Yes, someone said this to me this week. Any idea who it might have been? I’ll give you three guesses.
Nope. My children are diplomatic enough to say that they have the two best moms in the world, whether it is actually true or not. They are smart enough to know that playing favorites will ultimately backfire on them.
The perpetrator of this rancorous slur is decidedly less savvy that my children.
One of my sisters?
Nope. As mothers of young children themselves, they are shrewd enough to refrain from commenting on the parenting practices of other mothers of young children, lest their own parental shortcomings be quickly pointed out.
No, the perpetrator of this dis does not possess the filter inherent in one parenting small children. One more guess.
Oh, hell to the no! She knows better. She probably thinks it, however. She likely knows it is true in her little heart of hearts. But to actually speak it in my presence? She is entirely too interested in her own self-preservation to drop a bomb like that one.
So, do you give up? Do you want to know who told me Ruanita was a better mom than me?
My own mother.
After I had perfected my doting daughter act, leaving work and spending eight hours sitting in the emergency room with her. Eight hours!
In her defense, she was highly medicated. And she was not being cruel. We were just chatting about kids and life and love and all that silliness that gets discussed when you spend eight hours in a tiny exam room with someone. It was said in the most conversational of manners. As though it were common knowledge with which everyone in the emergency room would certainly agree. I think I even saw the nurse nodding when she said it.
“You’re a good mom, but you’re not as good a mother as Ruanita is.” There were unspoken air quotes around the good. As in…you-really-suck-but-because-I-am-required-per-the-bylaws-of-motherhood-to-not-completely-ravage-your-self-esteem-I-will-tell-you-you-are-a-“good”-mother.
After she said it, she asked me, “Do you want to know when I knew that you just didn’t get this motherhood thing?”
Sure mom, please expound on my inadequacies.
“I was at your house one day and Sophie brought you a dandelion. You made her throw it outside. Right then and there, I knew that you just didn’t get motherhood.”
In all honestly, I have no recollection whatsoever of this incident, but I have no doubt it is true. My children have brought me dandelions for years. YEARS. In the beginning, I told them the hideous little weeds were beautiful. I put them in tiny Dixie cups of water. I thanked them profusely and kissed their sweaty little heads.
As a result, the dandelions—much like Jesus’ disciples of old—went forth and multiplied.
They showed up in my car. And on my nightstand. In my pockets. In my laundry. Yellow smudges infiltrated my carpet. They festered and rotted at the bottom of my purse. And there was no throwing them out in front of the children. They could be nothing more than yellow-tinged dust floating atop a Dixie cup, but I would have to smuggle them out like a Columbian drug lord—all the while enduring the accusatory stares of the children’s doting dog.
It got to be too much. So yes, I made Sophie throw out a dandelion. I probably made her throw out multiple dandelions. As a matter a fact, I enacted a full-scale “no weed” policy in my house. Right now, my son has a Dixie cup of grass that he brought home from school at the beginning of the summer. I am considering throwing it out, too. He overwaters it. It drips all over the floor. Then I am wiping mud from my kitchen table every day. Grass is fairly close to a weed, right? It might even be crab grass…I don’t know…I’m not a horticulturalist. I just know I don’t like weeds in my house. I don’t even like houseplants, if truth be told.
So my mom is probably right. Ruanita would totally let them weed it up. She lets them pull things from our recycle bin to “build” with. She encourages creative play. She takes them to the park. And the zoo. And the lake. She is a phenomenal parent.
I don’t do any of these things. In my defense, however, there are things I do. Parental-type things, even.
My name is Shannon and I am a good mom because I:
• Talk to my children. Really talk to them. So much so that Ruanita often asks me, “Why do you engage the children? You know better than to engage the children.” Truth be told, I like talking to them.
• I bake with my daughter. She may or may not be discussing the “dandelion incident of 2013” with her future therapist, but I guarantee that she will remember baking cakes with momma.
• I taught my son all about Star Wars. I watched The Lord of the Rings with him. I introduced him to The Princess Bride. I was the first person to call him a Muggle. I taught him to reclaim the word “nerd.” All three of my children now proudly exclaim that they are “nerds” and that’s A-okay.
• I snuggle the kids in bed at night before they all go to sleep.
• I handle all the “serious” talks with the kids. Sex? I did it. Bullying? I did it. Lucas’ overwhelming need for deodorant? That was me. Anxiety? Masterbation? Therapy? Consequences for their actions? Me, me, me and me.
• I schlep them to choir practice and Girl Scouts. I did swim lessons and soccer and ballet and…okay…that’s it. Nicholas does not believe in extracurricular activities that do not involve an iPad.
• I don’t yell at the kids as often or as loud as Ruanita. Not that yelling is a “bad” thing…I will just take the brownie points where I can get them.
• I buy all of their clothes. That’s parental, right?
• I buy all of their food. Again, relatively parental.
• I usually take them to the doctor. And the dentist. And the optometrist to pick out new glasses. I’ve taken them to every haircut they’ve ever had, too.
• I comb my daughter’s hair. She likes nothing more than laying in my lap and letting me comb her hair—usually while we stare blankly at a television screen, but that is beside the point.
• I concocted our whole allowance for chores program, which is working smashingly. As a result, we discovered that Sophie and Nicholas can empty the dishwasher—by far my favorite unexpected discovery of parenthood.
• I pushed Ruanita to get them a pet. The jury is still out on whether or not that was my smartest parental move, but the children adore our dog, Stella.
I may have my less-than-stellar-mommy moments. Often. All in all, however, I think I am doing okay. I am fairly competent, at least. So is Ruanita. We are both, individually, relatively adequate parents. As a team, however, I must say that we kick some ass.
My weaknesses are her strengths. My strengths are her areas for improvement. Combined, we pretty much have our kids covered on all fronts.
So my mom may be right. Ruanita may be a better mom than me. Or not. It doesn’t matter either way because together, we are freaking formidable.
Just ask the little Muggles who live in our weed-free home.