I was a much better mother before I actually had a child. I did so many things right back in the old days, when I was that other mother.
That other mother lost her pregnancy weight in two weeks, breast fed for three years, and had a child who immediately slept through the night, allowing her beautifully romantic relationship with her husband to be completely unaffected by parenthood.
That other mother was naturally slender, polite and patient. She cooked healthy, yet tasty food and kept an immaculately clean house. She was tolerant and fair and she didn’t make snap judgments when her kids appeared to be guilty of something. She wasn’t a pushover. Once she laid down the law, she stood her ground.
She spoke fluent Spanish, Chinese, German and French, and could play piano by ear and sing with perfect pitch. She taught her children sign language, and they did simple little experiments on her home particle accelerator.
Teachers and coaches were always telling her how wonderful her kids were. Her children were the ones that other mothers used as examples of perfect behavior when their own kids misbehaved. I can’t tell you how many times I heard, “I bet Leslie’s son would never talk back to his mother like that. I bet her son goes to bed immediately when told and does his homework without complaining a bit. He even likes to do the extra credit pages.”
This woman, this other mother, never once lost her temper with her child or her husband or even that lady with 14 items in the “10 items or less” line at Vons who always counts her $19.99 in change out r-e-a-l-l-y s-l-o-w-l-y and then finds a coupon in her wallet and has to re-count the whole thing again. This other woman had a street named after her.
Plus, she never had a bad hair day in her life, and looked perfectly groomed without a stitch of makeup. She was quite amazing, this other mother, the one I was going to be before I had kids. She was really kind of perfect, but in such a down-to-earth, good-humored way that nobody even hated her for it.
And then there’s me.
I’m the mom who asked her son what he had eaten on Saturday, and when he answered “pancakes and Pringles,” pretended to be horrified, but was actually relieved he had eaten anything at all, since I couldn’t remember feeding him.
I’m the mom who told her son that the swear words he learned at camp weren’t really the worst swear words in the world, and then, more interested in expanding his vocabulary than avoiding detention, went on to give a few examples.
I’m the mom who forgot to tell the Tooth Fairy to come to our house the other night, and then tried to blame her son for not putting his tooth in the right place. “Silly boy. Tooth Fairies never look under the left side of the pillow.”
I’m the mom who teaches her son logic by giving “because I said so” as the reason for making him do something whenever I can’t think of a better one.
I’m the mom whose son once told me I reminded him of the bossy girls at school. Then he shook his butt at me and, rather than punish him, I laughed. I couldn’t help it. I do that a lot–laugh inappropriately at butt shaking, arm farts, belches, and other behaviors that I absolutely know I should not encourage.
For example, when my son was three, he used to eat his boogers. When I’d scold him, like that other mother would, he’d always say, “tastes like chicken.” It cracked me up every time.
That other mother–not that her child would ever in a million years exhibit such imperfect behavior, but let’s just say for example’s sake that he did, maybe because some other mother let him eat too much cake, ice cream and cotton candy at a birthday party–would have scolded him gently and explained why that was disrespectful in kid-friendly language.
That other mother’s family probably sends her to the spa on Mother’s Day, just so they can take a break from her perfection and eat take-out burritos on paper plates and not worry about cleaning the kitchen.
Guess what I’ll be doing on Sunday?
Not being that perfect other mother, and maybe, just maybe, being OK with that.