BEDTIME, says I.
And so begins the nightly ritual of tucking my little angels into their little beds, whispering my ‘I Love You’s’, offering a good night kiss and — Right! …..
Let me start again. And so begins the nightly ritual of Marc and I trying to lasso the beasts into bed, while they wriggle and squirm and whine. There are the endless “MOOOOOM, I ‘m thirsty’s”, and the” I gotta go pee’s”, and the “Just one more minute’s”. It is a favorite time for my eldest son to suddenly become talkative, trying to strike up a conversation about anything that might buy him a bit of time. He is a pretty smart boy – maybe not so much in a school kind of way, but more like in a Godfather kind of way.
The young man asks me, “Mom, what was it like when you were a kid?” He is smart enough not add what I know is right on the tip of his tongue “Waaaaaaay back then”. And so I played along for a while.
I think parents have gotten it wrong all these years. Parents have historically threatened their children with endless horrible repercussions and punishments if they did not exhibit proper behavior. When really we just need to help them understand that one day they are going to be asked questions by their own children, and they are going to want to be able to answer their kids honestly and openly. I wish my mother would have explained it that way to me – I might have turned out a whole lot better.
I told him about how we had only a few channels on TV, no video games, no computers, and lots of chores. I told him how when I was his age I did the laundry, washed the dishes by hand every day, scrubbed the floors, helped prepare meals and spent hours in the vegetable garden or picking raspberries. I told him how all us kids used to gather outside and not get in our parents hair. How we never spoke out of turn at school or they were quick to pull out the strap. How parents were allowed to spank their children, and teachers were the bane of our existence.
Then the kid asked me to tell him more about my childhood.
I did not tell him about the time I was caught playing in the ramp yard, and found the wooden spoon being painfully applied to my bottom as a result. Now, I claim to possess a reasonable intellect, but I did not always use it. My mother, a flaming red head, with the temper to match, was never one to find amusement in any form of disrespect. I was a wild haired child filled with fight for authoritative figures. It generally did not work out so well for me. When Mom was done with the wooden spoon treatment I knew my role was to cry and beg repentance. But that was not my nature. Instead I held in the tears and told Mom “That didn’t hurt.” ….. Did I mention that Mom is a redhead! And she never made the same mistake twice. Ooowww, that next smack had the added intensity to make sure the results were as she intended. I should have learned from that experience.
I did not tell Jake about the many run ins I had with the local police force. Most of the officers knew me by name, and seemed to keep a close eye on my activities. There was the time when I was a rowdy teenager who seemed to have no struggles getting someone to supply alcohol. A friend of mine, who I am going to call Rita to protect her identity, joined me in emptying the bottle of what was likely Strawberry Angel or Lemon Gin. We then went about town tormenting anyone we saw and being generally loud and obnoxious. The nice police officer began by insisting we go directly home. We assured him that we would. The next time, he insisted on giving us a ride. I spit out an address, and he pulled up in front of a house that was completely unknown to either Rita or myself. He insisted on seeing us walk right in the front door. And so we did. Thankfully no one locked their door waaaaaay back then, and fortunately my ceramics teacher did not scream as we walked in the front door, through the kitchen and right out the back door. We laid low for the rest of the night.
I did not tell him about the habit Rita and I had of following around the local “ladies of the evening” and teasing them relentlessly. I did not tell him about the many Halloween pranks that put us in front of a judge. I did not tell him about the occasi0ns where I chose not to attend school to attend more entertaining events. I did not tell him about the time I poured molasses over the local police station, or the many times we found ourselves running for our lives after throwing crab apples at passing vehicles. Some day he may read this and then I will tell him the truth – it was all Rita’s fault.
I did tell him about how I had a great group of friends who all looked out for one another. I did tell him about the years I spent chasing any new running accolades. I told him that many in my home town thought I was destined for the Olympics. I told him about how hard I worked to save up enough money to go to college. And I told him that since those rebellious days, I have come to learn that my parents were not really so bad.
I also know that one day he is going to ask more difficult questions like, “Did you ever drink when you were a child?” or “Have you ever tried drugs?” or “Didn’t you ever get into any trouble?” I have vowed to answer him honestly. I can only hope it is a long time coming.