It’s said that doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is a definition of insanity. But it’s also widely acknowledged that, because randomness makes children feel unsafe, routine is essential to the task of parenting.
And, naturally, it’s not a routine unless it’s repeated. Regularly.
I routinely ask – nay, beg – my children to clean up after themselves, wear sunblock, brush their teeth, hair, sometimes the dog. I regularly remind them, ever so gently of course, to complete, double check, maybe even attempt the extra credit work on their assignments. I ask them to organize their rooms, their homework sometimes even their thoughts.
And each time, I hope against hope that one or both offspring might realize I am in their corner nudging them to do what is good for them.
On good days:
“Moooom, I know,” my teenage daughter will moan.
“I know, Mom,” her little brother will sigh.
At least the kids agree on something. “If you know, then do. Preferably now.”
“Okay, Moooom,” she’ll add, “I know!”
He’ll grunt. “I’ll do it in a minute!”
But on not so good days:
“Mother, do you think I’m a fucking idiot!” my daughter will scream, “I know what to do!”
“Jesus, mom, I’m 11 years old, I can wipe my butt and complete an assignment,” my younger son adds, “all on my own.”
And that’s when I leave the room because expletives are never a starting point for positive – or even positive-adjacent – dialogue. It’s then I wonder where I went wrong and reflect on all of the time and money wasted at Cotillion.
I am a mother – insane by definition.
But I am not alone. I am blessed with a posse of insane mom pals.
We commiserate about our masochistic insistence on doing what we believe is right for our families. We complain to each other about the resistance with which these best efforts are met.
People used to be wary of women gathering together for a single purpose. They feared how much the group magnified our individual power. They were fools.
“I’m grateful for parental controls, such as they are,” I stated at a recent cocktail – aka, group therapy with benefits – gathering. “The pre-frontal cortex isn’t developed until age 25.”
“And that’s just an average,” my friend Sally added. “There are a lot of folks who still lack executive function well into their thirties.” Sally may have a few control issues.
“And there are some men who don’t have the wherewithal to plan breakfast,” chimed in Karen, “let alone anything else–well into their fifties!” Karen’s soon-to-be-ex-husband said he needed someone more spontaneous.
I thank God for these women. They are perfectly imperfect in ways that complement my own failings. Several have children who are friends with my tykes. We’re convinced our children are on their phones constantly not because of Snap Chat, but because they’re plotting against us.
It’s not paranoia if it’s true.
So there are strategies. And I don’t mean just swilling Chardonnay (the benefits of which should not be discounted) that this coven-– sorry, Hillary, your kid may have only required a village, my kids are well…more devilish-–employs that offer some glimmer of hope for our future, if not for our sanity.
“Have you considered taking geometry over the summer?” my friend Carla had the audacity to suggest to her high school daughter who’d signed up for three AP classes for the following fall.
“Why, mom, don’t you think I can handle it? Do you think I’m dumb?” the 16-year-old responded before storming off in a huff.
“WTF!” my pal screamed into my ear. (Note to self; do not hold the receiver close to one’s ear when answering calls between 5pm and 10pm on school nights.) I then heard the popping of a cork.
“Well, you had the gall to suggest that Carla do something academic over the summer.”
“WTF!” Carla said between sips.
“You are her pre-frontal cortex,” I offered. “It’s hard being someone else’s brains.”
I’ve been there. Last spring, for example, when my daughter was applying to high schools I asked if she needed help with the essay questions.
“That’s okay, Mom,” she said. “I ran them through Grammarly.”
I felt a sudden wave of nausea. “You know, people have paid me to edit.”
“Good for you.”
“Seriously, sweetheart.” I’ve rarely had to beg to do free work, but there I was. “Professionally.”
“Good for them.”
It’s her unconditional admiration for me and my skills that keeps me going. “Honey?”
“Listen, you little unappreciative bitch–okay, maybe Cotillion’s shortcomings aren’t the reason my kids curse: Who has the stretch marks from carrying you all those months? Who has the under-eye circles from driving you to school every fucking day? Oh, and did you get A’s in English for your entire damned life? I think not!”
“Jesus, Mom, you don’t have to get so worked up.”
Contrast the above with Carla’s daughter’s reaction to my offer of assistance.
“Really? You’re willing to help me with a high school essay? Wow! Thank you.”
My daughter and I worked on her application essays together and she only got into 50% of the schools. I helped Carla’s daughter and she got an ‘A’.
“It takes a coven…” says Carla, over the fine bottle of Chardonnay she brings over. “My daughter will listen to you, not me.”
I lift my glass. “And my daughter will listen to you, not me!”
“Even if we’re saying the same damn thing!” we blurt out in unison.
We chink and drink.
The sisterhood of motherhood magnifies the possibilities for the next generation. When we raise each other – and the occasional wine glass — we elevate the future’s potential. We embrace our power to improve this troubled world through the children we raise.
Motherhood is crazy making. But if you do it with a like-minded coven–and some good Chardonnay–it might just make you a better person, one your kids might actually appreciate.