A STATE OF MIND: Mothers of the Past Imperfect

By Larry Floersch

Mother’s Day is the one day in a year we are supposed to take our mothers out for brunch to repay them for all the good things they did for us while we were growing up. But let’s face it. Mothers aren’t perfect. If your mom was like mine when I was growing up, sometimes she did things you really didn’t like.

Like constantly wiping your nose. Show me a little kid with a runny nose, and I’ll show you a kid who does not want it wiped. Yet moms chase their kids around with a box of tissues just waiting for a chance to pounce and wipe those snot candles off their kids’ upper lips. Kids will go through all kinds of protestations and avoidance mechanisms to prevent it. They don’t like that invasion of their personal space, not to mention the loss of a readily available snack.

If your mom was like mine, she also did this really gross thing of licking her handkerchief to wet it so she could scrub dirt or stray spaghetti sauce off your face. Really!? Which has less germs? Spit or dirt? I used to get the willies when she got out that handkerchief and started working up a wad.

And moms do things like take you to the dentist to get your teeth DRILLED! They give you vile tasting medicines and stuff like castor oil. They take you to the doctor to get shots. Once our mom and the mom next door herded up all us kids and marched us off as a group to get polio shots. Dwight passed out just from the sight of the needle, and he was bigger than I was. That made my knees so wobbly I thought I already had polio. What kind of mom intentionally wants her kid to pass out?

If your mom was like mine, she also forced you to eat foods you didn’t like. And even though you didn’t get to choose what was on the plate, she made you eat everything on it, often with the admonition that there were “starving kids in Africa.” I would often sit at the dinner table and ponder how to get that spinach on my plate to those starving kids.

All this, of course, was to promote your health and well being as a child, even though some of the things you were forced to consume made you retch, which seemed pretty darn close to actually being sick. And forcing you to eat all that food probably promoted childhood obesity.

Moms are always telling you when you can watch TV, to do your homework, and clean up your room. And they’re always on you about brushing your teeth and washing behind your ears.

If your mom was like my mom, she was into many forms of corporal punishment, and judging from the severity of the punishment, at least from us kids’ perspective,  one of the worst things you could do as far as my mom was concerned was tell a lie. Perhaps it was the age in which I grew up—lying no longer seems a punishable offense, especially in Washington, D.C.—but, If my mom caught you lying, she would grab your arm, hustle you into the bathroom, and rub the bar of hand soap across your lips and front teeth.

Not that I lied, of course. I was the target of numerous witch hunts. But when that punishment befell me I always hoped it would be Ivory soap waiting in the soap dish. Ivory was white, which was close to the color of the foods I liked (bland), and, according to its label, it was 99 and 44 one-hundredths percent pure, whatever that meant. I hated soaps such as Lifebuoy, Dial, and Camay, which had weird colors, perfume-y smells, and nastier flavors. And heaven help you if you got caught in a lie by grandmother. She lived on the farm and used a bar of Fels-Naptha brown laundry soap, which was really wicked.

So we should remember that even though moms do a lot of wonderful things for us kids, they are not perfect. If not for their interference, we could all grow up to be unhealthy, toothless, skinny, dumb, messy, dirty, booger-eating little liars, just as Nature intended.

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