I have four children, all of whom are old enough to vote, buy porn and fireworks, and travel the world without me holding their hands. I was nineteen when I chose motherhood over a plethora of other options, including becoming an alcoholic, or an archaeologist. Motherhood has been much more entertaining than either of those, and I have never regretted my choice, although being a mother is often enough to drive one to drink.
Or dig up dead bodies.
To see which one of your children is responsible.
Why do I love being a mother?
It’s not like the pay is good.
There are no holidays.
Sometimes you get puked on.
It’s like being the worst paid taxi driver in the busiest city in the world, with passengers whose sole goal in life is to give you constantly changing directions whilst oozing various bodily fluids all over the cab and each other, while singing “This is the song that never ends” at the tops of their lungs and forcing you to go through every drive thru in the city to place orders for twenty burgers and fries, with a Scottish accent, exact change, and please hold the onions.
Because they think that’s fun.
Also hitchhikers. They really like picking up hitchhikers.
There is always someone in the back of the cab getting a tattoo, or breaking up with someone, or chopping off various body parts which they expect you to be able to sew back on. Sometimes they invite animals into the cab, sometimes police officers, sometimes someone else’s angry mother. You keep driving the cab, because your grip on the wheel is so tight it would take the Jaws of Life to remove you from the driver’s seat, and you’re hoping the tip will be good at the end of the trip.
There was no job interview, when you started driving the cab, and you have the sneaking suspicion that all that money you put out for the medical plan, and union dues, and the retirement package is actually being squandered by the author of “What to Expect When You’re Expecting”, because that bitch should be sued for failing to mention the dents in the cab, the speeding tickets, the pot holes in the road, and the faulty seatbelts, and… do I smell marijuana?
What are you doing back there?
Stop hitting your sister!
I don’t care if all your friends are doing it, you are not going out dressed like that, young lady, and if you think for one minute you can speak to me like that…
Wipe that smirk off your face, boy, and go stack wood until you tell me who did it…
Are you using condoms? For God’s sake, use condoms, and no blow jobs, do you hear me?
You failed, what? You failed Math? Did you study? No, playing video games all night, that’s why, what did I tell you?
No. He cannot move in with us. He has no one? Well, ok. Ok, yes. And your best friend? Needs a home? Well…ok. But seriously, no more animals. You want a kitten? Really? I hate cats… but ok. Just one.
Oh my god, who is wearing my jeans? You are all shorter than me, and you wear out the hems of my jeans! I have torn jeans, and I am an adult, dammit!
Do you seriously expect me to… here. Here’s the Visa. Just come home safe, ok?
Is that a hickey?
Your boyfriend’s father thinks I’m hot? Oh, Jesus.
Where are you? Just tell me… Shubenacadie? You were trying to get to Halifax, and you ended up in Shubenacadie? In my car, without my permission, and you’ve road-killed a raccoon and now you are crying? Because of the raccoon?
I have always admired parents who approach the job with a plan. Like they think they can control what’s going to happen. The ones who rust-check the cab each year, and do all the proper maintenance at the proper time, and enforce the rules so everyone in the cab knows exactly where they are on the map, and when the next stop will be. That was never my approach to parenting. I was continually shocked and surprised by every aspect of my children’s lives. From the day I thought I would never live a life free from diapers, to the day my youngest child got on an airplane and flew away to start her adventurous life, I have confronted parenting with eyes wide in wonder.
I wonder what they will do next?
What have I learned? In twenty six years of mothering?
Never say never. They will always do the very thing you thought they never would, and it is often the best thing they’ve ever done.
The punishment mustn’t punish the punisher. If you take away every form of entertainment the child has, in an effort to show them how rotten they really are, you have to live with the boredom, the whining, the entertain-me-or-I-will-continue-to-dance-on-your-last-nerve annoyance of a child with no entertainment. Make them stack wood. A healthy wood pile is the yard stick of good parenting. Knock it down and make them do it again, if you have to.
Laugh. Children, like weiner dogs, are funny. How can you not laugh when your thirteen year old son has a birthday party and he and all of his friends sneak away from the house to roam the streets like the rebels they truly are, and when you realize they are gone, and you track them down, they run away from you through the local cemetery like ninja warriors, even though you are following their every move with the headlights of your car? That’s funny! How can you not laugh when your darling baby rides her bike, drunk, down a twisty road, in the wee hours, back to her boyfriend’s house when you thought you had just tucked her, sobbing, into bed, because she had broken up with him. But no, she got up and biked wildly downstream to tell him he was a fucking asshole. He was nice enough to drive her home. And you slept through it all.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not suggesting that it was funny… at the time.
How can you not laugh when your darling child wraps her friends in Saran Wrap and encourages them to slip-n-slide down the lawn at three am, such that the neighbors leave three messages on your phone when you return in the morning to find bubbles all over the yard and… Let me revise that piece of advice.
Laugh… in retrospect.
I overheard my father once telling someone that I could have been anything I wanted to be, but I decided to be a mother instead.
Can you tell me of anything that you will love, more than you love your children?
Can you tell me of anything that is more important, in any moment of your life, than your children?
Can you tell me of any career that is more rewarding, challenging, and demanding of your whole self, than parenting?
I’m not saying I have done it well. I have crashed that cab into more brick walls and stop signs than enough. I have forgotten to check the oil, and I have let the passengers out at the wrong stops. I have used Windex when the mess called for Armor All. I have allowed the passengers to puke in the backseat when I should have made them roll down the window and hang over the side.
But I wouldn’t trade my dented, rusty, needs-a-new-muffler cab for any Cadillac, and I wouldn’t trade my delightful passengers for any cleaner, more polite, quieter crowd. In my life as a Mother, I have driven to every hockey rink and swimming pool in Nova Scotia. I know the location of every Tim Horton’s and every MacDonalds. I have spent many a long night, and many an early morning, searching for my wayward children as they ricochet off their various umbilical cords, careening towards independence. I have cried, laughed, ranted, roared and hollered… and I wouldn’t trade a moment of the time I have spent with my delightful spawn. Hannah, Eli, Abbie and Molly. I love my babies.
My father was wrong. I am everything I ever wanted to be, because I am a mother.
Finalist in WFNS Atlantic Writing Competition
Grub Street Endorsed