My children are perfect. They are perfectly children—well, now perfectly young adults. When I say that they are perfect, I am not extolling their virtuous deeds, their academic prowess, or their respectful and deferential treatment of their elders. I mean that they have or–in the case of my youngest–are in the process of making mistakes, pulling bone-head moves, and driving me certifiably insane.
When young couples are contemplating starting a family, their older friends need to stage an intervention. Not to dissuade them from procreating, but to educate them on the reality of being a parent. Once born, these types of instructions aren’t included when you bring baby (ies) home from the hospital. Shouldn’t there be a warning label stating, “Caution: Do not for one minute think that this kid is going to grow up without A) embarrassing you, B) causing your hair to fall out in great clumps, or C) initiating contact with a bail bondsman”?
When I was a younger mother, I would experience the galling and appalling behaviors of my eighth grade students and say to myself, “Good Lord, MY CHILD will NEVER do THAT! I feel sorry for his/her parents!” Someone should have slapped me at that point. I have learned the hard way that my children have done THAT. Anyone who says their kids would “never do THAT”–‘THAT’ being anything from dropping the f-bomb to building a bomb–had better eat their idiotic words toute suite, because I guarantee that your kids will do THAT. Whether or not you ever find out about THAT is another thing.
For the record, none of my three perfect children has ever built a bomb, nor have we ever sought the services of a bail bondsman. And, no, I’m not going to satisfy your curiosity by listing all of their shortcomings, their peccadillos, or all of the times I’ve been ready to put them up for adoption—our family subscribes to the ancient and not-so-often practiced principle of keeping what happens among family–well, among family. In short, you won’t see us on an episode of Dr. Phil anytime soon.
Have they disappointed me? Yes. Have they worried me to distraction? Oh, yes! Do they sometimes make decisions that cause me to wonder if I brought home the wrong babies from the hospital? Absolutely. But here’s my problem:
I grew up under rather unusual circumstances. My mother, a force to be reckoned with mom-wise, left this earth way too early at 40 (I was 11) leaving my brother, sister (both teenagers at the time), and me with a much older father. In retrospect, I think that my dad felt that we were such great kids and that our mom had done such a phenomenal job raising us so far that he really didn’t have to do much to mold his young breed any further. My brother was a saint, my sister’s charm and athleticism made up for the laundry list of crap that she pulled as a teenager, and I? Well let’s just say that I fell somewhere in between.
The problem I have with my own children is that I lack a template. Most moms of teenagers look back on their own upbringing and say, “WWMD?” Or even better, they call their own moms and say, “Did I pull this **** when I was 15?” When I wonder what my mom would do, I’m at a loss. So I do what I think she would do, and for the most part, that works.
Here’s the good news: My two oldest are in their first year of college. Their first year has been an unbelievable and, frankly, surprising success. I almost feel as if all of the prayers to the Blessed Mother, the hair pulling, the rendering of garments, and the tears and frustrations I’ve experienced with them have rewarded me with two young ladies who finally get it.
This bodes well for child number three, who, right now, is driving me berserk in an altogether different way. There is no shouting, no yelling, no eye rolling. His modus operandi is passivity. I can’t yell at him—he just looks at me as if I’ve lost my mind. When I talk to him, my used-to-be mommy’s boy mumbles something inarticulate. He’s a totally different animal than my first two when it comes to the mother-child relationship.
My point is this: To all you young mothers and mothers of teenagers-to-be, do not for a moment say, “My child would NEVER do THAT.” Why? Those same mothers who used to say that to me have children who I have witnessed first-hand DOING THAT. Sometimes your children have told me about doing THAT. One thing I can say about my three—they usually tell me about THAT before I find out by any other means.
If I’ve learned anything from my first two, it is this: Stand your ground and know that this too shall pass.
Come on; go with me on this—I’ve got one more to get through high school. Hopefully, he, too, will take a page from his sisters’ playbook and shock and awe me and become the amazing young man that I know is lurking inside of that surly little teenager.