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2013-09-11 / Loose Ends

Loose Ends

Life’s little wrinkles
Susan Nienow

All mothers understand guilt. We should have taken their lunches to school when the kids forgot them instead of trying to teach them a lesson. We put potato chips in their lunches instead of strips of red and yellow peppers. We snuck their best candy bars out of their Halloween treat bags.

The list goes on. Even though my kids are now adults, I still latch on to that guilt like it was my parachute, and I just jumped out of a plane. I remember my daughter’s first college roommate’s mother washing a spot out of her daughter’s jeans, drying it with a hair dryer and then ironing the jeans so they had a fresh crease.

It was then I realized I was not normal. I raised my kids to like wrinkles. They believed in them. When I dropped them off at college, I included laundry detergent in their box of supplies. My son never opened his. I’m sure my daughter gave hers away – a cup at a time.

Forget the iron. Neither of them would take one.

Now a whole new generation of parents is launching their offspring to do their own laundry – or not. My granddaughter is off to kindergarten and to her mother, it is as traumatic as having her leave home for college. It is also just as lucrative for guilt mining. My daughter-in-law is struggling with lunches and choosing outfits that are as acceptable in the morning as they were the night before. The guilt sneaks in when things don’t work despite her efforts.

I never knew what a normal mother was supposed to be. I volunteered to work in the classroom but left the job of room mother to those who knew what to do with clothespins and pipe cleaners. I cut out letters and zoo animals until my hands cramped.

As I sat in one of those mini chairs with a pair of safety scissors, I wondered why I went to college; or, on the other hand, why I didn’t have a career so I could sit in a big chair.

When it came time to teach them to drive – or to reinforce the lessons they learned at school, I turned it all over to my other half. I don’t do cars, either under the hood or behind the wheel. And I never thought teens and cars were a good idea anyway. So, while other mothers chatted about scraped fenders and their teens’ driving skills in the snow, I sorted through recipes that I would never make.

My kids will never have fond memories of mom’s famous beef stew, and they got tired of helping me decorate Christmas cookies. When they quit wearing elastic waist pants, I quit sewing for them because I never quite got that zipper installation thing.

They say I taught them to be independent – what? So they would move away? So one could announce she is going to visit friends in Rwanda to celebrate Thanksgiving? Rwanda? Thanksgiving? I want a do-over.

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