Monday, August 15, 2011

a linoleum floor, a pair of socks and full bottle of valve oil

This is definitely not my mother's motherhood. My mother was a young bride in 1954. My sister was born in the early 60's and I followed in 1970. I don't feel old. Usually. Some days I do, thanks to fertility drug induced arthritis pain and night after night of staying up way too late. But usually, on a good day, I don't feel that old. Until I start to think about how different my mothering is. The mothers of the 60's and 70's certainly didn't have the worries we enlightened mothers of today share. The ignorance of an entire generation can be deafening. Are we too safe? Are we too easy on our kids? Should our parents maybe have put down the cigarettes and buckled us into the car once in a while? (My parents did not smoke- my dad quite when he married my mother, at her insistence, I hear. But many of my friend's parents did smoke. Everywhere.) All I know are two things.

1. We all survived our childhoods, leading me to believe that parents are destined to screw up their children. If they didn't mess us up in a fiery car crash where we flew through the windshield thanks to the lack of car seats then they pushed us into therapy in countless other ways. And while our little ones will always be safely protected behind car seats, bike helmets, knee pads and bubble wrap, we will still screw our little angels up in our own special way.


2. this ain't our mother's motherhood, people.

seat belts
When I was a kid my mother had an old blue car. I think it was a Chevrolet but I am really not sure. Perhaps years of hitting my head on the back of the front seat has marred my memory. I do remember this: that car had no seat belts in the back. My grandfather installed seat belts for his prescious young grandchildren. But I can't stress enough that the car rolled off the line with no seat belts. I remember being allowed to stand up in the backseat, my arm on the back of the front bench seat as though I was ordering a drink at a bar. I also remember that this particular car had rust spots on the backseat floor boards. You could actually see through the floor, which was fun in the driveway and absolutely terrifying on the road. At one point some helpful soul placed a metal trash can lid on the floor, to stop our little feet from pushing through.

My kids are buckled tightly, every time. If I'd had tiny ones they would have ridden backwards in their car seats. They will both stay in their car seats until they are both tall enough and old enough. If one of them wriggles an arm out of the five point harness I pull the car over and wrestle them back in their safety cocoon.

My kids have a wide variety of kid's music on CD's that we play in the car. Kids Place Live and Radio Disney are the mainstays of a trip in The Equinator. (our favorite car.) If I even think about putting on music I might be interested in listening to I swear an uprising would occur in the backseat.

Let's go back in time to my childhood. My father was a junior high band director. He was a great junior high band director and to reach his level of expertise one must work very hard. Much of this hard work took place in the car with Dad listening to tapes of his bands, over and over and over again. Child welfare agents should have been looking for this man. Clarinets squeaking, trumpets blaring, drums out of sync.And all of it loud. If I played a tape of a fifth grade band playing "Hot Cross Buns", badly, my sweet little angels would be screaming so loud I would wish those squeaky clarinets were in the front seat with me.

Many of my toys were homemade by my grandfather. Crayons, markers and paper were also considered toys. I had a "romper stompers" and a homemade musical instrument consisting of a short length of garden hose and a french horn mouthpiece. And don't underestimate the fun of a linoleum floor, a pair of socks, and a full bottle of valve oil.

now picture these made from coffee cans. yep, coffee cans.

My boys have thousands of dollars worth of toys strewn throughout the house, the garage, both cars and the backyard. They may have thousands of dollars worth of toys but they play with approximately $52.65 worth.

I watched Sesame Street, The Electric Company and Mr. Rogers Neighborhood, which, by the way, terrified me. That show made no sense to me at all. Here we had a grown man who spends his time alone, playing with puppets. I don't know about you, but I am teaching my children to avoid creepy men like this...

I really can't complain about the television my kids watch. The shows available now for our little ones are fun, educational, and, I'm going to say it out loud here, they give me time to make dinner. Don't judge me.

My big four and a half year old has learned musical terms, counting in English, Spanish and Mandarin, and how many legs it takes to turn an insect into an arachnid. I learned to take off my shoes and put on a beige sweater every time I entered the house.

One more thought on safety. Maybe it was just my dad, but I remember sitting, unbelted, on that hump that many cars had in the middle of the seat. So not only was I not being held back by any sort of safety device but I was also sitting higher that everyone else. I remember being in the back seat of the car with my legs wrapped around a car battery or bottles of poisonous liquids needed to keep the car running. I remember numerous stops by the side of the road to replenish said liquids. I even remember once sitting on the floor of the front seat holding the gas pedal down with my little hand while my dad pushed the car. That seems dangerous for both me and him, now that I think about it. Ahhhh, the good old days. Thank God we all survived!

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