I’m pretty sure I know when it happened—the moment when I finally I lost complete and utter control over everything as a mother. It was the last week of school. As I had done every morning for the past three weeks, I made a pot of coffee and then reluctantly removed yet another link from the paper chain I had hung from the kitchen ceiling. According to my calculations, I only had two more days before peace and quiet suddenly went missing in the middle of the night and were replaced by anarchy and deviancy. Summer vacation was about to begin. I sighed, poured a cup of coffee, and listened to the clock tick on the wall behind my head.
Three minutes before he was due to leave for high school, my sixteen-year-old son casually walked into the kitchen and announced, “I completely forgot I have to give a speech in third hour on uranium.” Just as I had clutched my hand to my chest and yelled, “WHAT?” he added, “And I have to take four finals today and I cannot find a pencil anywhere in this house.”
In the blink of an eye, I suddenly transformed into Wonder Woman without the cape, cleavage, and cool boots. I dashed down the stairs to the computer where I quickly performed an online search on uranium with one hand while frantically searching the desk drawer for a pencil with the other hand. I peered into the drawer. It was full of rulers, highlighters, matches, and glue sticks. Not a pencil in sight. I slammed the drawer shut as I pulled a stack of papers off the printer and dashed upstairs. “Did you check every drawer in the house for a pencil?” I screeched as I stuffed the papers into his hand.
My son stood frozen in place and stared at me like I had just landed in the kitchen from Mars. Without the cleavage, cape, or cool boots of course. “Seriously Mom,” he said, “You are freaking out.”
I kept talking like someone had pulled a string in my back and I had to wait for the string to run out before I could stop. “I printed out the periodic table, the toxic effects of uranium exposure, and the mathematical formula for removing hydrogen from uranium hydride,” I told him. I had no idea what I had just said, but it sounded great in my opinion. I looked at the clock. I had thirty seconds to find a pencil.
As he stuffed the papers in his backpack, I dashed into the bathroom and opened my makeup drawer. I rifled through blush, brushes, lipsticks, loose change, and nail polish. “Here pencil, pencil, pencil,” I called, “Come to Mama.” It was official. I had lost my mind. But it didn’t matter. He was a completely unprepared teenager who needed a pencil—and quick.
My thirteen-year-old daughter sauntered into the room with a pencil in hand. “Here you go, Mom,” she announced, “He can borrow my pencil.”
“You are an angel,” I said as I took her face in my hands and kissed it. I grabbed the pencil and sprinted into the kitchen where my son still stood frozen with his backpack slung over his shoulder. “Here,” I shoved the pencil in his face. He looked down at the pencil. A look of horror passed over his face.
He held up the pencil. “Did you see this, Mom? This is a BARBIE pencil.” But even he knew he was a desperate, completely unprepared teenager who had no choice. For today at least, he and Barbie would be a mismatched team with one goal in mind—to find the right answers—together.
“Just don’t be distracted by her beauty. Concentrate on the questions. And remember a speech has a beginning, a middle, and a conclusion—just like life!” I yelled as I shoved him out the door. Off he went in a flurry of hormones, unpreparedness, and chaos.
A few minutes later, my daughter left for the bus stop. I slowly closed the door, smoothed my hair, and pulled my robe tight around me. I sat back down at the kitchen table. The clock ticked loudly behind me.
As I fingered the paper chain that I had tossed next to my cup in a moment of panic, the reality of what I had just done began to sink in. I had just sent my son to school with a Barbie pencil. I put my head in my hands. It was true. No matter how hard I tried, I would never be a perfect mother. And my children would never be perfect either.
I slowly began to smile. For in that moment, I had finally realized that is just how I wanted it.
“No matter how calmly you try to referee, parenting will eventually produce bizarre behavior, and I’m not talking about the kids.” –-Bill Cosby
By Vicky DeCoster
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