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Forget the Evil Stepmother! How About the Evil Mother?

Posted by Mary Webb on January 13, 2015 at 2:35 PM

A student told me yesterday they wished they had a mother just like me. This was in reference to seeing me make Quentin a study guide (list of questions) pertaining to Holes to make sure he is actually reading it.

I should have glowed with the compliment. It's the cynic in me that made me first register this mental response: Be careful what you ask for!

It's not that I'm not a pretty fantastic mother. (I really do think I am.) It's just that, if it were left up to Quentin, this awesomeness would manifest itself in me leaving him the hell alone with reading. (It would certainly allow more time for my own reading for pleasure.) Yet the fact I persist in forgoing this to keep up with his reading, writing, basketball, meds, overall being is why I think I'm all that.

But, that's not what this is about. It's about the fact that Quentin probably doesn't think so at all. Sure, he'll sometimes mention I'm the best mother ever. It usually precedes needed something or follows a hearty meal. Every once in a while, it's completely random and, obviously, heartfelt.

Overall, though, I fear that Quentin's perception of me is somewhere between a nag, mean mommy and Grendel. I don't like this idea, because it isn't rightfully earned. In fact, it's usually a corner he's painted me into.

Let's take yesterday morning for example. We bypassed the breakfast drama because he actually wanted to eat. (His dad left donuts over the weekend.) In fact, Quentin was the first one dressed and groomed and rarin' to eat. A quick peek at his room, and I had to ask him to hold off. To say he'd just been up for 15 minutes, it looked like a cyclone had run through there. He started his grumbling...as if it was totally acceptable to leave his room in such disrepute, and I was the one on some ole' other s**t. I'm forward-thinking, so I could see how this could go into Round 2. That's why I gave him a heads up.

"Quentin, please pick up your room entirely. Because if you don't, you won't be having a donut for breakfast this morning," I said in plain English.

If these had been last words pronounced upon me, I would have heeded them. More so, if I knew the pronouncer's record: never has she said something that she didn't follow through with.

Two seconds later. Quentin was back at the table. If there had been one thing left on the floor, perhaps, I would have let him slide. Instead, it looked like he had only picked up one thing off the floor. When I summoned him, he came with this pained, what-is-it-now expression plastered on his face. I was incredulous when he looked his room as if the pajama pants, comforter, tennis shoes, books, toys and loose cards weren't strewn over the floor. And, that was just what I pointed out on one side of the bed.

"Listen, little boy, pick up the pajama pants, comforter, tennis shoes, books, toys and loose cards and put them where they actually belong if you want to keep them," I said, by way of a second advance notice.

Eventually, he came back to the table. Because of my promise, as well as his continued under-the-breath mumbling, I stayed his hand when it reached for the donut.

"I wasn't playing games with you, Quentin. Find something else."

He vowed not to eat anything if he couldn't have his donut.

I vowed with equal steadiness in my tone not to feed him another meal that day if he didn't eat breakfast.

With the wisdom (or lack thereof) of an 11-year-old, he stormed out of the kitchen.

With the hunger pains of an 11-year-old boy who knows school lunches can be a little iffy, he returned some time later. But he came back with that effin' (it was getting to that point in my head) muttering. When Jory deciphered his message about not liking me and ratted on him, he denied it and started screaming at her. I asked him to excuse himself from the table because breakfast isn't the meal for unpleasantness.

When Jory was done, I called him back but warned him that he had eight minutes to eat.

"I can't eat in that little time," he complained.

Mind you, this wasn't a plate from the Intercontinental's Mother's Day buffet. It was a pancake on a stick.

"Well, if you can't do it, Quentin, it's no use you try."

Seeing me shove his breakfast in the microwave really made him hoop and holler.

At every juncture, I wondered what it was he would have liked me do that wouldn't seem so evil.

Then, I recall Outkast's infinite wisdom: "...I shoulda listened when my mama told me that, if you play now, you gonna suffer later...' Hopefully, Quentin will stop thinking I'm talking "yin-yang" and start paying me some attention. To take Andre and Big Boi's message a bit further, maybe it'll be the reverse. If I keep on him now (even though this shouldn't probably be happening until his teens), it'll be smooth sailing forevermore. Ben Carson didn't get to be the renowned heart surgeon he is today without his mother's strict pressing of him to read for a specified amount of time each day.

Unfortunately, there is such a long time between now and Quentin finishing medical school. Thank God for the little reprieves like this morning when, instead of coming with renewed and fortified strength (and stupidity) to engage in combat again, my child remembered yesterday's defeat, conceded it, and did he needed to do, in a timely fashion, I might add, to have the breakfast he desired.

I also thank God for the teacher yesterday who stopped me from making my kids return the money another teacher gave them for coming to open the door for her. I tried to explain to her that my kids always seem to get something for doing something they should do. For example, at church Sunday, one of the ushers gave them each a roll of Lifesavers because they brought up the offertory collection. It was the teacher who did some the explaining, though. She showed me that when the kids receive something they didn't solicit for something they've done, the giver has chosen to bless them. Further, she said, the blessing is bestowed upon them because people recognize that they are good kids.

My blessing is that they are, even if they sometimes give me hell.

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