THE MOM

Now that we are all back in our slavish fall schedules, I’ve noticed once again.  I’m THE Mom. I know, I know.  I’ve got kids.  And they call me “Mom”.  And I love it.  But the universe also sends me little updates.  Subtle or not so subtle confirmations that underscore my “momness”.   I’ll be whipping through the day with my normal “organized train wreck” passion and suddenly I’ll pull up short.  Giant graffiti letters will scrawl across my psyche.  “Don’t even try to hide, lady.  We will find you. (Insert climax music from Psycho.) You are THE MOM.”

And so, I am posting a few of these prophetic signs of “momness” to see if anyone else might be receiving these messages as well.

Top Five Signs that you might be “THE MOM”.

1)       You are the only person in the family capable of replacing the toilet paper roll. 

For years now I’ve suspected some sort of paranormal phenomenon occurring in the john.  The toilet paper is always empty.  It simply is never, ever full.  I’ve even replaced it and returned fifteen minutes later to find it empty.  What are they doing with all that toilet paper?  Writing notes?  Wrapping a mummy?  It simply defies rational explanation.  For a long time, I thought they were just too young to get it.  Maybe “replacing the toilet paper roll” is on some rubric measuring advanced intellectual achievement.  Patiently, I would demonstrate digging a fresh roll out from under the sink, popping the old roll off and the new roll in.  I drew pictures in an easy 3 step process and taped them to the wall.  I promised stickers and cheerios.   I took the cardboard tube and pretended to play the horn.  “See children, only the lucky one who replaces the roll will get this little beauty!”  They would nod with agreement.  But nothing.

Every time I visited the throne, the queen would have to hop, pants around ankles, to the sink to retrieve another roll.  Of course, I’d wait for the appropriate time to discuss improving this behavior with my children.  I’d never even dream of screaming, “Are you people blind?  I can’t believe you’ve left me high and NOT dry – AGAIN!!” while my daughter sat with her brownie troop in the living room.  I wouldn’t.  Nor would I open the door and throw the cardboard tube at my son stating, “You forgot to TOOT YOUR HORN, BUDDY.”  Good mothers don’t do stuff like that.

Given some excellent feedback, the kids eventually wised up.  No, they haven’t grasped the need for COMMON COURTESY.  But to fulfill the letter of the law, they started leaving one strategic square on the roll.  One square.  Technically not empty.  For crying out loud, the “one square left” move is worse than the EMPTY roll.  Because when I rant and foam like a rabid jackal, they can stand there with giant doe eyes, “But Mom, it wasn’t all the way empty.”  Thanks to all those tips I picked up in Parenting with Love and Logic, I value open and frank communication with my children.  But logic escapes me when my pants are down.  So without an ounce of reason, I begin splitting hairs regarding “empty” vs “almost empty” vs “oh my word do you want your mom’s face to start twitching again?”

If you live in a similar vortex, where all the able bodies in your home are completely incapable of replacing a roll of toilet paper, or if you have “drip dried” more times that you are able to count, or you’ve spent time trying to convince your six year old that a paper tube is “cool like a light saber”– then you must be THE MOM.

 

2)      You are the only one who can clean the fridge.

We are very routine oriented.  And governed by guilt.  So, across the years we have honed to perfection a process for dealing with leftovers.  Step one.  Eat the food, or in my daughter’s case, pick with your fork while asking clarification questions, “Mom, did you mean for this green stuff to be in here?”

My kids have been raised on the manna falling from the Golden Arches.  But I do know how to cook (sort of) and occasionally, like when we have a WHOLE BIBLE STUDY on how important it is to set the “tone” of your home by lovingly  “preparing nutritious and tasty meals”, I take a somber look at Proverbs 31 and attempt to cook in my very own kitchen.  (Again the soundtrack from Psycho seems oddly appropriate.)  Despite the obvious pitfalls of having to cook and eat your own food like less evolved cave dwellers, another drawback to home cooking is “leftovers”.

I know.  I know.  Millions of people are starving.  No need to heap on the guilt, sister.  I’m a professional.  So instead of just admitting that the food I cook was pretty miserable to eat, we package it up in nifty plastic square boxes and pop it in the fridge.  Step Two:  Pretend to not see the plastic boxes in the fridge.  Push them to the back.  Hide them behind the milk.  I don’t care how full the fridge is, ignore all the plastic containers.  When hungry, go to the fridge, look at the milk carton and say, “There’s nothing in here but plastic squares and some milk.”  Wait a few more days.  Allow the guilt to compound.  Then when the ice cream starts melting because the fridge door won’t close, move on to step three.

Step Three:  Loudly announce to anyone within hearing, “Someone needs to clean out the fridge.”  We all know who that someone is, but pretend you don’t.  Wait until the fridge is two days past critical mass.  Then invite a “judgmental presence” over for dessert.  Like your neighbor with the perfect yard, or perhaps your Zumba instructor.  Wait some more.  Then, then right before your “dessert”, go completely stark raving mad cleaning the house.  Your children, well inoculated to your “motivational speeches” will have wisely planned to “be busy anywhere else on the planet”.  Alone in your misery, open the fridge and play your own sadistic version of “Deal or no Deal?”   Solemnly swear an oath upon your mother’s vintage 1970’s “burping top”, pea green Tupperware that you will never let the fridge get this gross again.   Trust me.  Somewhere you mother is smiling.  She is the grandmother.  You are THE MOM.

 

3)        You are one that fields the Impossible Questions.

Dads are great.  We all need a good, strong Dad.  But when it comes to “quantity time” the match point usually goes to mom.  Mom’s are there.  Consistent.  Reliable.  Familiar.  Rather like furniture.   People usually don’t notice the furniture until its missing.  It’s awesome to be so present in the life of another human being.  But kids are usually not all that adept at appreciating or even acknowledging the gift of mothering, unless they sadly don’t have it.   Our little peeps perceive Mom like, well, like part of themselves.  A comfortable, cushiony, part of themselves.  So, as their internal dialogues develop, the darlings have a hard time keeping the dialogue “internal”.  It is our job as “ever present furniture type parents” to patiently and tenderly, shove that dialogue back in their little heads before we go insane.  Trust me ladies, it’s a slow process.  In the meantime, we end up fielding an endless list of impossible questions.  Questions that should have been left on the “inside”.

Here are a couple of my favorites.  “Mom, where is my other shoe?” This can only be answered with about 20 new questions which are usually equally impossible to answer.  How do you lose one shoe?  Don’t you take them off in the same zip code? If I’ve told them once, I’ve told them a million times.  If you are going to lose your shoes, have the courtesy to lose BOTH of them.  Losing one shoe just pushes Mommy’s Looney-tunes button.

Here’s another impossible question.  “Mom, when is the new Ninjago coming out?”  Listen up rookie moms.  Feign ignorance.  If for some bizarre reason you KNOW what the heck Ninjago actually is and that Dragoscorpion is going to be released next month – DON’T LET ON.  If you answer this question, there will be a ka-billion more.  How much will it cost?  How many quarters is that?  Will they have a red one?  Why does Jacob already have one?  Is Jacob’s Dad the inventor of Ninjago?  Sooner or later, your kid will pin you in the corner with you crying, “SWEET MOTHER OF PEARL, STOP ASKING ME QUESTIONS.  I DON’T KNOW.  I DON’T KNOW.”  So, when an impossible question comes your way, realize there is no way out.  You are THE MOM.  Practice a glassy eyed, rather wind-swept expression and say, “I don’t know sweetheart.  We’ll have to save that one for Dad.”

 

4)       You are the only one who recognizes “empty”. 

This morning I pulled not one, but two empty boxes of cereal out of the pantry. I ask you, why would anyone take the time to put away an empty box?  Just for sanity’s sake, I walked off the steps to the trash vs. the steps to the cupboard.  Two steps less to trash/recycle bins.  And yet my house is full of empty boxes.  More perplexing is the pattern of finding full cereal boxes on the counter, while empty boxes are put away in the cupboard.  Strange.  Of course, no one knows who in the family is doing this.  I’m pretty sure all the kids know the difference between “full” and “empty”.  Grover covered it pretty well on Sesame Street.  I can still sing the song and cheer up my grumpy crew by cranking it to full volume while driving carpool to junior high.  Certainly, the kids have no problem telling me when their stomachs are “full” or “empty”.  And for heaven’s sake, I get regular updates on the full/empty status of the jolly rancher reward jar.   But daily, I go through the house, picking up tissue boxes, shoe boxes, granola bar boxes.  Empty.  When I reach my breaking point, I round up the usual suspects.  I get out the “hot seat” and pepper them with questions.  Present, as exhibit A, an empty box of Sugar Smacks.   Irrefutable evidence.  “But, Mom,” they whine, pointing out a morsel in the bottom left corner.  “It wasn’t all the way empty.”

It’s then that my face starts twitching again.  And I realize, no matter how many facts pile up in my corner, I’m THE MOM.

 

5)      Sometimes, no one else will do.

This week, I was out of town.  For the first time ever, my fifth grader was waiting 45 minutes at home alone– the span of time between Dad leaving for work, and his ride coming to get him for school.  Normally, this is “our time.”  Mother and son.  We are exceptionally deep people and usually rush through our morning routine so that we have time to watch one and a half episodes of “I Love Lucy”.  He had to carry the torch by himself.

But then, no one came.  My friend forgot to pick up my kid.  (So happy that other mothers make these types of mistakes – it so validates my humanity).  Instead of freaking out, my son worked the problem (Beep, Beep.  Dad’s gene pool coming through.)  He got on the phone and started calling around.  My phone rang in my meeting.  I answered to the sweetest voice on the planet.

“Uhm, Mom.  I watched Lucy for us.  It was a good one.  And, uhm, no one picked me up.”

There was not an ounce of panic in his voice.  In fact, the “lack of ride situation” was not even his lead off comment.  I completely melted.  Two phone calls and ten minutes later, my son was safely off to school.  It was hard to regain my focus.  And it hit me.  How fast they are growing up.  My son with the good sense to watch “I Love Lucy” for the both of us.  My daughter with her brave spirit and delicate palate.  No matter how old they grow, I will always be THE MOM.

My kids will get big and they will learn to take off both shoes in the same general vicinity.  They will master the art of personal hygiene and get jobs out in the world.  They will have busy lives filled with challenge and adventure.  But I will always be THE MOM.  No matter what, I will always want to advise, convince, and cajole.  I will always applaud their decency as humans.  I will always celebrate their contentiousness (and shamelessly take credit for it).  I will always illuminate the wasted energy that comes from hanging on to emptiness or feeling guilty about what didn’t turn out right.  As their Mom, I will always want better than the best for them, but only if they work hard for it.  And I will always, always melt, just a little, at the sound of their voice on the phone.

Okay universe.  Bring it.  Push me with the insane monotony of mothering.  If being THE MOM means I get to be THEIR MOM – Well, I’m all in.  Especially since I’ve learned to check before I sit.

 

Hollylu  7  <  8

 

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