kindergarten ... wait, I'm kidding. There's other stuff; give me a sec.

The hardest part of motherhood is the creepy feeling that you are being watched — because you are. Forget the paparazzi; they're pushovers compared to the strangers, friends, family and, in your case, social-services employees who feel entitled to tell you, or strongly imply, that you are "doing it wrong." (By the way, I envy your paparazzi following. Think of them as keepers of your family archives. You will never have to make things up to fill your precious son's empty baby book.)

You will be judged for sins ranging from pacifier use (the baby's, not yours) to microwaving instead of baking Costco chicken nuggets, to that uncomfortable moment in the doctor's office when you pull out a calculator to answer, "How much TV does your child watch in a day?" This sad reality can destroy you or make you stronger. To survive, you'll need a strategy, trusted advisers (think entourage) and a Plan B. Good mothers always have a Plan B, even when they don't.

As a celebrity, you fall into the Mothers with Special Needs category. You have a public image to protect, or resurrect. You'll need to embrace a cause, quickly, before all the good mommy ones are gone. Angelina grabbed adoption, while Gwyneth and Kate are fighting over the title Mother Nature. Go for something edgy, but not cuckoo, like La Leche League spokesperson. Public breastfeeding needs a high-profile advocate, and it may even reenergize your male fan base. Don't think for a minute that regular moms give you extra credit for this burden. It simply makes up the points you lose for having so much help.

Choose your entourage/advisers wisely, letting each situation be your guide. When Junior refuses to eat or poop, and also happens to have a bead in his nose, push past that male pediatrician of yours to his (invariably) female pediatric nurse. This is the woman who will tell you how to remove the bead, open his mouth and uncork the ... you know. If you want to see how little Sean stacks up developmentally compared with other children — something your doctor will never answer directly — head to the nearest Nordstrom. Here in the quiet serenity of the nursing lounge you can size up the other kids under the pretense of idle chatter. Don't be shy; that's really the only reason anyone is in there.

In a blink, Sean will be walking and talking, which brings a new set of challenges. You may want to practice lip-syncing (I won't tell), or take a tip from "Akeelah and the Bee" and brush up on your spelling; otherwise your child will repeat the secrets you speak out loud at the worst possible time.

While you're at it, put your new best friends at 911 and the poison-control center on speed dial — you're going to need it. One day soon, you, or more likely your nanny, will misplace your child momentarily. This could happen in Toys R Us at Christmas (me) or worse, near the exit at Heathrow Airport (my best friend). Do the right thing: panic. Other mommies will spring into action, while you, calmer now, have all the exits blocked and describe your escape artist. Once your charge is safe in your arms again, you will feel a warm fuzzy glow of Mommy camaraderie. Snap out of it, because even as they help you, they are judging you.

Now about that Plan B. There is no Plan B; you'll be lucky to think of, much less act on, Plan A. Don't freak out on me now. You'll do what the rest of us do: improvise. You will become Mommy MacGyver, using gum to remove pennies from seat-belt buckles and creating diapers from T-shirts and Target bags. Miraculously, you will know exactly what to say when your child is scared or hurt or curious — even if you are dead wrong.

After a while, you will enjoy the pain and rewards of motherhood so much that you'll think it's time you did it again ... oops!

Heija Nunn is a humor and essay writer living on the Eastside: Heija@heija.com

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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