Archive for April 12, 2007

When You Have Kids…

My friend Bob correctly pointed out in my last post that the corollary to The Mother’s Curse, is “When you have kids you’ll understand”.   My parents got ME with that one.

When I was about 10, sister-mom’s hobby was painting ceramic things.  I don’t remember all the things she made, but I distinctly remember the pair of siamese cats.  She was especially proud of her work on these two cats, and they resided on a TV in the Living Room.  Like most 60’s and 70’s houses, the Living Room wasn’t really for living…atleast not for kids.  It was the room my parents saved for guests.  We were supposed to pass by it with our eyes averted at all times.  Naturally, that’s exactly where we headed any time she wasn’t looking.

One afternoon she ran to the store and left us, my sister-niece and brother-nephew, on our own.  Mike had a nerf ball we were throwing around, that turned into a game of keep away that turned into a rousing game of monkey in the middle.  Before we knew it, we’d drifted into the living room, someone threw a wild pass that missed the receiver and knocked one of those siames cats off the TV.  It shattered into a million pieces. 

I may have mentioned it before, but it bears repeating.  My sister-mom was very strict.  There wasn’t a single thing wishy-washy about her, she had no interest in being our friend, she was THE MOTHER.  Her punishments were swift, unrelenting and achingly painful despite the fact that we were never spanked, beaten or abused in any way.  She punished us by taking away our fun or our freedom. 

The three of us just stared at the broken pieces, our mouths hanging open, our hearts racing.  We were in such shock we didn’t even pick up the pieces, we just walked to the den and sat in a line on the couch.  Silently.  She came home and seeing us sitting, silently, immediately clued her in that something was amiss.  She set the grocery bags on the kitchen counter and walked off to look for the damage.  We continued to sit, silently.  I couldn’t think of anything but the impending punishment.  No pool privileges, no TV, no movies, no friends, no phone calls.  I assumed we’d be grounded to our rooms, put on slave labor to replace the cost of the cat.  She was always clever in her punishments, there was no telling what fiendish thing she would do to us once she saw the broken cat. 

We saw her pass through the kitchen, heard her walk through the dining room and held our breath for the howling we were sure would start when she reached the living room. We waited.  Nothing.  Minutes ticked by, still nothing.  Finally she came back into the kitchen and took the broom and dustpan out of the closet.  Sister-Mom came back with the broken cat on the dustpan and the other cat in her hand with the broom.  She looked calm, and controlled.  We watched her dump the broken shards and put the broom and dustpan away.  Then she took that other cat and dropped it into the sink breaking it into a million pieces.  Once she’d cleaned up the mess, she looked calmly at us and said “Why don’t you kids go outside and play, dinner will be ready soon.”

We walked on eggshells around her for weeks, wondering when she was going to decide how to punish us.  She never did and I forgot about the incident until I had kids of my own.  I used to be a cross-stitcher.  I had boxes and boxes of embroidery thread wrapped onto spools and stored numerically so I never had to search for materials for a project.  I kept the hoops, floss boxes, patterns and needles in a bag beside my chair.  It was the only thing in my house my kids knew they were not to touch.  I shared everything else I owned with them, but this was mine. 

I came home from work one day and found the boxes a mess, floss all in a tangle, felt pen marks on a piece I was stitching, pages torn out of my pattern books.  The older girls had got into the bag to make bracelets and failed to watch the younger two wreaking havoc on everything else. 

In that moment I knew exactly why sister-mom hadn’t punished us or even mentioned the incident.  What is a suitable punishment for discovering your children don’t respect your passions?  I did’nt mention anything to my kids either, just threw the whole mess away.  I did call my sister-mom, and apologize for breaking her ceramic cat. 

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April 12, 2007 at 10:18 pm 14 comments


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