Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mother's Day 2011

I recently read about an English guy whose self-published book is topping Amazon's UK charts. It consists of 200 blank pages beneath the cover entitled: "What Every Man Thinks About Apart from Sex."

On this Mother's Day 2011, I wonder if I could also publish a blank book, although my cover would say: "What I Knew About Motherhood Before I Became a Mother."

Although I've since learned some Mom lessons the hard way, I wish someone had warned me about the conversations I'd be having with my children, including some unusual exchanges in just the past week.

But first, here are the two most valuable lessons I've learned from being a mother:

  • Never say never. This includes promising to NEVER say to your children "Because I said so."
  • And "Because I said so" is an extremely valuable, all-purpose response if you don't have a legitimate argument, don't know the answer or you're too tired to explain the argument or the answer.

    However, neither lesson seems to apply to the recent conversations that have me thinking--25 years after I first became introduced to it--that perhaps Motherhood isn't such a great gig. Being a Mom has forced me to do and say things I never anticipated. For example, I've threatened for years to cut off all financial support should my children: 1) Buy a motorcycle 2) Get a tattoo and/or 3) Pierce any portion of their bodies.

    Last week, No. 1 son telephoned with the announcement that at the age of 25, he had fulfilled his longtime dream of purchasing a motorcycle. When this news was met with stunned silence from his Angel Mother, he proceeded to detail the tattoos he'll be getting. Again, stunned silence. "Mom, Mom, are you still there?" he finally said.

    "I think your mother just fainted," advised Husband No. 1, who was listening on the extension.

    "Just kidding about the tattoos, Mom," he laughed.

    I'm not so sure he's joking, but I am certain of this: Motherhood takes on a whole new complexion when you don't have anything to hold over your children's heads anymore. But after you've adjusted to the reality that your child carries a gun to work every day, a motorcycle doesn't seem so bad.

    Last night, he called to report the motorcycle is "really great" and he also may be receiving AR-15 semi-automatic assault rifle training soon. When I gasped, he said, “Which would you rather have, Mom – me going into an Active Shooter situation with a handgun or a rifle?”

    My first thought was: “With a slide rule as an engineer” because that was his original college major. My second was: "With your words" because philosophy was his second. Instead I said, “I would prefer you not be going into an Active Shooter situation at all, but if you must, I suppose a rifle is better.”

    This was offered through clenched teeth (which is not all that easy when you have braces) after my heart stopped pounding. It also prompted me to wonder: "Why didn't anyone warn me I'd be having these conversations?"

    Meanwhile, No. 2 son has sent home a list of things he must obtain (like YESTERDAY) for his 6-week archaeology expedition to the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge on the Virginia-North Carolina border, including thigh-high wader boots.

    "You'll have to take up fly fishing then," I calmly advised him.

    "Huh?" said the boy who won't even eat fish because it might possibly be good for him.

    Although I was tempted to reply with "because I said so," I said,"If we're going to invest in those boots you better get more than six weeks use out of them."

    "How about I use them on my next dig, instead?"

    Although I'd never say never, that's as likely as him eating fish. Apparently he doesn't realize that the expedition's requirement that he soak his clothing in the insecticide Permethrin beforehand means this won't resemble his usual summer activities. I predict by the end of this course (yes, we get to pay extra for him to play in the mud), he'll be so sick of bugs and ticks that he'll avoid swamps -- and waders -- for the rest of his life.

    Meanwhile, I need to inform him this lovely synthetic chemical also is highly flammable, which means he better stay away from campfires, cigarettes and possibly static electricity. Another conversation I never anticipated.

    When I was bemoaning these unexpected Mom moments today, Husband No. 1 offered his own truth about parenting that I wish I'd known beforehand:

    "When they're born, you think they could be president. When they become teenagers, you just hope you can keep them alive and out of jail until they're 21."

    Only two more months to go and my job is done. Still, I doubt my unusual conversations with my children will ever end. Instead of being on the receiving end of these exchanges, however, perhaps I should take the offensive and ask what they think about the British guy's book. I believe I'd rather be discussing that than motorcycles, assault rifles or toxic chemicals to avoid ticks.

    What valuable lessons have you learned about motherhood?

    (Previous Mother's Day musings can be found by clicking here to read what I've learned from humiliation or here on being a "good enough" mother.)


    Karen said...

    Wonderful and relatable as always, Pat--Happy Mother's Day!

    chris remick said...

    Patty - I hate to tell you that you never get to not be a Mother once you are one. My mantra these days is "they're adults. They're adults." That only helps because I go into a Zen state and we pretty much ignore one another. Happy days!

    PatRemick said...

    I will try to adopt that mantra! I think I'm going to need it...

    MaxWriter said...

    Wait, braces? I guess I haven't seen you in a while.

    I like the mantra! My baby is also about to graduate from college. Told me last night he's going to work on a sustainable farm in Puerto Rico in the fall. Hmm, travel opportunity!

    My lesson? It's magical waiting to see what they will do next in their adult lives and then figuring out how to gently support them in that without meddling.