When my son, Jake, and “the girl” (listen, I only refer to this really, really nice girl that he brought home as “the girl” because it has been “kindly suggested“ to me to keep some things a bit—well, private.), were over this past Friday evening they, Bonaparte and I had a really nice dinner on our terrace deck. After a few
couple few of Kir Royales, followed by a certain amount of Rosé, I loosened up enough to tell “the girl” a couple of stories about Jake when he was a little boy.
Before I continue with those stories, you
should really need to know something.
In my family I’m known as the bad “unconventional” mother! Yeah. I was absolutely horrible. One of my sisters wouldn’t even let her children near me without supervision!
I breastfed my three kids for a total of three years each. They are three years apart. I nursed for a total of nine years straight. I nursed on the subway, on the city buses, in restaurants and on Sunday, in Mass. You think Mary gave Jesus a bottle?
Can you imagine? Joseph asking Mary if he should ride the donkey into town to pick up formula for Jesus??????
Oh. And you can become pregnant whilst in your breastfeeding phase.
Breast milk. The natural and organic boob job. Oh..and it’s good for the children too! This pic was taken after Oona was born. They eventually went down in size–and gravity too!
I didn’t “safeguard” our apartment in New York City. By that, I mean I didn’t put child locks on cabinets; the children knew in no uncertain terms to NOT even think of opening that cabinet under the sink!
The children lived in my home. I didn’t live in theirs.
I could have been arrested for child abuse for the example below:
Example: When Roman was about 18 months old, he miraculously unclipped the strap in his stroller and ran out onto Broadway—in oncoming traffic. A bus was approaching.
I ran like the wind out in the street, grabbed him and spanked his diaper- protected backside, literally hysterical crying “Don’t you EVER, do that again!!! ”
One of my earth mother friends saw this and said “Are you abusing that child?”
My comeback: “Yeah, Allie. I would rather have an abused child than a dead child” “Don’t forget to tell everyone at the playground what I did!!!!!!”
Another great example of my life lessons…..
Example. Shortly after Roman’s birth, I was in the playground—nursing Roman while Jake played close by. My friend Anna was sitting next to me. Jake asked Anna’s daughter if he could ride her tricycle. Anna’s daughter said no—so Jake asked Anna if he could ride the bike. Anna looked down at Jake (I swear to god I will never forget this) and said in an “Earth Mother” sing-songy soft voice.
“I’m sorry Jake; she doesn’t feel like sharing today”
I was dumbstruck. WTF kinds of values were this one teaching her daughter?????
When I got home, I had a neighbor watch the kids. I got on the subway and went downtown. I purchased a tricycle for my son. The next day we went to the playground, knowing fully well what would transpire. I sat my ass down next to Anna. Anna’s daughter came running up to Jake, who was in front of me and getting on his bike. She asked Jake if she could ride his little bike.
I bent over and in the most sing-songy voice I could use said
“I’m sorry, but Jake doesn’t feel like sharing today”
Then I turned to Anna and asked “How does that feel. Do you like it when the shoe is on the other foot?”
Seriously. How could anyone not share with my baby boy?? I hope I taught that non-sharer a valuable object lesson!
Yes. I was THAT mother! I led by example!
When my ex-husband was away on business, the kids and I would all sometimes “camp out” in the family room. Watching TV till all hours, eating ice cream and other goodies—and sometimes, I would put some music on and we would rock out dancing!
Before we moved to the suburbs and the kids were really young I would do this thing during the full moon. We lived in Upper Manhattan, up on a hill. During the winter, when the trees were bare, you could see the George Washington Bridge—and at night when it was lit up, it was stunning. Anyway, during the super full moons in the late Fall and Winter, I would get the kids bundled up and take them to the highest point of the hill to see “The Beautiful Moon”. It was spectacular because it was so large that you could seemingly touch it.
Was I THAT bad to take my young children at night, all bundled up to see THIS???
All little kids need to see things like that super full moon before they go to sleep so they can have sweet dreams!
You get the gist of my “bad” mothering.
Anyway, back to Jake and the “embarrassing” stories that mommy could tell…..
Jake was in kindergarten. At St. Ignatius Loyola School in NYC. Christmas time.
Our Christmas tree was up—oh, maybe a couple of days. I had finished decorating it. It was massive. My ex-husband was on a business trip so I was on my own with the tree.
Roman was two years old and Oona wasn’t even in the fetal stage yet! Roman, for some reason, crawled under the tree and knocked it over. Here’s where bad mom comes in…
I grabbed the tree and held it up, over-dramatically screaming to Jake to “run upstairs to the Barrett’s apartment and get James and John” (James and John being Jake’s best friend, Kevin’s teenaged twin brothers)
I also yelled “I’m gonna kill your brother!!!!” (I really had no intention of killing Roman. I love him unconditionally).
I wasn’t as composed as Clark Griswold!
The next day, I received a call from Jake’s teacher, Mrs. Wescott. Mrs. Wescott was an ex-nun and was one of the nicest, kindest women I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. He attended Kindergarten at St. Ignatius Loyola in NYC.
A great and liberal Catholic school. Lots of fun memories here!
The conversation went something like this:
Me: “Hullo” (Again, I’m classy!)
Mary Wescott: “Cathe, I have something to tell you….”
Me: (Interrupting). OMG. Mary, is Jake OK????
Mary Wescott: “Yes he is fine. But you know, something happened today and if Jake was in public school his teacher would have called the police on you. It’s a good thing I know you”
Me: (Shocked) “What happened?”
Mary Wescott: “I always ask the children if they have any special intentions before we say our morning prayers”. (Remember this is Catholic School) “Jake raised his hand and said “I would like to offer our prayers up for my brother Roman. He knocked the Christmas tree down and my mother said she was going to kill him.” “I don’t want my mother to kill my brother”
Me: “Well, I did say that, but I didn’t mean it.” “I would never kill one of my kids!”
Mary Wescott “Cathe I know that, I just thought you would like to hear this”….
No bus for this guy–being the bad mom that I am, I accompanied him downtown twice a day on the subway. That was until I wised up and drove downtown and back! It was the least I could do since I traumatized him with the “Christmas Tree” incident! Isn’t he adorbs in that little uniform???
Thank god Mrs. Wescott did know me. I did a ton of volunteer work at the school and the nuns and lay teachers were well aware of just how “Mother Teresa” I could be every now and then!
I didn’t stop there. I continued to tell “the girl” another great story!
Poor Mrs. Wescott—another incident that took place during Jake’s Kindergarten year!
Mother’s Day. 1988. The children of St. Ignatius Kindergarten hosted a “Mother’s Day Tea”. The students, unbeknownst to the moms, (or at least to this mom) brought in their favorite picture of their mothers to place on a bulletin board that Mrs. Wescott decorated in honor of the moms.
We moms were invited to take a look at the pictures on the bulletin board. The mothers all looked so nice and pretty and proper in various Laura Ashley dresses. Tea length dresses were very popular back then among the conservative mommy crowd. Floral and chintz fabrics adorned the mommies. They all looked so loving and nurturing!
Then there was the photo of me. My eyes popped wide and my mouth opened. But I was speechless. I was shocked at what I saw before me.
It was a photograph that was taken during my youngest sister’s wedding. I was seated at a table and I was wearing a strapless bridesmaid dress. My hair, due to the rainy weather that day, was not just Long Island big, it was Long Island huge!!! I had a drink (one of many Woo Woo’s that were consumed that evening) in one hand, a pack of Marlboro Lights (I stopped smoking years ago) were placed on the table next to me, and behind the Marlboros was a bottle of Afrin nasal spray. (I had awful allergies and my nose was constantly stuffed)! I was mortified! First of all, I had no idea how this lovely and sweet child of mine even got his hands on this picture! Secondly, I looked like a full-blown lush! My smile clearly told the story of a woman who had quite a few beverages. Beverages that were NOT non-alcoholic!
My big-ass Long Island hair made this do of Ms. Bonham-Carter’s look little…
I didn’t need hairspray–THIS was my go-to spray….
Luckily, I stopped…but cigs go so well with cocktails!
Back then, Woo-Woo’s were such a delicious beverage! Do they still make these?
I slowly walked over to Mrs. Wescott and whispered “How could you let that photo be placed on the bulletin board?” She answered that “Jake said he liked the picture because he said your smile was pretty” “Cathe, all he saw was your smile!”
That night when I thought about the photograph, I cried. Not because I was sad, but because kids are just so damn innocent—they just don’t see the awful stuff. Jake didn’t see “bad” mom. He didn’t see “party” mom. He just saw that my buzz-filled smile looked pretty to him!
I feel badly that I ripped the picture up–otherwise I would have posted it. Fear not. Here’s a little photo play of some naughty mom moments for your pleasure!
Long Beach New York. circa 1987. What the young oldest child is good for!
I let my babies crawl out into the Atlantic Ocean. Actually, Roman probably already knew what a hot mess of a mom I was. He was probably trying to escape from me!
I paid no attention while Oona ate sand. Hey. It’s organic! (Damn. I was so much thinner!)
I allowed the boys to play with violent toys–such as this Ghostbusters pop gun!
Just call me Momee Antoinette, I let them eat cake….
…and more cake….
…and even MORE cake!
I let them eat pizza at such a young age…
…and the crime of all crimes. I allowed the kids to have a bottle every ONCE IN A WHILE! NO–it isn’t bourbon or whiskey. It’s worse! It’s iced tea! At least it was followed by a shot of breast milk!
I did awful things like have a “six-month-old” Birthday party for Jake. (Note the hat cut in half, the half cake, and the half-tapered candle.) Luckily, bad mom turned into great mom and got his hand out of harm’s way just in time!
I let the boys play Wiffle ball in the apartment.
I allowed them to touch filthy barn animals and usually forgot to bring wipes!
I never protected them from scary Halloween monsters who hovered over them!
I allowed them to dress up in very scary costumes for Halloween. In fact, I MADE all their costumes. Told you I was bad! This was Jake as “The Penguin” from Batman. He even won a contest!
Before the movie “Titanic” came out, I turned Roman into a drowned Titanic passenger. I even made the little life saver and I made myself up.
Oona didn’t like scary costumes so I made her a Pebbles Flintstone costume. My sister later borrowed this for my niece. I never got it back!
Well, the outcome was that my son was clearly NOT embarrassed by my telling those stories to “the girl”. In fact, Bonaparte told me later on that Jake was rather happy and beaming by the way I relayed the stories.
Seriously, over the years I’ve also:
Cut Oona’s eyelid open by trying to trim her bangs.
Had to cut Roman’s hair into a crew cut because I tried to cut his hair myself and screwed up.
Slammed the car door on Roman’s finger by accident.
Ignored Oona’s constant complaint’s about her “sore” foot only to find out it was a stress fracture
Over-reacted to Jake’s getting cat-scratch fever and cried and carried on in the doctor’s office for what seemed like hours until I was given a “prescription” to calm my anxiety
Ran out into East 83rd street running after Roman when he was wearing only his “teenage mututant turtles” underwear because he was afraid of getting a needle. Yes–he was THAT fast! He ran right out of the office!
I’ve allowed the kids to eat Halloween candy for breakfast the day after
And, in spite of my bad unconventional ways and being the not-so-perfect mom, the kids grew up to be caring, socially aware and successful adults.
I may not have a pot to piss in, but I managed to raise three great adults!
Sometimes being the bad mom just isn’t so bad after all now. Is it?
My point being that we aren’t perfect moms at times. Raising kids can be challenging at times because everyone has “their” way of raising kids..and “their” way always seems to be the right way.
Be a mom with your heart! Have fun. It’s ok to dance around the house with them and camp out with them and be silly.
It what memories are made of!
I HAD to give you “Teach Your Children” today! CSN ! Greatness!