It’s not easy to win the Mother of the Week Award. You compete to see who does the most outrageous thing as a parent in any given week. The very first one went to my friend Mary Beth.
She had one of those days when everything went wrong at work. When she got home, she was met with yet another assortment of disasters: the cat had thrown up in the living room, the toilet was stopped up, the kids were fighting, the dog had cut its foot, and four large garbage cans had to be hauled the length of the driveway. As she was wearily dragging the last of the cans out, her five-year-old son ran up with a flower he had just picked from a neighbor’s yard. “I’m sorry, Micah,” she said, “I just can’t accept that flower.”
My friend Sue used to gain an extra hour of sleep in the morning by putting a banana in a paper sack into her son’s crib the night before. It took him an hour to get the banana out of the bag, peel it, and eat it before he cried for her. That was simply a good idea, not what earned her Mother of the Week. She earned that when we were talking about how long kids’ things can go without being washed. I said that Alex, at that time about three, sometimes wears the same clothes for two or three days. Sue’s son slept on top of his sheets, covered by a sleeping bag. “That’s nothing,” she said. “I haven’t washed Jeff’s sheets in, oh, about two years.”
I won my first award on an actual Mother’s Day when I discovered in Alex’s jeans a four-day-old note from his social studies teacher saying that he hasn’t turned in a report on Greece that was due a month ago, is doing poorly on tests, and is failing the class. So I put Alex to work on the report. Luckily he had assembled all the facts. He just had writer’s block. I also met with his teachers and got him back on track.
I won my second award also on a holiday. One year we decided to eat out for Thanksgiving, and we had a great meal at a dressy restaurant. Alex ordered fruit in champagne and ham with rum/raisin sauce, and milk with just the right amount of chocolate. He still had room for Bananas Foster. Later in the day, after the lunch had worn off, the kids got hungry again, and I offered sandwiches. Cheese. Meatballs.
“What I really want,” said Alex, “is ho-ho’s and ding-dongs.” I gave him money for 7-11. Mother of the Week.
When we lived in Houston we had a two-story house. During fire prevention week I made rope ladders for the kids and installed them while they were at school. Andy was two years older than Alex, and both boys were in high school. “Go up to your room and see your surprise,” I told Andy when he came home.
“Oh, boy, oh boy,” racing up the stairs. The silence of the disappointed. “What’s this?”
“It’s a knotted rope for you to escape with if you are ever trapped by a fire in your room.”
“No shit.” They did accept the idea eventually, and Alex even tried to practice with his, but realized that rappelling down a brick wall is harder than it looks.
My most spectacular Mother of the Week award was also on a holiday. I decided to fill the kids’ Easter baskets with carob bunnies instead of chocolate, nuts instead of jellybeans, fruit instead of candy bars. The disappointment in the room when they saw the baskets was palpable.
“Well, this is certainly a nutritious Easter,” Andy said. It didn’t take long for him to come up with an alternate plan. “I’m going to the drugstore across the street and see if they have any Easter baskets,” he told me, “so that Alex won’t be disappointed.”
Susan Fernandez is a frelance writer. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.