I was fortunate to have parents who took their jobs seriously, and made sure we were taught at a young age the difference between right and wrong. I appreciate the things my parents taught us, and want to thank the mothers who continue to fight the good fight to raise decent human beings. Parenting is a dying art these days, and it deserves to be mentioned a lot more than it is.
My mom was determined to have children who acted right in public, and by public I mean church and the grocery store. We were openly threatened with bodily harm, in ways mommas could legally get away with, back in the day.
Example: I was feeling fidgety in church, so I grabbed momma’s purse and rifled through it during the hymnal, because she was standing up and not paying attention (so I thought). I scored some ancient TicTacs, a pen and a tiny memo pad to draw pictures on while the boring adult stuff went on. Momma sat down after the song, seized my wrist with a vice-like grip that made me simultaneously drop the pen while gasp-inhaling TicTacs, and drug me across the pew, close enough to hiss in my ear, “I will beat you within an inch of your life if you ever go in my purse without permission again. You better straighten up and pay attention!” The words straighten up were punctuated with her throwing my mangled wrist down in disgust. Pay attention was absolutely followed with an unspoken promise of painful circumstance as dictated by the angry pitch of momma’s eyebrows on her forehead as she was hissing it.
I learned to pay attention, or at least look like I was paying attention, even when I didn’t want to. I also learned that momma’s purse is considered “private property,” and going in it without permission could and would be punished under penalty of a spanking and possible exile to the nearest corner, to think about what private property means.
Momma didn’t mess around with whiny kids in the grocery store. We could come in and walk around, none of that riding in the buggy crap — “You’re old enough to walk like a human being and be quiet” — or we could sit our happy tails in the car, where it was 9,000 degrees in the shade, and I could let my little brother wipe boogers on me for an hour, because I was too heat-weary to make him stop. We got about one chance to ask for something — “Momma, can we have boiled peanuts for dinner?” — and most of the time we were shot down. “No, you can’t have boiled peanuts for dinner — they fatten hogs with peanuts, dear.”
But sometimes, if you asked real nice — “Momma, will you make us some instant macaroni and cheese from a box?” — Momma would try new things. “Well, I never thought I’d eat macaroni and cheese from a box, but I’ll try it. Next thing ya know, they’ll be selling bottled water!”
I learned to be happy with the little things in life, like instant macaroni and cheese. I also developed a great appreciation for Willis Carrier, the inventor of air-conditioning.
Most of all, Momma taught us to be stewards in life. She impressed upon us the importance of serving your fellow man, even if that fellow man happens to be your little brother, who just destroyed your Mickey Mouse watch.
“Honey, I need you to make your brother some breakfast, I’m getting ready for work.”
I stomped around the kitchen, slamming things on the counter until I broke a jelly jar and cut my own hand. Did Momma run from the bathroom to check on me, as I bled to death in agony and a puddle of grape jelly? Nope. She yelled, “You just made things that much harder, dear. Clean up the mess and don’t bleed on your brother’s breakfast.”
I learned that no matter how bad I don’t want to do something, it’s better to just do it and get it over with, before I make it harder on myself in the long run.
Happy Mother’s Day to all the people raising kids today – I know I’m lucky to have my mom, even though I spent most of my childhood thinking she was an ogre. After I had my own kids, I realized not liking her much when I was younger was the greatest indication that she did her job well, and I’m eternally grateful to her for that. Thanks for the life lessons, mom, today is your day – enjoy it!