Did you know I’m the worst mother in the world?
No really. It’s true. Ask anyone. My older daughter, my younger daughter, my mother-in-law, the mailman, and even those nice people at Village Market who have the pleasure of ringing up those sweaty, half-eaten packages of M&Ms while my toddler screams like someone’s taking away his favorite binky would all, I’m sure, corroborate that a bright, shiny plaque should be dedicated in my honor and displayed for all to see.
Don’t feel bad. It’s not like this comes as a surprise or anything. It’s been a long time coming. Truly, I’ve had years to practice… 17 years, 11 months and 18 days, to be exact. Not that I’m counting or anything or sitting here in my underwear of questionable expiration, sipping lukewarm coffee while trying to recall all of the wondrous ways I’ve effed my kids up over the years.
I should have written them down, all the sensational screw-ups, the paved-with-good-intentions shortcuts to hell, but it always felt a little… what’s the word I’m looking for… redundant, especially when the good people at Wilton Public Schools, I’m sure, have enough material on me to pen the great American novel.
From me to you, it takes a special kind of person to let her toddler walk around in two left shoes all day, or allow her 11-year-old to binge-watch something called “Singles Inferno,” or wash her older daughter’s cashmere sweater in the hot water cycle, shrinking it to miniature poodle size.
But it’s not just the two left feet or the ready-to-get-racy reality show that’s definitely not ready for sixth-grade prime time, or the fact that I should really never, ever be allowed near fine fabrics that has me holding the trophy and standing atop the mother of all mountains.
It’s something far greater… a complete and utter sense of distortion.
“You know I used to think I was the cool mom,” I said, polishing off my (I don’t know if you could even call it) coffee (anymore).
My younger daughter threw up in her throat a little, peeling her eyes from the scantily-clad-singles-who-just-wanna-mingle Netflix nightmare. “Not in those jeans.”
She laughed. “Just keepin’ it real for you, woman.”
She sighed, training her tweeny glare in my direction, silently eviscerating everything from my mom jeans to my side part without saying a word. And then:
“Can I borrow 20 bucks? actually $30… or do you have a $50? I’m meeting (a long list of names I mostly don’t recognize) in town later.”
“I’m sorry. What?”
She leaned in, her face inches from mine. “Can. I. Borrow. Fifty. Dollars???” Each word was louder and more drawn out than the next and I was suddenly overcome with the very gripping realization that if I didn’t somehow agree to her terms, or worse, flat out deny what’s starting to feel a bit like a hostage situation, I might find myself face to face with what I can only liken to the wrath of my sixth grade English teacher when I refused to comply with her word count for my book report on Island of Blue Dolphins when I wrote:
“There was an island. There were lots of dolphins. A girl got stuck there.”
End of story.
Payback’s a (missed her calling at the DMV) sixth grade English teacher. I cannot get my younger daughter to pick up a book to save her life or her final grade. My older daughter must be the mailman’s daughter. I have no idea. She’s like a walking Cliff Notes collection which fortunately/unfortunately alleviates a lot of stress for Little Miss Fork Over $50 because Clever Cathy Cliff Notes already read everything for her and…
“Um, hello? Money??? Are you even listening? Mom? Mom? Mom!!!”
“Sorry, bank’s closed, kiddo.” Short. Sweet. To the point, (kinda like that Island of Blue Dolphins essay).
What ensued was something… how should I put this… Unpleasant. No. Nevermind. ‘Unpleasant’ would be having a root canal or sitting through a three-act dance recital complete with costumes that might put Toddlers and Tiaras to shame. That was horrific. That, my friends, was adolescence at its finest. “I hate you! You’re the worst mother in the world!”
Classic, cliche and a close second to the time I told her I wasn’t buying her that pair of $250 (she just had to have them) jeans at this very Westport, I mean expensive boutique-y store and you know what? I try, really I do, to please these kids. Maybe too much. And maybe I’m not the cool mom. Fine. Clearly that’s reserved for women in bootlegs with symmetrical faces worthy of even hair distribution. And maybe I’m not the nicest mom either, not all the time. But the meanest? The worst? The most negligent, uncaring, under-involved (I inferred all of this from her two-minute tirade) mother of the year? I mean has she even heard of Lenore Skenazy? (And Lenore, if you are indeed reading this, would you please possibly consider adopting a 40-something-year-old SAHM who still has never taken the subway alone? Truly, madly, deeply you are my hero, woman.)
The tale ended as one might expect. I didn’t fork over a fresh $50 or even a $20 for what I can only assume would have quickly been squandered on candy from CVS, those very addictive little acai bowls from Sobol or a treat yourself at Classically Cate, all worthwhile investments for someone with disposable income who didn’t have the misfortune of mouthing off at her mother just moments earlier.
Finally, I told her I’d give her $10 after she picked up our entire collection of bath towels off her bedroom floor, brought down her dirty dishes and at least wrote the equivalent of, “There was an island. There were lots of dolphins. A girl got stuck there,” because, holy mother of God, will this year ever be over? I just need her to pick up a pencil already and pass sixth grade. I know, I’m the worst.
Columnist Lesley Kirschner grew up quiet, in the woods, and devoid of siblings so her hobbies quickly became reading, writing, and talking to inanimate objects. She also spent a considerable amount of time doing voice-overs for her dolls and watching too much daytime television–channel 3, sometimes channel 8, if the weather was good and the antenna wasn’t acting up. She was in attendance at school, graduated from a very much not notable college not worth mentioning, and was transplanted to Wilton with her husband, Ambler Farm‘s Farmer Jonathan and their (baby makes) three children almost a decade ago. Although she never quite found her calling in life, other than perhaps the doll voice-overs, which in hindsight were eerily convincing, she’s happy to try her hand at writing and is thankful for the support and community she found on Facebook’s Buy Nothing Wilton. Lesley realizes while this is all very exciting, she’s not winning a Pulitzer so she’ll wrap it up and be quiet. She’s had a lot of practice.