Tuesday, February 28, 2012
The Mom I Want to Be
We had a foreign exchange student from Sweden live with us one year. To her dismay, my parents took their responsibility to keep her safe and return her to her own parents in one piece very seriously, and they treated her just like their own daughter. They had the audacity to expect the young men picking her up for a date to actually come to the door and speak to them, and to expect her to be home by an outrageously early curfew. I mean, we're talking before midnight! There was one young man who took a liking to her; we'll call him Todd. Todd was quite the gentleman, and I believe if he had tried to sit in the car and honk for her to come out of my house instead of going to the door and speaking to my parents, his own mother would have turned him over her knee, because she had raised him right. And so, despite the complaints from our houseguest that year, he politely came in the kitchen every time he picked her up, spoke cordially and respectfully to my parents, listened patiently to their rules and expectations, and had her home by curfew. He won my mother over and was welcome in our house. Whether he was an honest gentleman, or whether he was just afraid of my mother, is hard to say. You see, my dad is over 6 feet tall and rather quiet (because he can't get a word in edgewise around my mother and me put together), and some of my male friends said they found him intimidating. I am quite sure that had one of them injured me, they would have been very sorry that they had incurred his wrath. But my mother was the pit bull/angry mother bear cross that aggressively instilled fear into potential suitors. She was a country girl who had literally killed snakes that were within inches of biting her and had shot a groundhog from her bedroom window (she is a really good shot). A black snake that had dared to interfere with a bird's nest she enjoyed watching had met a rather unfortunate end and had lain beside our driveway for quite some time as a warning to other predators. Seriously, don't mess with her bear cubs.
In the course of time, the exchange student went back to Sweden, Todd went off to college, and I managed to get through most of high school under my mother's over-protective watchfulness. My senior year in high school, I went with a team to a competition at Todd's college. My friend Beth and I were quite anxious to hang out with Beth's sister and her cool college friends, but when her sister had to study for an exam, Todd and another guy who had graduated from our high school offered to take us out instead. Wow, college guys! We were naive and stupid, really, and almost glad Beth's sister had to study so that we could hang out with college guys! We went to several places around town, and the other guy with us began drinking quite a bit. As he continued to insist, with increasingly slurred words, that he could hold his alcohol and was completely sober, I was watching Todd nervously. He was driving, and he was 21. So far he, Beth, and I had only had soda, but I was worried he may decide to have a stronger drink at some point. What was I thinking going out with college boys???? At 5'3" and barely 100 lbs, I was unlikely to be able to overtake him and confiscate his keys if the need arose. Could Beth and I take him together? I began to make a plan to call a taxi and get back to the school if I saw him take a drink of anything but Coca-Cola. Finally, I just pulled him aside and said, "Since you are driving, I just have to make sure. Are you going to be drinking anything tonight?"
"Are you kidding?!" he looked at me wide-eyed. "With YOU in the car? Your mother would KILL me!"
Three years after he'd last seen her and 200+ miles away, my mother's protection had followed me, completely unbeknownst to her.
Now that I have a teenager, my children are beginning to give me the same eye roll that I used to give my mother. The image in the dictionary next to "over-protective" is beginning to peel, and I fear that they may be getting ready to replace it with my own picture. The picture over by "cool mom," the one I was hoping to be back in my teenage years, is someone else entirely, with whom I don't seem to have much in common. But I find that's OK with me.
This is the mom I want to be!