Do you ever have a day that is so unreal, where you do things that simply go so wrong, and the results are so stunningly not good, that you think, ‘this should be in a book’?
Yeah, me, too.
Every frickin day.
Yes. Think about it. Frog Prince. Flirting with Forty. And now…Bad Mommy.
It started so promising, too. Kids go off to school after I’ve stayed up til midnight preparing everything so first day will be just so. Morning is fantastic, everything runs like clockwork (well, sort of) but they’re both out the door on time. In new clothes. With lunches made. With packed backpacks on their back.
This is good. It’s going to be a great year. Jump forward to 3 pm when young son comes home first. He starts on his 2nd grade homework right away, he likes new teacher, he’s feeling smart and successful.
Now it’s three forty-five and eleven year old appears. He’s moaning, complains of headache, dizziness, stomach pain. I know what this is about. He doesn’t want to go to football practice in an hour. He’s got the anxiety thing going and this is our new routine but his dad and I have vowed he can’t quit until the season is over because he’s turning into a quitter. This happened last year, blah blah blah.
Forty-five minutes later I’m BATTLING him still, insisting he gets dressed, insisting he sticks this out, explaining the team needs him (and he’s good! that’s the crazy thing. sure, he’s a lineman and gets hit a lot, especially as he plays both offensive and defensive but he’s the one that wanted to become a professional football player, not me!), explaining that there’s a game on Saturday and he can’t miss practice.
He’s crying. He’s begging. Pleading. I’m doing what the professionals told me to do: tough love.
‘Jake, you’ve got to stick this season out. In six weeks you can quit. In six weeks it’ll be over and you never have to play football again. But for now, get dressed.’
No, Mom, no. I’ll do anything, anything. Just no, please no.
More tears, sobs, locks himself in bathroom, gags, nearly throws up. Complains of his head pain, tells me he’s hot, tells me he feels really sick.
And I, for the first time in years, STAND MY GROUND.
I’m tough. I’m firm. I’m cool, pretty much cold. His dad and I–even though divorced–are on the same page. Jake has to finish the season and finish what he started.
Half hour later, after enduring great horrific anguished drama, he’s dressed, in pads, in cleats, sitting next to me on the freeway as I hustle to make the 5:15 team meeting. He keeps making little moaning sounds and I, most meanly, tell him to stop it. Suck it up. Eleven year old linemen can’t whimper and moan like that. It’s just practice, just a sport, a game. You can handle it.
He keeps moaning, rolls his head back and forth, tears in his eyes, cheeks blotchy red.
I’m pretty much not liking him.
‘Mom, I’m going to be sick.’
I’ve heard this one so many times before. ‘Then get sick.’
‘My stomach really hurts.’
My jaw tightens. I grip the steering wheel. ‘Then barf.’
‘You’ll pull over?’
I hate being the hard ass, I really do. It makes me feel like shit. ‘No. We can’t be late. The coach said to be on time.’
‘I’m going to throw up.’
His ploys are endless. He just won’t quit. ‘Fine. Throw up.’
‘I don’t know. In the car. On the floor.’
Younger son leans forward from back seat (he’s been very quiet the past hour and a half). ‘Here’s a plastic cup.’
It’s an 8 oz fruit cup size.
‘Thanks,’ Jake mumbles.
He makes a little gagging sound, brings cup to his mouth, gags and spits into it. ‘See, Mom?’ he says, voice muffled by cup.
I glance at him, all icy inside, wishing I was a man, wishing I knew better why anyone wanted to play football in the first place. ‘That’s not throw up. That’s spit up.’
Less than thirty seconds later he uh, throws up. Into the cup, over the cup, over his lap, onto the floor, onto the center console, into his cleats. And wedged between cars in 5 o’clock bumper to bumper traffic I can’t go anywhere. Before I can change lanes on the 405 he gets sick again. And again. Gallons of it. I know exactly what he had for lunch.
And that, my son, I think, clenching the steering wheel with a death grip, *that* is throw up.
Segue to nearly midnight when the house is dark and all good boys are sound asleep and Mama Jane sits at her desk sharing this story not for sympathy but for the sad truth–mothers do not always know best. Mothers sometimes know very little.
In fact, I swear I know less now than when I started.