MOM. Ah, Bunny. My Mom. I don’t give my Mom enough credit. At times she worked 3 jobs, got 4 hours of sleep a day, and still managed to care for 3 children under the age of 5, a dog that shit in the house daily, and a Persian cat that was spawned by Satan himself, with a smile on her face. She yelled. She lost her temper. She had her ugly moments, as all Moms do. But all of us knew she loved us fiercely. Except the dog. She drove him to the vet and we never saw him again.
SAD. Looking at how different the world is today, I can’t help but think that my Mom had it right. I look at the fear, the solitude…and it just makes me sad. I want my kids to grow up like we did – free spirited, and ready to explore the world. But most importantly, capable of making connections with other human beings.
So here is a list of all the things my mother got right. It’s long, but she is a pretty incredible person.
She made us play with the neighbors. We would ride our bikes or cut across back yards to knock on a door and play with other kids that were about our same age. That was the only criteria for making friends – they were about your age. She didn’t call first, we actually had to knock on the door and ask “can Adam play?”
She let us get dirty. She didn’t follow us with hand sanitizer and a pack of baby wipes to wash our hands and faces. And she didn’t worry about whether or not we were ruining our “good clothes”, because we didn’t have “good clothes”. We just had clothes. And we played in them.
She forced us to stick with commitments against our will. That poor woman. She drove us to basketball games, cheerleading practice, karate, and flute lessons CRYING because we didn’t want to go. But it taught me the value of following through.
We weren’t constantly supervised. I can remember being about 7 years old and we would spend all day riding our bikes, playing in the woods, and collecting cool rocks from the railroad tracks. THE RAILROAD TRACKS. When it was time for dinner, she would yell “DINNER!!!!” and we would hop on our bikes and head home.
Disagreements were settled by us, not our parents. Somebody isn’t sharing? You didn’t get a turn? Well sweetie, you’re gonna have to figure this out on your own. I’m busy cleaning up dog shit.
You WILL play with your cousins. I don’t care that you’ve only seen them twice in 5 years. Family was important. We would take a long ride out to Union, IL to the pig farm, and we’d spend all day trying to catch cat feral kittens in the barn with cousins whose names we couldn’t remember.
She talked on the phone A LOT. She talked to her sisters and her mother almost every single day. When there was something important, she just picked up the phone and told them. Friends and family never had to hear about all our shitty behavior, or her latest parental triumph on Facebook….Bunny made sure they were told first hand. And she always talked at a volume that forced us to relive the humiliation all over again.
She threatened to hit us with a wooden spoon. Before you get all crazy, she never actually hit any of us with it. But we believed the threat was real. We were all afraid of that spoon. To this day, my Mother could get me to do just about anything by threatening the spoon.
We sat down and ate dinner as a family. Every night. Even with everything she had going on, she managed to cook us dinner every single night. And before we could get up from the table, we had to ask to be excused. There was no TV and no phones. You either found something to talk to your family about, or you sat there and listened to yourself chew.
She let us have a woobie. Remember those smelly, ratty, hole-filled blankets you all carried around when you were babies? The one you would stand in front of the washing machine and CRY until it was safely back in your possession? Bunny never told us we were too old for them. She let us take comfort in our soft little blankets covered in boogers, bananas and farts, because there was no reason not to. She also went back for them every time we forgot them at our cousin’s house.
CONNECT. My childhood wasn’t perfect, but the lessons it taught me were invaluable. I believe in the freedom Bunny allowed us to have and the way it formed my perspective of the world. In a world full of people who don’t know how to connect with each other, I have never struggled with that. By allowing us to work through our issues, experience triumph AND defeat, and by shoving us out the door to play with other kids, Bunny set us up to develop meaningful relationships with the people we meet. And while the wooden spoon thing was a little harsh, respecting adults was something she wouldn’t compromise on.