I basically buttled my way through motherhood. I discovered early on that if I gave them what they wanted, they'd leave me alone. And by leave me alone, I mean take a crap occasionally. My husband and I had three girls within about an hour and a half, so I'm a little short on actual facts, but I'm pretty sure I was the best mother ever.
Okay, I'm not saying I didn't have issues, but after the first couple of months when motherhood left my body looking like Meat Loaf, (you editors out there, note the double entendre) and my brain operating on a Plinko level, things settled down. It took a while to get used to the taste of Old Milwaukee and Raisin Bran, but it's important to stay centered. It's also important to count, because the police hate it when you go on an afternoon outing and leave one of your kids at the park. This was particularly true in Kent, Ohio, in the early '70s, which is where and when we had our girls. Back then, cops knew that townies who were previous students were Democrats, and everyone knows Democrats neglect their kids. By the way, the cop who brought my two-year old home backed off when I offered him chips and Old Milwaukee dip. My daughter had apparently eaten an ice cream cone the size of her head, because she threw up vomit and sprinkles all night. She also got all bent out of shape when we put her trophy police badge on her stuffed pig.
Anyway, we hit the preteens with all three girls intact. I'm not sure what happened in the years between ages 5 and 11, but my beautiful babies all of a sudden looked like the love children of Yoda and that creepy little thing in Harry Potter's bedroom. They all of a sudden had 64 teeth each, feet the size of pontoons, hair like a llama-poo and the fashion sense of ex-White House reporter Helen Thomas. Let's call it an awkward age. They didn't know whether to ask to play with baby dolls or to have their nipples pierced. They were pretty sure I was dumber than dirt, this cementing their beliefs that, like Peter Brady, they were probably adopted. I could only wish. I sure didn't want to have to tell anyone they were mine. Despite this terrifying, awkward, schizophrenic age, they all managed to become teenagers. . .
. . . a word that strikes fear into the hearts of parents everywhere. Whoever it was who said "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself" didn't have teenagers. Being strict works for a while, but within a week of 13, they'll man their bustiers, paint on their turquoise eye spackle, look you in the eye and hold you hostage at least until they're 16, when they need your car. So from behind my bedroom door, I gave them anything they wanted.Money? Piercings? Tattoos? Thiry-seven year old boyfriends? Take 'em. Just don't hurt me. Interestingly, despite their terrorizing approach, they were as delicate as a dandelion caught in a sneeze. Roger didn't call? "I'll be in my room drinking arsenic." A teacher asked me to pay attention? "Can we have her killed, Daddy? Can we? For nine years, there was always someone in one of our bathrooms crying--sometimes our daughters, sometimes someone else's. We just threw a fistful of money of bills in and an easy-to-trace sketch of our signatures and backed away. All this, as you know, is brought on by hormones, which is why someone in our family always needed a quarter, possibly because my husband threw a fiscally induced hissy fit one day and installed a tampon machine in their bathroom.
So, give your awards. Write your tributes. Publish their diaries. I'm here to tell you I have proof of my status as best parent. I lived through it.
Causes Barbara Gyles Supports
GBS/CIDP Foundation International; American Syringomyelia & Chiari Alliance Project; Kent May 4 Center