By Jenny Morris
The insane demands of motherhood never cease to amaze me. The juggling of routines and school schedules. The constant monitoring of health and welfare. Society’s harsh judgment when one of the children manages to slip past me on school spirit day dressed in a coconut bra. (He looked really good in it, so I hear.)
But that’s not the insanity I’m writing about. I mean the demand that some part of my psyche insists I dedicate to mothering. And the convolutions I go through to satisfy it. Grendel’s mother starts to look quite rational compared to some of my episodes.
One evening earlier this week, daughter No. 2 (child No. 6) casually mentioned that she and a friend were going to the fair. “That’s nice,” I said. Or something just as inane. Twenty-four hours later, she started talking about the outing again, but this time with words like “gas in my car” and “then I’ll take her home.” My head jerked up and I asked, “So, her mom is taking you two?” No.
I was informed that somewhere, sometime, in the not-too-distant past, I have agreed to my daughter crossing O’Neal Bridge, driving to the fair, parking, spending several hours, and then driving 12 miles to drop off her friend before coming home again.
I quickly announced a change in plans. I would be going with them. She promptly said she would cancel. I assured her, no, it would be fun. I tried to talk my husband into going with us — it would make a great date night, I hinted. He replied he planned to spend the evening cleaning out the bath tub drain. (What can compete with that?) No matter. I would go it alone.
My protective instincts and parenting convictions held through the night and into the next day. I left work fully intending to rush into the house and change clothes. I would be the cool mom who could have fun after 5 o’clock on a school night. But then that black magic happened that happens every day on my drive home. My good intentions melted away and I walked through the door determined to never leave the house again. EVER.
But child and best friend were at the kitchen table waiting. Husband still declined to spend his evening out — I could tell without asking because he was in his plumbing get-up. He could tell without asking that I was wobbling on my good intentions and helicopter parenting resolves. “Why don’t we drive them over, and then pick them up a few hours later?” he asked. “Well,” I said, “I guess that would be OK.”
Then I visualized the sun setting. I visualized my daughter and her friend, just steps apart but unable to see in the darkness. They would turn, look for each other, and walk away to strangers. I’m going to have to go, I think, until I realized the solution and called to her up the stairs.
“Do you still have the Glow Stick necklaces I brought home from my trip last weekend?”
“Yes,” she yells back.
“Wear them to the fair.”
And just like that, another parenting dilemma is solved and the insatiable mother-monster inside me is silenced. And my daughter, when questioned why they each were wearing two lit Glow Stick necklaces hours before sundown, just laughed. She told the carny, “It was this or have my mother tag along.”