As a child I made mental notes of all the ways I thought my parents or teachers were screwing up and vowed never to do those things when I got to reign superior over children of my own. As an adult, I have gained an understanding about a lot of things my mother did or didn't do, and nothing has made me understand her more than having my own kids.
Because I never wrote my list down, I have forgotten a lot of the specifics of my list, but a few of the most important ones are etched permanently in my mind. I have even discussed some of my manifesto with my children.
This has not always been to my advantage, in fact, it could be said that it is another situation where I have explained too much to those little walking data recorders.
Mama: "If you two don't stop fighting, I am going to beat you with a big stick!"
Big Pants: "Mama, you can't hit kids. It's against the law."
Mama: "No, Honey, it's not against the law. You can legally hit your children, just not too hard or too often."
Big Pants: "But Mama, you don't believe in hitting children. It would be bad parenting. You said so in your Manifesto." *
Foiled again! I am cursed with children who listen and remember too much.
Recently, though, I went against my sacred childhood manifesto. It was wrong, it was something I said I would never, ever do, yet I did it with the defiance of a teenager and I'm still only quasi-sorry.
Here's what happened:
Tiny Pants had to go to a speech therapy evaluation at the local elementary school. I was carrying him up the sidewalk to the (wrong) door, and noticed he had breakfast remnants (ok, chocolate) adhered to his face in a somewhat permanent-looking way. I had no wipey. I didn't even have a kleenex. I was struck by the thought that my kid and I were about to be judged by a group of professionals we had never met in a school we did not even attend. In general, I feel like a dirty-faced four year old is relatively acceptable, but for some reason on this particular day I did not. Not at all.
I did what fine mothers have done for generations, and which I swore I would never, ever, ever, under no circumstances ever do. I spit on my fingers and wiped his face.
Because I talk too much, as I did it I confessed that this was something I swore I would never do.
Mama: "Tiny Pants, I swore I would never,ever, do this, but…"
(extends saliva covered fingers and smears over sweet unsuspecting cheek)
Tiny: "Mama! You are covering me with slobber! I smell like Mama slobber!"
Mama: "I know Honey, but it was an emergency."
We went to our appointment, and I assumed the matter was settled. It wasn't. When we picked up the big one from school, Tiny ratted me out to his brother.
Tiny Pants: "You will never guess what Mama did to me today."
Big Pants: "What?"
Tiny Pants: "Something she said she would never do."
(Pauses for dramatic effect and looks at me with great accusation.)
Tiny Pants: "She rubbed slobber on my face!"
Big Pants: "Ewww!"
Sigh. I remember the smell of parental slobber applied to my face. I remember trying to avoid the application of parental slobber at all costs. I swore I would never spit on a napkin and rub it on my children. I vowed to be the mother who always had a wipey. And yet, I did it. And you know what? I'm not sorry.
*Empty Threat Backstory:
I have, on occasion, threatened to beat my children. Disclaimer: this has never been said out of anger, or as a result of children doing something actually beat-worthy. It's only used as an empty threat when children are being mildly irritating, because, well, it's my mother's fault. She always threatened to beat us to a "bloody pulp" and the words have rolled smoothly off my tongue a few times.I always knew she wouldn't ever do it, it was her way of saying, "kids, you're getting close to pushing it too far," and I follow in her fine example. Just as I was never afraid of the bloody pulp threat, my kids aren't either.
Once we were at the grocery store, and after listening to me beg endlessly for candy, my mother threatened to beat me "within an inch of my life." The (probably childless) adult in line was about to call the police, but luckily I laughed and didn't look at all afraid. From then on, my mother tried her hardest to contain her threats to places out of earshot of well-meaning people.
Copyright © 2022 Lara Lillibridge
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