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On sappy tributes to motherhood

By Isabel Lyman
web posted May 14, 2001

I have decided I dislike sappy Mother's Day tributes.

These saccharine testimonials usually come in two categories. In version one, the male writer (usually a new papa) gets weepy while announcing how grateful he is to have had Mrs. Perfect as his mother. Mum gets thanked for bandaging the skinned knees, baking the chocolate chip cookies, foregoing the Cancun vacations to pay for the braces, and basically not having a life.

Gag.

June Cleaver
June Cleaver

In version two, the female writer (usually a new mama), gushes about her encounters with the pitter-patter of little feet. Mum praises the incessant crying, lauds the long days of sleep-deprivation, appreciates the willingness to eat peanut-and-jelly sandwiches standing up, and raves about basically not having a life.

C'mon.

This drivel has driven me to broadcast some hard truths on this revered holiday: Motherhood can be a migraine. Stretch marks, like most battle scars, aren't pretty. Children are often inconvenient, prickly creatures.

Frankly, I am feeling a bit punchy about this honorable line of business – although I'm a Don King-like promoter of stay-at-home mothers - because of my own lot. I currently parent two teenaged boys. My sons are prime examples of why I sometimes wish I were in Dixie, on Martha's Vineyard, or at a cabin in the Canadian Rockies. Away from the clomping of size 10 feet and adolescent angst.

Daily life with this pair feels like an endless series of "Zits" comic strips. Like Jeremy Duncan, the fifteen-year-old star of "Zits," my sons think my husband and I are big dolts.

Wid, my youngest, wrote a short essay about me for Mother's Day. The little twit didn't rise up and bless me. Not even close. While he stated that I was "alright," he helpfully noted that since I require him to do schoolwork, I am "mean and selfish."

My other son is also a young skull full of mush, to borrow Rush Limbaugh's phrase. I keep hoping he will honor me by voluntarily immersing himself in a classic work of literature, like War and Peace. I thought the day had finally arrived when Dan handed me a compact disc that featured a skinny chap named Moby, a descendant of the writer Herman Melville. Dream on, girl. This Moby is a techno/pop/punk icon whose cd features a song titled "Machete."

"Listen to it, and tell me what you think," said Dan.

What I think? I think I am a mom, not a rock groupie, you twerp.

Twit and twerp. Those are my boys.

But just when I decide that motherhood has as much cachet as a Florida State Seminole fan does in Oklahoma, I fondly remember my former next-door neighbor from the Midwest.

Anna Marie Costello is a petite, polite fifteen-year-old who does not fill her free time plotting against the establishment. She cheerfully helps care for her four younger siblings. She never complains about going to Mass at her church or being homeschooled by a tutor. She wrote a letter to the twit and ended it with, "I'm praying for you and your brother." Anna Marie describes her mother, Cathy, as "my friend."

My dear Anna Marie, I not only do not get called ‘friend' by my offspring, but I get bossed around, as in "Woman, bring me my food." With a daughter like Anna Marie, Cathy Costello has much celebrating to do when Mother's Day rolls around.

On the other hand, Mother Costello may never experience many of the adventures of living life on the edge. She'll not have the opportunity to witness her bundle of joy getting kicked out of an ice hockey game for illegally whacking an opponent; or the opportunity to explain to the police officer in the driveway why junior meant no harm in zooming his dirt bike through the neighborhood; nor the opportunity to learn that the Red Hot Chili Peppers has a bassist named Flea; nor the opportunity to receive a made-in-shop-class Shaker box as a gift.

"Blessed are they who can laugh at themselves," goes the modern proverb, "for they shall never cease to be amused." Good advice for those of us, who despite the aggravations, really love our young barbarians. Hope your Mother's Day was a memorable one.

Izzy Lyman, author of The Homeschooling Revolution, can be reached at ilyman7449@aol.com.




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