Rules are rules...and parents can get arrested for letting kids skip school. MaryAnn was not having that, there isn't a chance of a wash and set in the slammer and her hair shouldn't be punished because I didn't "feel" like going to school.
In the second grade I was mortified when I was in a peer filled restroom and accidentally farted...loudly. I was fairly sure I would never be able to show my face in the cafeteria, much less the playground again. I remember crying to my Mom that night, begging her to let me stay home the next day.
She wasn't having it.
She was sympathetic, reassuring, and very sweet about it, but was very firm that this was no reason to miss school. I was confident that my two years of hard work climbing the elementary social ladder were ruined. Surprisingly though, no one even mentioned it. I guess I was cooler than I thought.
Farting and surviving? People clearly loved me.
Now that I am a Mom, I know I am a lot like my own Mother, minus the wash and set hair obsession. I follow the rules, sign up to bring things, don't allow my children to veer from the designated path too much. It's how I run most of my life and I find myself even more restrictive with my kids. Breaking the rules makes me perspire, and who wants that? Sweating is gross.
My Mother-in-law, Bonnie, on the other hand, has always been one to make her own path. Rules, other than those clearly for safety (more or less,) are just suggestions and can be changed, moved, and broken. This gives me heart palpitations just thinking about it.
Her children were not required to produce copious amounts of symptoms and social tragedies to be allowed to stay home with her, she didn't have any problem with them needing to take a day off. She trusted that they were good kids, which they were, and didn't feel school or any set of "rules" should dominate their lives.
MaryAnn and I need a sensible glass of chardonnay after that. Wow.
Whenever Bonnie and I talk about the days when her children were little, it is shocking and hysterical for me to hear. She and I both do a lot of laughing. The contrast is amazing. She had a totally different approach to, well, most things than how I was raised...other than the core values thank goodness.
I'm fairly confident there is a lot of eye rolling from my husband when he hears me stressing over things like collared shirts and kindergarten "homework." Remember, Bonnie would never worry about those things, but MaryAnn and I know the horror that could befall someone not wearing a collared shirt on the first day of school. Drugs? Gang affiliation? Guns? You just have to be careful.
Earlier in the week I decided that I was saying no to my children too frequently. It is almost always my go-to response, regardless of the question. I don't even need to hear the entire request before I'm ready to shoot it down. I'm an automatic "no-sayer."
My list of reasons? Too much effort from me, too messy, too much sugar, too much noise, too much potential for war amongst the siblings, or too desired by the children that have been annoying me all day, why would I want to make them happy when they are pissing me off?
My maturity and lack of fun-having runs deep in my style of mothering. I pray Aiden, Cole, and Stella are creative and kind individuals in the future so they find something to enjoy about me.
In a moment of panic that I may be making it really difficult for my children to like me some day, I decided that at least once a day I would say yes, even if I wanted to say no. It's actually been sort of fun to see them elated about hearing me say, "yes, of course you can have a bowl of cereal at 4:00!" Or, "Of course you can play the Wii right after playing the iPad for thirty minutes."
Last night though I made a bold, uncomfortable decision. Aiden had been exhausted the previous two days when I woke him up and his behavior had been pretty horrific. He was slamming doors when I asked him to come eat breakfast so he wouldn't miss the bus, and mumbling about how he didn't want to always go to school.
Geez. My first instinct about this behavior is to reprimand and discipline, but the more I thought about it, the more sad it seemed. I mean, he's six. He's smart and doing well in school, and until this week he had popped out of bed with joy about the prospect of being able to head to school to learn and play with his friends.
Is his school spirit already crushed? Should I be forcing his school logo sweatshirt on him more often? Does this mean I would be required to do laundry more often? Is there another way?
While talking to Alex last night I casually mentioned that I wanted to let him sleep in the morning, maybe even let him go to Cole's Christmas program and have a few hours of playing hooky and recharging. Alex didn't really respond, only muttering a weak, "uh-huh."
Surely CPS and the police care about a Mom letting her six year old be a few hours late to school, right? We were doomed for even discussing! Sweat Alex! Sweat!
Oh yes, he's from Bonnie. See, to Bonnie this would be a no-brainer. Of course let Aiden sleep and recharge and have a few hours to relax a little. The truth is, I think that MaryAnn now would agree...but probably have a few questions about how the whole thing was going to go down because this feels so wrong.
I went to bed resolved to be more Bonnie than MaryAnn for a night, and give in to what I felt my heart was telling me to do for my little boy. He'd sleep, he'd enjoy his break and we all would feel better.
At 7:05 this morning, I woke to Aiden shaking my arm. "Mommy, why didn't you wake me? I missed the bus."
I smiled and hugged him, telling him I wanted him to sleep and we were going to take him to school later. He definitely looked confused, and more than a little concerned about how that was possible when he was supposed to be at school.
Uh-oh, I was raising another MaryAnn.
I stuck to my Bonnie though, and explained we would go to school but I felt we all needed a little extra time this morning. He went to his room to change and take advantage of a few extra moments to play Legos with his little brother, warming up to the idea that he could just be for a few minutes for a change.
I ran through a list of possible excuses to tell the school when I called, but decided to go with the non-lie (slightly different than the truth,) because I am simply a horrible liar and didn't really feel this was a lie worthy situation. The perfect meeting of Bonnie and MaryAnn qualities here.
"Hi. I'm Leslie Dadidakis, calling to let you know my son Aiden won't be at school this morning. He isn't feeling well."
OK, not exactly a lie. He's been emotionally unhinged for two days, and who feels nice when they are emotionally off balance and exhausted? Not me. We all know I can barely function when I am forced to be alone with all three of my kids for multiple days in a row, much less when I am short on sleep.
"Oh, I'm so sorry to hear that. What's going on with him today?"
What the hell sympathetic receptionist? I have to give specific symptoms? I started sweating. I was completely panicked about being asked specifics. I almost hung up. I'm not strong enough for this type of deviancy. I'm so much more MaryAnn than Bonnie. Why wasn't my mother-in-law here for this?
I pulled it together though. "I think he's just overtired and not feeling himself over all. Please don't arrest me."
OK, I didn't ask them to not arrest me. I'm not that weak. Well, I could be, but I wasn't this particular time.
I didn't lie. I felt the rush of getting away with it and went off to make breakfast, then go as a family to Cole's preschool Christmas Program. We're so bad!
It was exactly what Aiden needed. He loved feeling part of everything for a little while, often feeling left out as the one that leaves every day, all day.
He did ask me a few times through the morning, "shouldn't I be at school?"
To which I immediately replied, "you are exactly where you need to be. You're with us."
I'm so happy to be a MaryAnn, but extremely grateful for the influence of Bonnie as well. I'm basically the best Mother to have ever lived now. Right?