Pages

Monday, May 09, 2016

N Is For Normal

I can't remember exactly what precipitated it, but in a moment of frustration early in his childhood, Jared (my eldest) landed this salvo, "Can't you just be Normal like other mothers?!" He was of elementary school age--that much I do remember--so his need for acceptance was understandable. The fact that it was in the Early Nineties makes it even more poignant for the both of us, that decade being the beginning of Organized Play Groups, Smothering Parental Involvement, and Mumsy and Popsy sticking their tentacles into every nook and cranny of their kids' lives until they became one huge being of KidParent with no discernible end of one and beginning of the next if it were in any way possible.

Even if the parents worked, which, of course, Rick and I both did.

Anyway, back to Jared's Wish.

I remember feeling both surprised and terrible. I had no idea he was feeling ashamed or irritated regarding my parenting, which had always been a source of pride for me. Like Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird, my parenting role model, I never lied or talked down to my children. I held them to a standard of honesty and character that was high but reasonable. Whenever possible, I waited for their better natures to assert themselves and allow them to do The Right Thing.

But I'm sure Atticus Finch didn't, for example, make up The Underwear Song and sing it so loudly that a neighbor called to request an encore, along with a reprise of The Bug Killing Song. I'm sure he never drank beer out of a water bottle in right field during a Little League game. Or let his kids quit Little League because they were so damn miserable. Or say to them, "Go ahead and fight like hell, but just so you know, the winner gets grounded for two weeks." Or, when they were bored, let them draw all over each other (and me) with washable markers. (Full disclosure: Sometimes, during Sam's naps, I would draw elaborate pictures on the bottoms of his feet. I once wrote his letter to Santa on his back.) Or go shopping at Toys R Us, stopping first to put the five-foot stuffed Clifford in the cart with absolutely no intention of ever buying it. Or announce to the entire family gathered at Thanksgiving one year that Jared was getting pubic hair.

Yeah. That last one. I Know.

But anyway, back to Jared's Wish.

As soon as he said it, "Mom, why can't you be Normal like other mothers?", I felt sad. I felt terrible and sad. Because Jared was my First One, and I had been such a crappy mom, I thought, for so many of his earliest years. I was scared and overwhelmed and tired and really, he didn't do anything any of the books had said he would. But he and I had Hung In There, and we were good buddies overall. Beyond being my kid, I really liked him. He was funny and smart and thoughtful. But, apparently, I was failing all over again. "Oh, Jay," I said. "Do you really want me to be like that?"

I'd like to think that he's as grateful as I am that he said No.

image

15 comments:

  1. My mother wasn't very normal either. I can't remember if I've shared with you the story of going to the community pool with her & her declaration to all of our friends (and some kids we didn't even know), that they should just go ahead & let her dunk them & get it over with. I was about 13 & you can imagine how I felt about that! But she was always the fun mom & I loved hanging out with her. Oh man what she could have done with washable markers! I can't even imagine, but it would have been epic, I'm sure.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Bug--Why on earth did it take everyone so long to come up with Washable Markers? It seems a No-Brainer now, doesn't it? Best things, ever!

      I tried not to be branded The Fun Mom, mainly because I knew that those Friends would one day end up in my classroom. And plenty of them did, of course. It was a very Fine Line, let me tell you.

      Your mom, the pool, washable markers...one can only imagine the opportunities there. Doesn't our childhood feel pitiful now by comparison?

      Delete
  2. Ted's mom was (and is) glamerous. When his brother was young, he hated it and wanted her to wear her hair in curlers and wear a housecoat like the other moms. This was the early 70s I think. So even if you're gorgeous and sweet like my MIL, you can't get it right for your kids. It's just a stupid fact of life.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. J@jj--Why, of course I am Gorgeous And Sweet! ;->

      I think that was the only time Jared ever registered anything even remotely like Disapproval with regard toward me and my Mothering in general. Despite my Goofiness, I was still a pretty traditional Mom, putting dinners on the table with great regularity, making their Halloween costumes, bringing Christmas in with the usual To Do, etc. And I know both boys appreciated their childhood, replete though as it was with a great deal of ridiculousness.

      You're right, however, that the old saying that Perception Is Reality makes victims of us all at some point. And kids remember the oddest stuff.

      Delete
  3. Love it! Happy Mother's Day to you! My girls thought everyone listened to Pat Metheny and Paul Simon nonstop.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Rose--Thank you, and I hope your Mother's Day was lovely. All moms do have their Quirks, that's for sure. And English Teacher Moms have double.

      Delete
  4. You made me smile with this one. Drawing on the bottom of feet? Brilliant. Not giving into the smothering behavior that is now called mothering, even more brilliant. My family was anything but normal, so I understand why Jared longed of it. Yet, with normalcy there'd be no me today.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ally Bean--Glad to have made you smile. I wonder if anyone's family can really be called Normal, don't you? The really goofy stuff is often what makes the memories.

      Delete
  5. I think that my parenting style has been kind of quashed by my daughter in some ways, especially as concerning my son. We were focused so long on trying to get a diagnosis for her, and once received, even more time taking her from therapy appointment to therapy appointment.

    My husband and I both feel we neglected him slightly, and we have actually apologized to him for it, although nothing can get that time back for us.

    That being said, I am a fairly sarcastic, goofy parent who likes to inflict my musical tastes upon my tortured offspring. As I live in Orange County, I try to comfort myself with the thought that I am not "normal" for this area. Not that I judge.

    Oh hell, who am I kidding, of course I judge. I do not fit in with the stereotypical Orange County mothering set. Never have, never will, and I am OK with that.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Gina--What's the saying? "Desperate times call for desperate measures." I honestly think that we do the very best we can when we can. I'm sure your son--if he doesn't understand right now--will understand in retrospect.

      I'm not entirely knowledgeable concerning Orange County, but I'll take a stab at it and guess that its Mothering Set is highly involved, very orchestrating, puts its offspring in a ton of classes and organized events and lessons, and basically is not into Free-Range Parenting...?

      Now...about inflicting your music upon your kids. I used to pick Jared up at summer school gym (he took it to free up his schedule for other things) and blast The Backstreet Boys from the car. I took home a few buddies, too. WE ALL LISTENED TO IT AND LOVED IT. OR ELSE.

      Delete
    2. I am a heathen liberal parent who does not attend hot yoga/crossfit classes.

      Delete
  6. I can't believe I ever said that. I mean, clearly, I did. Of course I didn't, and don't want any sort of dynamic other than the one we had and have. People have always gotten a kick out of our relationship, and always in a positive way. It must have been something particularly egregious. Haha.

    People tend not to believe that we have conversations over family meals about the NBA's collective bargaining agreement, how long its been since someone had their period, or that you threw a redskin potato at me during a meal. Or that you called Sam a "shit" on his own birthday for requesting a Hillbilly Birthday Dinner that nobody else wanted anything to do with...then refused to eat it. Or when a girlfriend or someone comes over and our language isn't traditionally how a son and mother would speak to each other. Not that it is ever disrespectful, but it isn't uncommon, during a conversation about something we may not agree on for me to go, "Yeah, but like...fuck that, ma. That's bullshit yeah?". So while not completely traditional, its completely functional...and its the best.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jared--I wish I could remember what it was. We can both see just how Serious A Thing it must have been.

      I will dispute until the day I die The Potato Incident. The way You People took such terrible advantage of me during my Short Term Memory Impairment Days make this so-called event even more highly suspect. I will, however, own up to (shamefacedly) calling Sam a shit on his birthday. I think I called him one this year, too. Sigh. But I think he really did deserve it this year.

      I do think we are Very Traditional in the ways it counts the most. Whether or not that balances out All The Rest may be debatable.

      Delete
  7. This is EXACTLY how my daughter and I speak to each other. Exactly. I have seen some people look at her with a flabbergasted "you speak to your mother that way?" look on their faces. Well, actually, yes...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. LaFF--You probably spent an inordinate amount of time with your daughter as she grew up, and you probably took it for granted that she had a brain. I was never one for talking down to kids, and because I kept basically the same schedule that they did due to being a teacher, I was with them A LOT.

      There's never any doubt that we are The Parent, though, is there? And while the banter may be casual, the respect is always there. That is the Important Thing.

      Delete

Oh, thank you for joining the fray!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...