I brought home some boxes from my mom’s attic and garage on my last trip to their house, and I’ve slowly been sorting through them. A lot of the things that were, apparently, DRASTICALLY IMPORTANT for me to save at some point in the 90’s, are now just MILDLY AMUSING AND/OR REPULSIVE. Some things, though, have caught my breath and brought me to tears. And to blushing. And to tears. Take this little gem, which I typed because a scan would have been impossible to read in my chicken-scratch writing of yore:
Stuff to Remember When I’m A Mother
June 10, 1994
(age 13 ½)
1. Don’t limit phone time (unless it’s an emergency).
2. Always knock before entering their rooms.
3. Don’t act jealous if they talk to their dad a lot.
4. Wear makeup and dress nice if you’ll be seen in public with them.
5. Don’t act like their disciplinarian constantly.
6. Don’t expect them to tell you everything.
7. Be there to listen – anytime.
8. Keep your promises.
9. Never clean their rooms or look in their backpacks without permission.
10. Give them an allowance equal or close to that of their peers.
11. Watch body language. Leave or move away if they look embarrassed or uncomfortable.
12. Don’t threaten them with anything except removed privileges.
13. Provide all opportunities you can for lessons or activities.
14. Don’t tease them about girls/guys they hang out with a lot lately!!
15. Listen to their music and play it in the car. Sing along.
16. After the age of 12, be willing to give them money for Christmas and birthdays.
17. If they tell jokes, laugh.
18. If they sing, clap.
20. Attend all their recitals, plays, significant occasions, graduations, games, that they’re in.
21. Don’t make one go to the other’s functions.
22. Be up on the latest hairstyles and clothes and offer to help. But not too often.
23. Don’t bug them about their acne, posture, repeating themselves, etc.
24. Don’t force them to say “Yes Ma’am” and “Yes Sir” all the time.
25. Butt out of their lives!!!
26. Treat them like adults.
27. Let them play with their pets on trips.
28. Listen. You might be wrong.
29. Be willing to apologize if you overreacted.
30. Praise them often.
31. If they do something wrong, point it out gently. Ask if they want help redoing it or if they want to redo it alone.
32. Be a kind parent.
Okay, clearly, some of these need a little explanation.
#3: I guess I was preferring my dad’s company (which largely consisted of hanging out near him while he worked on the cars, worked in the yard, worked on computers, or worked with wood) to my mom’s at the time. I don’t really remember her giving me a hard time about it, all these years later, but maybe at the time it felt that way.
#4: How can I say this nicely? I can’t. My mother doesn’t wear makeup and has no clue about clothes. She is a spry, perky, 50 year old woman who is already dressing like an 80 year old. Leisure suits. Things with much embroidery. Holiday clothing outside of elementary schools and hospitals. At this point in my life, I have a laissez-faire attitude about it (and the occasional rueful chuckle at photos) but when I was a teenager, it MORTIFIED ME. Repeatedly.
#10: Obviously, I was getting stiffed. My parents’ allowance equation went like this: at age 5, you got $0.50 a week. Every year after that, you got a ten-cent per-week raise. So at 10, in 1990, I was getting $4.00 a month. By 13, they’d given me a bump (the equation would have netted me $5.20 a month) to something like $8.00 a month. But since I had friends who were getting $20 a week, I felt like the poorest of the poor.
#12: I have Dobson parents. They stopped spanking me when I was about 11, but they continued to threaten to spank me or slap my face. It horrified me and humiliated me.
#14: Two words for ya: first crush.
#15: Interestingly enough, I thought that having parents sing along in the car was a GOOD thing? That makes me laugh now.
#21: Because parents are supposed to support you but little brothers are dirt. Or whatever.
#22: See #4. My mom was in no position to help me, so I started middle school and high school with a really, really, really awful combination of clothes, makeup, and hair. Stacey and Clinton would have just shot me to put me out of my misery, okay? It was bad. I needed counsel and wisdom.
#25: This is what makes me scared of the teenage years. I penned 24 items that are really begging for connection, closeness, empathy, understanding… and then scream to be left alone. Lord help me…..
#27: What on earth!?…..
#28-32: And here we have some of the biggest things that motivates me in my parenting choices. I don’t ever want Smooch to be sad or angry, alone in his room, wishing that I would just listen to him and consider his side of things. I don’t ever want him to think that the only thing I live for is correcting, humiliating, and punishing him.
If I find any more funny and sweet treasures, I might type them up and share. Now, the really embarrassing stuff? Let’s just say that there might be a bonfire in our backyard soon…..