Making it up along the way

This week, although it is difficult to believe, my beautiful daughters turned 25. They are fun, intelligent, self-actualized people who make our lives joyful, and we are blessed to have them.

I could go on and on in an obnoxious fashion about how wonderful they are, but I can’t, because I’m completely overwhelmed by this one fact:

I have been a mother for a quarter of a century!

Even typing that makes me need to have a bit of a lie-down and possibly an adult beverage.

Twenty-five years of mothering! And me with no training whatsoever, and not a natural aptitude for it, either! I mean, I thought there was supposed to be a manual or something.

I look at my kids and think, “Do you realize that you have been mothered all these years by a rank amateur? Do you know that she didn’t even read the Spock book? Are you aware that she cancelled her subscription to a parenting magazine because it ticked her off? Didn’t you think to insist that she take a quiz or something?”

The answer to all these questions is no, because they were too busy setting fire to Pop Tarts and tying their little brother to a tree. And I am just grateful that they were not doing these things at the same time.

It turns out that mothering is not the well-planned affair I once thought it was; it’s a lifelong scramble to do the right thing at the right moment, or at least the less-damaging thing at the moment just after the moment where it would have been helpful.

My kids have informed me that asking, “Are you bleeding? Are you unconscious?” was not the most empathetic response I could have had when they came to me with Legos sticking out of their ears or another child attached to them teeth-to-elbow.

I was making it up as I went, darling children, and it seemed to me that you enjoyed putting 87 Band-aids on a scrape that didn’t even break the skin.

Making it up on the fly also explains the notorious “lizard incident,” wherein I innocently remarked to my daughters that the noise they were so dramatically over-reacting to was actually a big lizard that lived in the basement. I do not know what possessed me to do this, but it was not good parenting, because little kids do not get sarcasm, but they do get hysterical.

Let’s face it, mothers are the mother of invention. We make stuff up all the time, because we are aware that the empty hamster cage right beside the open air vent to the furnace isn’t a good sign, unless Zippity has asbestos fur.

We’re going to tell you that he’s living a happy life inside the walls with other animals of a hamster-like appearance, because we do not really want to explain what happens when something falls down the air-intake.

We had enough trouble with The Brave Little Toaster before it went on permanent loan to the trash.

We’re winging it, all the time. I was unable to plan for your reaction to crabs in the touch-tank at the aquarium. I had no idea you would insist, for MONTHS, that we inspect your sheets for crustaceans before you would get between them.

I could not predict when you would decide to drink acrylic paint, lock your brother in the basement, or bungee jump out of the pine tree with a jump rope tied around your waist.

The best I could do was react, and that often involved the “Are you bleeding, etc.” comment because it seemed to apply and usually calmed you down.

Nobody has to take a test to be a parent, besides the practical; we just do the best we can with what we’ve got, and the raw material is pretty cool.

I would like to say to my daughters that they’ve turned out exceptionally well despite my best efforts, and I just know that, at some point, they will turn to their offspring, who will probably have each other in a headlock, and say “Are you bleeding? Are you unconscious?”



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