Sometimes, when you are The Mom, you aren’t winning any popularity contests with your biggest fans and victims of your maternal affection. They will swear that your sole goal in life is to turn them into your servants and make them miserable.
If they only knew….
Once, when my daughter was in her mid teens, she was on a full fledged rant about how the only reason I had her was so that I had a maid.
I agreed, informing her that yes, the only thing on my mind the night she was conceived is that fifteen years from then, I’d have a smart mouthed, lazy, and incompetent maid that cost me a small fortune.
For some reason, she fell silent for a bit.
I smirked, and went back to the chores I was doing. Believe me, anything that causes a daughter to fall silent in the middle of the mother versus daughter teenage war is a blessing, even if the statement is completely and utterly untrue.
On another occasion, featuring the same daughter, my sole daughter and the apple of my eye despite our trials and troubles, we were having a confrontation involving what I was perceiving as a gazillion empty soda cans on the coffee table as a result of her having friends over the night before. I was a fairly liberal mother, and I always figured that friends at our house, well fueled with junk food, soft drinks, and whatever else they deemed edible from the kitchen was a whole lot better than them being who-knew-where-doing-who-knew-what. I wouldn’t even freak over the inevitable mess, at least until the next day, when she was supposed to do KP duty and clean it up.
I’d reminded her that morning, and I’d reminded her again at lunch time. That evening, when the soda cans were STILL decorating the coffee table, I did freak. I didn’t feel that bringing in a trash can and collecting it was unduly difficult. It would take her less than five minutes total. She had had all day to accomplish the chore.
As usual, “smart mouth” came out to play when I wanted to talk to “responsible young lady.” I was tired, I was aggravated, and now I was really angry as she ran her mouth and took off towards the door. I grabbed up soda cans, just as fast as I could, and began firing them at her just as fast as I could. It was a great way to vent the fury and aggravation too.
Now anyone who has ever thrown an empty aluminum soda can knows…you can’t get much velocity on them no matter how hard you throw them. However, the impression of a crazed mother in the living room pitching empty pop cans at you as fast as she can will make a HUGE dent in a teenage girl’s mind.
I left for a bit, as I needed a time out after my unmotherly tantrum. I returned to a spotless living room and two of the most respectful children I had ever imagined. However, to this day, my daughter (now pushing 30 really hard and a mother herself) swears that I left bruises on her with those empty soda cans. I counter with the fact that at 10 feet or more, that is impossible to accomplish, but she refuses to scale down the size of that incident in her mind. Obviously, it left a long lasting dent in her mind!
We had a mutiny on one occasion too, as my daughter enlisted the aid of her younger brother in their combined claims that I NEVER did anything for them. I was dumbfounded–any mother knows, you practically LIVE for your children, single parent or not. Everything I did, I did either directly or indirectly for them!
I called upon my higher self, usually on vacation in some warm, tropical climate during that era…and said, “Okay, I don’t do anything for you? I think you are wrong…so for the next three days, I’m NOT going to do anything for you at all. I’ll only do what I want to do.”
This wasn’t entirely true, I was still going to go to work and earn the money we needed, but…to their eyes, I was going on strike.
It was fine the first day. They dined on ice cream and hot dogs, drinking plenty of soda pop with their meals. I wasn’t doing anything for them, and they were their own bosses. By midday on Day 2, the “good” food (translates to microwavable) food was all gone. I wasn’t cooking or shopping though, and I also wasn’t giving them money to do it themselves. I did go shopping…and bought things for myself. I didn’t do chauffeur work either, which meant they had to walk everywhere they needed to go. No clean clothes for school? Sorry about that, you’ll have to do your laundry, won’t you?
As day three ended, their defiance hadn’t. They were now convinced I was just mean. So we went on another day. By this point, not only is the refrigerator bare, but the pantry shelves weren’t looking too healthy either. Rationing wasn’t their forte, it seems. Neither had been planning, since the mutiny had occurred before our shopping trip had been done.
By day four’s completion, they were over it, and I was glad. I had discovered something else too. While being selfish and only doing for yourself may SOUND like a pleasant day dream, in reality, it felt shallow and meaningless. I didn’t enjoy it at all, and had found it was also incredibly lonely as a selfish person.
When you are a single mom, doing it all and juggling so many things that some days you feel like you need eight arms just to get through the next hour, life is filled with chores and tasks and goals that seem so very far away. It’s hard to imagine that these days are just a passing moment, and that all too quickly, you’ll find yourself sitting and remembering those days as “the good old days” when your kids were young and needed you.
There may be moments of regret, as you remember the times that you weren’t the person you wanted yourself to be. Other times, you’ll think that your life lacks meaning now.
I have to laugh at myself when I start having one of those pity parties, and I shake my head. Just like I have told my daughter often, “You didn’t arrive with an owner’s manual, and your kids won’t either.” It’s followed with other tidbits such as “You do the best you can at that moment, and just resolve to do better next time if you don’t like how it turns out.”
I think about how often I have turned to my mother and grandmother for advice as an adult, and now I look at the person my granddaughter is, and I can’t help but wonder what she will be like as an adult. I want her to remain as beautiful as she is, and I want so much more for her too. To be smart and kind, and most of all, happy. Beauty isn’t enough, nor is intelligence–they both need to be well seasoned with kindness in order to be worth a hoot. Most of all, a truly happy smile can light up any face and turn it into instant beauty, and make all the brains and kindness that much more impressive.
I may not be The Mom anymore, but I hope to be the greatest Grandma to her.