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.