Saturday, August 14, 2010

What will 20 Years and a Couch Reveal?

My kids have been acting incredibly normal since I've started blogging about them so there wasn't much to think about recently with the exception of this:

Has anyone else noticed that the "quick code" for MOM on your cell phone is 666??? Hmmm... Spooky. Upon discovering this I chuckled and then started to wonder... about my relationship with my own mom, about the ups and downs of this motherhood gig, and about one of my favorite sayings: "If it's not one thing, it's your mother." I find that as I grow as a parent I either do things exactly the way I was raised or exactly the opposite as I was raised. There's no middle of the road. Does it ever paralyze you with fear when you stop and realize that whatever you say, whatever you do, whoever you bring into their lives and how you treat them or let them treat you is internalized by your children and becomes a part of who they are? ACK!

So my question is: What particular brand of Crazy I am passing on to my children?  I am the enforcer at my house, mostly because my husband works nights and is with the children less than I am. But it is in no small part because if their up-bringing was left up to him alone, they wouldn't know what a trash can or a laundry basket was and their skin would have a permanent orange tinge from whatever it is that makes Beefaroni that color. Totally. Unacceptable. So I am the rule maker (Daddy seconds all motions and is great at backing me up, but somehow always comes out smelling like roses) and I am also the deliver-er of consequences. I am the shrieking maniac that loses her shit when you bounce the ball anywhere but outside. I am the one the Six Year Old hates from time to time and says doesn't "understand" him. For my own mom, it was a sticky floor that made her shit kittens. Even now when I hear that familiar "ccchhht" if my flip flop happens to tread through some day-old juice puddle or I discover a Popsicle grave yard under the table, my heart beats a little bit faster and I scurry for the Wet Jet.

So now I'm wondering what 20 years and a couch will reveal that I've done to my own kids. This job is not pass or fail. Make no mistake, this post is not me boo-hooing that I'm a bad mother - I am confident that I am a fantastic mom and unless you smoke crack instead of buying milk, or abuse your children you should have every confidence in your own maternal fantastic-ness... Says ME. But also embrace the inevitability that you WILL fuck up your kids... living with yourself depends on the degree to which you do it.

My mother has the ability to drive me over the edge faster than anyone on the planet with just her tone of voice... She likes to end monologues about issues we have with lines like "well, of course no one else wants to listen to what I have to say. Why should you be any different..." grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.... "Let me help you off that crucifix, Ma. You're getting blood all over the carpet."

I am grateful everyday for my mother. She is my moral compass and while her advice is not always appreciated on delivery, it is always sound. Her sense of social responsibility and generosity are the little voices that live inside me encouraging me to do for and give to others. That being said, I am also grateful everyday that I have two boys and that I will never have to sustain a relationship with another female like the one I have with my mother. As I sit here I'm remembering the evening my mother and I went shopping for my first bra, and I am forced to wonder what my boys will reflect on later and say, "When I have my own kids, I will NEVER ____________ !"

Growing up I was always chunky and by fourth grade had developed "chubby boobies." I knew that I had developed breasts ahead of my classmates because I was fat, not because of some awesome mega-boob gene that I could learn to love later. One morning I was stretching in the hall way - we were all getting ready to go out to church, when suddenly my father exclaims to my mother as though I were not right in front of them, “My God, dear, it’s about time she should be wearing a bra, isn’t it?” The word horrified had no tangible meaning for me until that very moment. I said a prayer at church that day asking God to make my dad grow boobs.

Several days later I had warmed up to the idea and begged my mom to take me out to get a bra. We headed out to Bradlees and I was filled with a certain understanding that this should be a special milestone for mom and me... wa-waaaaaah (game show "you lose" sound). Enter disappointment and the beginning of "You don't understand me!" I was imagining little strappy numbers with eyelet lace and tiny pink rosettes. What I ended up with is something close to what I could only guess military issue looks like. I can remember wandering up and down the bra aisles, suddenly enchanted by the silky, lacey textures, and then realizing at the same time that one: I was not in charge of this mission, and two: I was definitely in trouble because she was foraging through the boxed Playtex Cross-Your-Heart granny bras. We bought two of the ugliest bras ever made that day. One beige and one white. Now when I think about them, the images conjured in my head are that of a bull-dog faced Nurse Ratchet type named Helga… Translation: this is what fat girls wear. Pretty bras are for the pretty girls. Years later there would be massive credit card debt and a law firm calling me to collect $567.38 charged to Victoria's Secret.

We make mistakes and misunderstand... we blow some of the milestones and never even realize it. I am still too close to it to figure out what sort of damage I'm doing every day. Guess I'll know in 30 years when there's a tell-all book or God help me, a blog. We're not perfect and I don't know about you, but I never claimed to be. And miracle of miracles, our kids still love us despite it all. I love you, mom.

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