Moms…Cruel or Brilliant?

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Have you seen the cartoon on Facebook that says, “Behind Every Great Kid is a Mom That Is Sure She’s Screwing It Up” or something like that! I think every mom has to feel like that at some point along the way—or every day for that matter! We have to do the best that we can with what we’ve got and realize that we have our eye on the prize years down the line when our kids grow into, what we hope will be, respectful, responsible adults. But our kids probably think we are just plain cruel in the process. I definitely thought my mom was!

When I was growing up my mom had lots of “rules to live by” that I thought were just plain cruel and were not experienced at any of my friends’ houses. I gave her a hard time about these things well into adulthood—“How could you?!?!” And she just smiled and said, “You just wait until you have kids.”


1. Never Letting Me Take My Lunch
Growing up, we had to buy a lunch ticket for “hot lunch”—I think it was pink. My mom bought 180 days of “hot” lunch. She was not going to pack us a lunch under any circumstance. To this day, I’ve never owned a “real” lunch box. Oh how envious I was of my friends with their metal Holly Hobby lunch boxes. There were really only two things that I didn’t like on the lunch menu—look at me, do I really look like I’ve ever turned down a meal?! It was chicken rice casserole and macaroni and cheese. To this day, I will get a whiff of something similar and it will make my stomach turn. Now a days teachers do not make kids eat their lunches, but that wasn’t the case in the 70s and 80s—at least at my school. You had to clean your plate, or get darn close. I would beg my mom on those days to please let me take my lunch. But she was having nothing of the sort! Instead I had to gag it down. So one year, I had 10 teeth pulled the day before Field Day at school (that is a story for another day!). Everyone had to bring their lunch on that day, and I was a bit “gummy” and I was praying for a Hostess apple pie, but no. Instead I got a Mason jar of lukewarm butterscotch pudding—I hate butterscotch pudding. Enough said, it was cruel.

But fast forward 30 odd years and I HATE to make lunch for my boys. I would absolutely buy them each a pink lunch card (or put money in their online account as it were) if I could, but food intolerances stand in the way!  But man, do I get it!  I will say, that I will never make my boys butterscotch pudding in a mason jar though!  I’m not that cruel!


2. Not Allowing Me to be in Band
In 5th grade we were all corralled to the school gym where every instrument available was laid out for testing. You had to go around and give each one a good blow, or tap as it were for the percussion instruments, to see which you could play in preparation for 5th grade band to commence. I went around and blew on the clarinet—nothing. Puffed my cheeks up on the trumpet—nothing. Gave a good gust in the trombone and low and behold a long low sound came out—I’d found my instrument! I went home that day from school so excited to tell my mom and get her to sign the form for band. But…she gave it a big N-O. She was not going to have me play an instrument—she didn’t want to hear me practice. I tell the truth, that was her reasoning. My grandma had a perfectly good trombone in her attic for the taking, but no. The answer remained the same. At one point, I had her talked into the triangle, until she realized that it came with the drums!

My boys have had every instrument that “toddlers” have, i.e. tambourines, shakers, a full drum set! But about a year ago, Zain got a recorder and he took to “playing” it all of the time. In the house, in the car, day and night. And I nearly lost it. That’s when it became evident, that my mom was again brilliant!  But I’d rather not have Zain hold over my head my rejection to band for the rest of my life, I’ve conceded to the trombone.  Lord help me!

Lord give me strength!

A video posted by Just Jennessa (@justjennessa) on


3. Fend For Yourselves Night
When I turned 10 (and my brother was 6) I was “allowed” to stay home and babysit alone. That’s probably not very common these days, but when you grow up in a town that is 9 blocks square and everyone knows everyone, that was quite “normal”. My mom owned a business two towns over and was gone each day. So in the summer, she would buy us a membership to the pool and leave us a chore chart. Once our chores were done, we could ride our bicycles to the pool and spend the day there and then come home at the end of the day. On nights when my mom and dad were out, we had “fend for yourselves” nights where it was just that. “I’m not making dinner tonight—fend for yourselves tonight.” Again, it seemed cruel at the time—depriving us of a parent made meal!?! But as a result, my brother and I are the sole cooks at home and are used to getting “creative” in the kitchen working with what you find. However, we definitely don’t use as much Velveeta today as we did back then!


4. “Take a Hot Shower “ or “Walk It Off” Was Her Answer to Everything
When we were growing up we played in the neighborhood until the street lights went on each night and only came home if you were hungry or hurt. Regardless if we had a bump, scrape, sprain, sore throat, headache, rug burn, bee sting (you get the idea), my mom had two “go-to” remedies. Either “take a hot shower” or “walk it off”. I have only a handful of memories of ever going to the doctor—you would have to be really really sick to merit a trip to the doctor. So a hot shower and walking it off would have to suffice.

Now with my own kids, I realize that the “hot shower” and “walking it off” are merely distractions. However, I usually use “wiggle your bum”. Once they do something to get their minds off of what the ailment is, it’s amazing how quickly it subsides and they are on to the next thing.


5. Banning Organized Activities Until We Were 10
When we were in Kindergarten all of my friends got to be “Brownies” and sing Alice’s camel has one hump…so on and so forth, but not me. When we were in first grade everyone got to take dance, but not me. My mom had a strict “No activities until you’re 10” policy and even then it would only be 4H (remember I lived in rural Iowa). When everyone took baton twirling lessons and got to perform to ‘Hit Me With Your Best Shot”, I was on the sidelines. My mom was just plain cruel!

Again…fast forward 30 plus years and I have an 8 and 4 year old and am running to karate, swimming, baseball, t-ball, etc. and am thinking “Calgon take me away!” And I get it.

She was brilliant.

Hope you had a wonderful Mother’s Day.


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