is a sorry state of affairs to find that your sweet little children
tower over you. It is terrible to have to speak to them sternly about
serious issues and find that you are craning your neck and that your
steely, uncompromising Mother Glare is being directed at the undersides
of their nostrils. You lose some of your steam in a situation like
that. And forget about dragging a step stool over before you start,
because at that point you become truly ridiculous.
It is a sad day in a mother's life when she suddenly realizes that
her daughters do not consider her to be the font of all knowledge;
from what is polite, to what is fashionable, to when one might reasonably
give up on DayQuil and make a trip to the doctor's office. It is like
losing something, losing a public office perhaps, or a magic Super
Cape, when you come to understand that your daughters consider you
to be naive and rather innocent. You can only sigh sadly, to yourself,
because they are all out at a jam session or in a pancake house until
two in the morning or on dates or in foreign countries or something.
You sigh sadly to yourself and think that they would not think you
so naive and innocent if they had only known you in 1979 when you
were cool and cynical and worldly and sarcastic and wore frayed jeans
and men's neckties. But this picture of yourself as you once were
even strikes you as naive and sweet and innocent. You might sigh again.
I am down three children and have only one left. And he's a galoot.
But sometimes they remember that they are still my children and sometimes
they even come to me wanting cuddles, or a sounding board, or the
kind of meaningless murmured conversation that one can only get from
one's mother. You know that conversation, "Did you? The gray one?
That's so pretty on you. He did? I'm sure you did! Imagine. Of course,
you were right. After all that? Well, of course not." It doesn't even
matter what you say. In fact, if you were to hear that particular
type of conversation in French or Russian or Japanese I think that
you would be able to get the gist of what was being said just by the
tone, the cadence, the murmured agreement. It is not so much a conversation
as a song. Kind of a validating little love song to your nearly adult
or newly adult child.
Remember the story about Jack and the Beanstalk? Remember how Jack
climbed up the beanstalk and went into the giant's castle and there
was a regular sized human woman there taking care of the giant? Jack
assumed that the woman was his housekeeper and it is easy to understand
why. The human woman cooked the giant's meals, and cleaned up the
castle and hollered for the giant to wake up when she saw Jack stealing
things away as the giant slept. I think the human woman was just the
giant's poor outgrown mother and that even though he was enormous
and noisy and stinky (I think the story said he was stinky, but I
may be extrapolating from my own experience) she loved him and tried
to take care of him.
When my babies were brand new, even by the time I had been through
it a few times, I was a little bit frightened of them, worried at
how very tiny and dependent they were and doubtful of my ability to
take care of them properly. I used to dream that I had accidently
taken them with me into the shower or to work or had tried to feed
them lambchops or done some other horrible thing with them. Now they
are all grown. They survived their infancies despite my worries. I
have more worries now than getting them too wet or feeding them big
food. I have to worry that I raised them to be careful, smart, ethical,
kind, vigorous, curious, open-minded people. I worry now that I fussed
at them too often and encouraged them too little. I have to worry
that I nagged them too much about keeping their rooms clean and in
the process forgot to tell them something vital. I worry that I told
them to run and play and leave Mama alone for a while one time too
many. But you hate to ask. You've got to cling to whatever credibility
Girl Detective's Theory of Everything"
May 11, 2007 Column
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