The other night as I was washing dishes, I noticed a line of fifty or so wild turkeys wandering across the middle of the bluff behind my house. A couple times a week or so, they wander back and forth…so I wasn’t surprised when they suddenly appeared. At the end of the line, however, there was a turkey who appeared to have a serious case of undiagnosed ADHD. While all the other turkeys strutted in perfect formation, he ran here and there, plowed into trees, tripped over branches, and poked at the turkeys in front of him. Before long, from somewhere near the front of the flock (rafter…or whatever a bunch of those ugly birds are called), a turkey lifted off the ground and glided back toward the end of the line. She dropped down next to the ADHD turkey, opened her wing and whapped him across the head. He laid on the ground for a couple of seconds before wobbling to his feet. Then, as the larger turkey turned to walk away, the smaller followed—in perfect formation—to join the others.
Now, I say “her” because I would have to guess it was his mother. Mitch, my husband, said it was definitely his wife, as did other friends on Facebook. I suppose it could be, but either way, it got me thinking about the kind of mother I am. I know I am a good teacher, but it appears that I deal with other people’s kids much better than I deal with my own. To prove my point, I will share some of my motherly faux pas over the years and let you decide for yourself.
CASE 1: When Brandon was about five, I was staying with my sister for a few days while I attended a workshop near her. While I was gone, my niece took Brandon to a pet store and bought him two fish that he promptly named Jenny and Eric. The next morning, my mom, who was also visiting, rushed downstairs and whispered to me, “You have to tell Brandon his fish died before he goes upstairs and finds them dead!” I struggled with what to say to him, but nothing came to mind. In the meantime, my mother and sister (a social worker…who would know the perfect thing to say) stationed themselves at the bottom of the stairs to keep Brandon from going up and discovering the demise of his fish. When he came out of the bedroom, I sat him down on the couch. I started the conversation in at least three different ways before I finally blurted out, “So, you know how when you buy something cheap…it doesn’t last? Well, your cheap fish died last night.” He screamed as he raced up the stairs with my mom close on his heels. My sister walked over to me and smacked me across the top of the head. “You don’t say that to a five year old! What kind of a mother are you?” Later that day, we owned a $100 cat…shots, carrier, bowls and all.
CASE 2: When my daughter, Taylor, was two, she was a runner; her escapes could rival those of Houdini. Because of this, whenever we were out and about, I had to keep a very close eye on her. One day, we were at the mall to meet with her birthmother. We’d been there for less than two minutes when Taylor suddenly disappeared. (Seriously, one minute she was there and the next she was gone!) We searched and searched and found her in the middle of a clothing rack in the Disney store talking to a stuffed Tigger. I wasn’t sure if I was more relieved, mad or embarrassed. It’s never a good idea to lose the kid that someone chooses you to raise. Anyway, to keep from losing her again, I connected one of the straps of her overall dress through the strap of my purse.
CASE 3: When Brandon was two and a half, he decided he was done wearing diapers. There was no help or encouragement from me. After that announcement, the only problem we ever encountered was that if he said he had to go to the bathroom—he meant right then! One day, we were in a “help yourself” shoe store trying to buy shoes for him. We had just gotten a pair of shoes on him when he announced, “I have to go!” I told him to hold it for one minute so we could try on the next size. I just get the new shoes tied when I hear “Oh-Oh!” and he lets it go: down his pants and into the shoes. We took the shoes off of him and put them back into the box. We bought the first pair. Ugh! (Note: Couldn’t do it…went back and bought the pee shoes, too!)
CASE 4: I am not an animal person. Don’t get me wrong, I love them…but I love them at other people’s houses instead. Maybe I am too selfish to spend my time cleaning up pet hair. In a weak moment, we agreed to get Taylor a Wheaten Terrier. Riley was as cute as a button, but he was a chronic pee-er. If you looked at him wrong, he would immediately piddle a puddle. Wanting to be good dog owners, we installed an invisible dog fence around the yard. However, as Riley got older, his problem grew and we went from piddling puddles to leaking lakes. One summer day, Taylor and Riley were lying on the floor when there was a knock on the door. Immediately, Riley started to leak. He missed nothing…not Taylor, the carpet, or my feet and shirt as I picked him up to stop his quivering stream. After I dealt with the delivery man and the yellow mess, I took him outside—beyond the invisible fence. There, I put his collar on him and set him down so he couldn’t come back across the line and into the yard. Then, I calmly walked back into the house. He sat and barked at the house, and Taylor sat in the window and cried. After a couple minutes I went out and saved him. But needless to say, it wasn’t long before he went to live on a farm where it didn’t matter where he left his puddles.
CASE 5: When Brandon was very young, he had a million stuffed animals that he lined up on his bed—serving as his congregation as he played church. At “communion time”, knowing his animals couldn’t come to him, he would take a bowl of Cheerios and launch the entirety at his “buddies”—all over the floor and the bed. At first it was cute, but after cleaning up Cheerios every day for nearly two weeks, I finally told him that his buddies had changed their religion and could no longer receive communion. “Who can come to my church, then, Mom?” he whined. I gave him two buddies and said, “Only these two go to your church anymore; so, just hand them each a Cheerio at communion time.” Really, what mother does that?
Through the years, I have packed suitcases when either of them threatened to run away. I have “stained” clothes I never wanted them to wear again. I “inspected” and had to “remove” several chocolate bars from their Halloween stashes because they looked like they may have been “tampered with”. I have “lost” CDs, movies, or books that I just couldn’t stand to listen to, watch, or read one more time. But the worst thing of all is that I have pretended to listen when I really wasn’t. They say mothers can multitask. Maybe for some things that is true, but that whole listening thing isn’t something that should be multitasked.
Ultimately, I would consider myself a good teacher, maybe even a great one in the eyes of some of my students. I would never do these things to other people’s kids, but I did do them to my own. Does that make me a bad mother or does it mean I am just creative?
Did the fact that the turkey flew back and whapped the other one across the head in order to get him (definitely male) to straighten out, make her a bad mother? I guess I’m not seeing that it does. Maybe I’m wrong. All I can say is that it’s a good thing I am a better teacher than I am a mother. I could be a lawsuit waiting to happen.