Setting unreasonable expectations and shattering dreams…it’s what I do best.
I have a teenage daughter who is lovely, smart, responsible, and truly a joy to know. She is helpful, she gets good grades, and I can depend on her.
But man, she’s a slob.
Last week I was cleaning up the house. Against my better judgement, I decided to check out her bedroom (usually I just keep the door closed). Big mistake. Scattered on her floor and shoved in random places were dirty sweaters, candy wrappers, technology cords (ipod, computer, and phone), jeans, underwear, socks, belts, hats, and LOTS of papers.
While I DO support an individual’s right to live as he or she pleases, I draw the line at squalor in my own home.
We had been down this road before, this was not a new discussion. In the past, I would take away her laptop or cellphone for a period of time. She would respond with a big clean up. Then, not surprisingly, a few days later, we were back to an episode of Hoarders.
This time, I took a different approach. I put everything into two garbage bags and announced that if she didn’t put it all away, I would gladly drop the bags off at Goodwill. I did not raise my voice, I was amazingly calm.
My daughter then said something that I believe she has been thinking for some time:
“You are the meanest mother in the world!”
The words were like magic to my ears. As mothers, this is exactly what we all hope to hear from our daughters. I smiled and said “Thank you, I love you too.” She said nothing else to me and slammed her door. You see, as the mother of a 13-year old daughter, I had been expecting that. I was once such a teenager.
I went into our basement and pulled out a poem that my mother had posted outside of my bedroom and slipped it under her closed door. It goes like this:
“The Meanest Mother”
I had the meanest mother in the whole world. While other kids ate
candy for breakfast, I had to have cereal, eggs or toast. When others
had cokes and candy for lunch, I had to eat a sandwich. As you can
guess, my supper was different than the other kids’ also.
But at least, I wasn’t alone in my sufferings. My sister and two
brothers had the same mean mother as I did.
My mother insisted upon knowing where we were at all times. You’d
think we were on a chain gang. She had to know who our friends were and
where we were going. She insisted if we said we’d be gone an hour, that
we be gone one hour or less–not one hour and one minute. I am nearly
ashamed to admit it, but she actually struck us. Not once, but each
time we had a mind of our own and did as we pleased. That poor belt was
used more on our seats than it was to hold up Daddy’s pants. Can you
imagine someone actually hitting a child just because he disobeyed? Now
you can begin to see how mean she really was.
We had to wear clean clothes and take a bath. The other kids always
wore their clothes for days. We reached the height of insults because
she made our clothes herself, just to save money . Why, oh why, did we
have to have a mother who made us feel different from our friends?
The worst is yet to come. We had to be in bed by nine each night
and up at eight the next morning. We couldn’t sleep till noon like our
friends. So while they slept-my mother actually had the nerve to break
the child-labor law. She made us work. We had to wash dishes, make
beds, learn to cook and all sorts of cruel things. I believe she laid
awake at night thinking up mean things to do to us.
She always insisted upon us telling the truth, the whole truth and
nothing but the truth, even if it killed us-and it nearly did.
By the time we were teen-agers, she was much wiser, and our life
became even more unbearable. None of this tooting the horn of a car for
us to come running. She embarrassed us to no end by making our dates
and friends come to the door to get us. If I spent the night with a
girlfriend, can you imagine she checked on me to see if I were really
there. I never had the chance to elope to Mexico. That is if I’d had a
boyfriend to elope with. I forgot to mention, while my friends were
dating at the mature age of 12 and 13, my old fashioned mother refused
to let me date until the age of 15 and 16. Fifteen, that is, if you
dated only to go to a school function. And that was maybe twice a year.
Through the years, things didn’t improve a bit. We could not lie
in bed, “sick” like our friends did, and miss school. If our friends
had a toe ache, a hang nail or serious ailment, they could stay home
from school. Our marks in school had to be up to par. Our friends’
report cards had beautiful colors on them, black for passing, red for
failing. My mother being as different as she was, would settle for
nothing less than ugly black marks.
As the years rolled by, first one and then the other of us was put
to shame. We were graduated from high school. With our mother behind
us, talking, hitting and demanding respect, none of us was allowed the
pleasure of being a drop-out.
My mother was a complete failure as a mother. Out of four
children, a couple of us attained some higher education. None of us
have ever been arrested, divorced or beaten his mate. Each of my
brothers served his time in the service of this country. And whom do we
have to blame for the terrible way we turned out? You’re right, our
mean mother. Look at the things we missed. We never got to march in a
protest parade, nor to take part in a riot, burn draft cards, and a
million and one other things that our friends did.
She forced us to grow up into God-fearing, educated, honest adults.
Using this as a background, I am trying to raise my three
children. I stand a little taller and I am filled with pride when my
children call me mean.
Because, you see, I thank God, He gave me the meanest mother in
the whole world.
written by Bobbie Pingaro (1967)