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Humor Me, I'm Your Mother!
By BARBARA JOHNSON
W Publishing GroupCopyright © 2007 Barbara Johnson
All right reserved.
Just Do What I Tell You, and Nobody'll Get Hurt
Some friends were comparing their parenting notes, laughing as they admitted the things they were dismayed to hear coming out of their mouths: the same ridiculously ominous threats and warnings their own parents had said to them a couple of decades earlier. These moms had sworn they would never say such things to their own kids, but the words came tumbling out anyway, uninvited.
"If I have to stop this car, you are really gonna get it!" one mother confessed to yelling into the back of the minivan. Her own mother had made that threat to her and her brother a million times, she said, "usually with one hand on the steering wheel and the other one swinging wildly across the backseat of the station wagon while my brother and I ducked and dodged to stay out of the way."
She didn't remember her mother ever actually stopping the car, "but she slammed on the brakes a few times to make us think she was going to." Now this mom admits she yells "the same things my mom yelled, and since my kids are now wearing seat belts (which my brother and I never did), I usually manage to connect with one or two of them as my arm flails around back there."
"Don't make me come up there!" another mom said, squinting her eyes and pointing her finger up an imaginary stairway.
"If you do that one more time, you're gonna wish you hadn't," a third mom chimed in. "And also ..., 'You'll put your eye out with that thing!'"
Yes, we moms have inherited the words, and we know how to use them, giving us the ability to instantly go from sweetness-and-light to hormonal monster. As one mom laughingly put it, "I am connected straight from heaven to hell, and I can change in a flash. It's a trait I inherited from my mother."
As the mother of four sons, I'm fluent in those warnings, proclamations, and other mother-speak messages that have echoed down the world's hallways and highways for generations. I've been known to spew out a few of them myself. (Although, since I was a sweet and perfect child, I rarely heard my own mother utter such words to precious little me. Really. You believe that, don't you?)
Actually, I probably sound like a strict disciplinarian when the truth is, there were a few times when I caught my boys in some kind of mischief-and jumped right in to join them. Perhaps you've heard about the time I came home to find the four of them sitting around the kitchen table, flipping spoonfuls of red Jell-O onto the white-painted brick wall. I stood there a minute, taking in the situation, until finally one of the culprits saw me. Then all four of them froze in mid-flip, their eyes wide, their breaths held up in their trembling chests. They were in big trouble, that's for sure, and they knew it. For starters, they were going to have to scrub that wall and get every morsel of red Jell-O out of every crack, crevice, and crinkle of the bricks and mortar.
But in the meantime, I thought, it did look like fun. And since they were going to have to clean the wall anyway, I sat down at the table, pulled the bowl of Jell-O my way, and joined in the mayhem. We flipped every jiggling glob of that Jell-O onto the wall, giggling and shrieking with every blast. We laughed like crazy people-and then came the mother-speak: "Well, that was fun! And now ... if you know what's good for you"-I smiled knowingly as I stood up to leave the kitchen-"you'll get this mess cleaned up fast, before your dad gets home. Have fun!"
Motherhood: Dreams, Screams, and Adventures When you have four boys, as we did, there are certain mother-speak phrases, often questions, that seem to be repeated on a daily-if not an hourly-basis:
"What did I tell you about leaving the refrigerator door open?"
"WHO did this?"
"WHY did you do that?"
"Didn't I tell you NOT to do that?"
"If only you would DO what I tell you ..."
And then there's the ultimate phrase in mother-speak: "BECAUSE I SAID SO, THAT'S WHY!"
Ah, motherhood. Isn't it fun? And exhausting-oh, so exhausting.
We put our heart and soul into rearing, teaching, protecting, and loving these little gifts from God, and in return they seem to put every ounce of their boundless energy into either driving us crazy or charming our socks off.
We dress up our sweet little bundle of joy in the outfit Grandma sent for that all-important first Christmas picture at the portrait studio. Then we beam proudly as the photographer focuses admiringly on our beautiful child ... right up until the moment when the picture is actually snapped and the infant erupts in either projectile vomiting, explosive diarrhea-or both, simultaneously.
We wear ourselves out getting our youngsters ready for that all-important first day of kindergarten-then stagger back home from the school or the bus stop, wearily realizing we'll have to repeat this crazy fire-drill of a readiness exercise for hundreds of mornings to come.
During the next thirteen or more years of school we scream encouragement from soccer-field sidelines, sell cookies for the Girl Scouts, make salt maps of Venezuela, clean chewing gum out of hair and pick peanuts out of noses, dissect earthworms for science projects, shampoo the carpet after birthday sleepovers, learn the fastest way to the all-night pharmacy, listen for the door to open as curfew nears, and blink back tears as our babies walk across a stage to accept a diploma or walk down an aisle to marry another mother's child.
Motherhood is an adventure, a white-knuckle thrill ride soothed occasionally by heartwarming moments. It seems that one minute we're new parents just home from the hospital, wondering how on earth we will ever raise this newborn baby-and the next minute we're standing in the driveway, waving good-bye as Junior drives off into the future.
The Great Irony
By the time we've served a few years as mothers, we are so smart about parenting; we have valuable experience and tremendous wisdom. Unfortunately, it is just about this time-say, twelve or thirteen years into it-that the people we're trying to parent suddenly seem to lose any interest in listening to us!
This whole business of child rearing would go so much more smoothly if only our children would simply do what we tell them to do. But then, to be honest, it probably wouldn't be nearly as much fun-and it certainly wouldn't be as exciting: no spit-up baby formula on the front of our favorite silk blouse before the big interview, no lipstick masterpieces on the living room walls, no backyard funeral for the goldfish, no thrill-ride trips to the emergency room, no stuffed animals to rescue from the commode, no baby teeth to dig out of the drain in the bathroom sink, no passionate passages to be refereed during the turbulent teenage years ...
Without such memories, we wouldn't have nearly as much to laugh about when we look back on our mothering years. For example, my friend Ann told me about going to a friend's house one time and finding a wooden door leaning against the wall of the living room. Seeing Ann's raised eyebrows, the friend tossed her head toward her teenage daughter's bedroom. "I told her if she slammed that door one more time it was coming unhinged," the friend explained ruefully.
"I thought you said you were coming unhinged!" the daughter, overhearing the conversation, yelled from her now-doorless bedroom. "I didn't know you were gonna take the darn door down. I thought you said you were coming unhinged, and so I thought, like, Hel-loooooo! What else is new? Mom, seriously. Would you just bring my door back?"
Now, see? You just have to laugh, don't you? And that's the important thing. In my opinion, the choice for active-duty parents is either to laugh-or check into the Home for the Bewildered. (Which is still a possibility in case you start laughing and can't stop. I understand they're considering naming a room there in my honor.)
I've often said that becoming a parent is like getting a life sentence with no hope of parole. Once we give birth, mothering becomes part of our psyche. The next thing we know, those mother-speak words move into our minds and leak out our mouths, and there's basically nothing we can do to stop them, try as we might.
And they just keep on coming, no matter how old we get. Recently I heard about a sixty-year-old woman whose eighty-five-year-old mother sent her a six-pack of cotton underpants-the style kids today call "granny panties." Inside was a note that said, "Honey, always remember to put on clean underwear every morning. Love, Mama."
This book is about the misadventures of motherhood, those moments of maternal mirth, whenever and wherever they occur, that make us laugh-just as soon as we can stop crying. I've divided this little collection into age groups and included some of my favorite funnies-jokes, cartoons, and stories I've heard, experienced, collected, dreaded, or imagined with the help of my friends. (As one of them says, I never let the facts stand in the way of a good story.) So settle back and loosen up anything tight; you're gonna need room to laugh. (I don't know about you, but for me, this just about means being stark naked.) Whether you are a mother or you have a mother, no matter what age you are or what stage you're in, I hope you'll find joy and laughter in the pages ahead.
Excerpted from Humor Me, I'm Your Mother! by BARBARA JOHNSON Copyright © 2007 by Barbara Johnson. Excerpted by permission.
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