Celebrating Mother's Day: Out of the Mouths of Babes
The price of having articulate children can be sometimes, well, embarrassing.
One of the most amazing things about being a mother, to me, was witnessing my children’s language development progress from piercing cries to coos, which became one-syllable words, which then spun themselves into sentences. Now my articulate little darlings never stop talking and I drown in a sea of words daily, while longing for a bit of silence. Be careful what you wish for.
All parents have cutesy stories of how their children adorably garbled a phrase or word (“tawbeebies” is still what we call strawberries, chez moi). Rest assured that this is not one of those columns. Rather, this is an observation about how my fascination with language development has morphed into my fiercely verbal offspring using their skills against me.
There are numerous phrases that mothers really don’t want to hear from the lips of their children. And mind you, I’m talking about elementary schoolers here, so I haven’t yet reached the point of “Mom, can you come bail me out of jail?”
When learning how to make microwave popcorn, my 8-year-old turned to me with a contemplative look and queried, “Mom, when you were little, did people cook with fire, like cavemen do?” I laughed, but ouch! Really, how old does he think I am?
Perhaps following a social studies unit involving George Washington and his rumored wooden teeth, my friend’s precocious daughter asked if her mother wore wooden braces as an adolescent. Interested in American Girl dolls and Little House on the Prairie books, this same little girl also earnestly asked if there were cars when her mother was young. Perhaps these innocents need tutoring sessions on the historical timeline of the 1900s in order to avoid such glaring anachronisms in the future. I mean, just because we didn’t have the Internet didn’t mean we walked everywhere and cooked with fire. Geez!
These slightly painful ageist slights from our children’s mouths can also take another form: commenting on our appearance. A couple of years ago, I’d promised to have a “date” with my oldest son on a chilly, rainy Tuesday night. When I emerged, having changed my sweater and put on lipstick, declaring myself ready to hit the Dairy Queen (his choice of venue), I witnessed his little face fall in slow motion. Then came the stunner: “Mom, why don’t you look all pretty like you did when you went on a date with that other guy?” (Hint: not his brother)
Instantly, I have a flashback to adolescence: Trading eye rolls, giggles, and snipey comments with my sister about our mother’s favorite peach-colored jumpsuit, circa the very early 80s. The episode is so fresh in my mind and the guilt is a killer. Sorry, Mom. My cheeks are burning just thinking about it as the phrase “what goes around comes around” circles annoyingly in my conscience.
My 6- and 9-year-old sons, little skater types, have requested that I turn down what I consider to be hipster music in the carpool line, lest anyone else hear it. I’m reminded of being mortified as my father played versions of Neil Diamond and John Denver songs on the piano while I had friends over. I turned the Phoenix CD off immediately and let them out of the car in silence. This can’t be happening: Indie rock is to my children what Neil Diamond was to me. What is the world coming to?
Mothering is a “learn by doing” series of tasks for which no amount of knowledge will fully prepare you. A little learning, a dollop of women’s intuition, a dash of resourcefulness, a willingness to look ridiculous, and not being squeamish about filth are several of the dozens of ingredients. Having children changes you in ways, both wonderful and weird, that you couldn’t possibly have foreseen. You look back and wonder what on earth you did with all that free time. And all that roaring silence must have seemed deafening. Hmm, how on earth could I get it back for just a few minutes? Well, I could get really resourceful with that roll of duct tape. Kidding!
Seriously, buy those hardworking, deserving mothers in your life a mimosa and some eggs benedict this Mother’s Day. These stellar local spots are offering fabulous Mother’s Day Brunch Buffets: Canoe, Lime Taqueria, McCray’s West Village Tavern, The Grape Wine Bar & Bistro, South City Kitchen Vinings and Vinings Inn.