Mom v. Me

This is the next to last guest post from Sarah, something I can very much relate to as it took me a long time to forgive my mom for pulling my hair really hard when she used to French braid it. I always thought she was doing it to be mean, and now that I have children, I know for sure she was. Physical abuse? Illegal. Pulling a tiny bit harder than is necessary when braiding your child’s hair? Letting off some steam so that you don’t do anything illegal.

Now, off to deal with another electrician, another bid on the boiler, and trying to find some really important paperwork that I thought I had put inside a box labeled REALLY IMPORTANT PAPERWORK but apparently got moved to a box with no label at all. Guess what I found inside the box marked REALLY IMPORTANT PAPERWORK? Polly pockets and an inflatable SpongeBob beach ball. Please shoot me.

……..

My wise and sainted mother probably envisioned having a daughter would be more about braiding my hair and buying me dolls at Christmas, and less about catching me making out with my high school boyfriend on the front porch long after she thought I’d gone to bed, or receiving a late night phone call from the Bixby County Police Department just letting her know where I was. Just a friendly call, ma’am!

To atone for what a total and complete dick I was growing up, I thought I’d highlight some of the most memorable battle of wills my mother and I have had over the years.

1981: The Only Time My Mother Ever Spanked Me

I was four years old, and we spent a weekend at the lake with some family friends. All I’d been told about this trip beforehand was the swimming and fishing and going on a boat. The only boat frame of references I had came from “Row Row Row Your Boat” and the houseboat Lowly Worm lived on in my Richard Scarry book, which left me ill-prepared for Mr. K’s speedboat, which was very loud and went up on its side and then dragged my father behind it (on a pair of skis, but still). I spent the entire ride screaming in terror, and then when we pulled into the dock, my screaming turned to unbridled preschool rage, and I stood up and yelled at everyone onboard. I told Mr. K just what I thought of him and his boat. I believe my exact words were, “I hate your boat, and I HATE YOU!” This was a nice man who helped me with my Snoopy fishing pole and whose wife brought me chocolate coins and a sticker book when I was home with the chicken pox, but he had crossed the line with his crazy vertical death boat. My mother hauled me out of that boat, onto the dock, and into a changing room in a matter of seconds, and I remember while she spanked me, even though I was still yelling and crying, some very sober, calm part of my brain thought, “Oh yeah, I totally had this coming. This is what I needed.”

Winner: My mother

1987: Why don’t you tell that dirty joke to Gladys Matson?

When I was in the fifth grade, I was a guest at Ellen Matson’s slumber party. Ellen and all of her other guests were mere fourth graders, so I took it upon myself to show them just how worldly I was by telling them the worst dirty joke I knew. It was also the only dirty joke I knew. It wasn’t even a very funny dirty joke, but its crowning achievement was that it used every bad word there was in one long sentence, spoken by a small child to a visiting minister. When my mother picked me up from the party the next morning, I succumbed to this weird elementary school hairshirt phase I went through and confessed. I tattled on myself. What? I know. I am so glad I outgrew this phase before high school. Anyway, my mother’s awful and brilliant punishment was forcing me to CALL ELLEN’S MOTHER and TELL HER THE JOKE. I have never been so crippled with shame in my entire life. And Gladys Matson was very matter of fact and polite about it, sitting on the other end, patiently waiting for me to stop sobbing and get to the terrible punchline, to which she pleasantly said, “Well, thank you for calling, Sarah!”

Years later, at Ellen’s wedding, I asked Gladys if she remembered this incident, and she laughed, turned to her husband and said, “Remember Sarah’s joke?” and he said, “Oh yeah, with the minister!”

Winner: My mother

1989: Wherein The Bathroom Door Gets Broken

This was when things started getting ugly. I was clutched close to the prickly bosom of adolescence, and my number one priority became to let everyone in my house know how much I hated them. I’m not exactly sure what started this particular argument. Most of the time, I ended up in trouble for smarting off during a lecture that was originally for a minor infraction. This is sort of like you making an irritating sound and someone saying, “I would rather you not do that,” and then you shoot them in face and end up in jail. It took me approximately eight years to learn that no matter how good my comeback was, it was in my best interest to keep it to myself. Anyway, this fight ended with me locking myself in the bathroom immediately after having told my mother I hated her. She kept telling me to unlock the door, and, since I was a wretched little shit, I waited until the moment she forced it open with her shoulder to do so. Because of this, the bathroom door not only never locked again, but also hasn’t closed properly since. I am convinced that my parents refuse to replace the doorknob just to remind me of what a holy terror I was. Every time I go home and have to push the vanity stool against the door to keep it shut, I am chagrined.

Loser: Everyone who needs to use the upstairs bathroom, but especially me

1992: No you are not having dredlocks

Fifteen may have been my most charming year, and not just because it was the year I wrote the lyrics to Led Zeppelin’s “Hey Hey What Can I Do” on our foyer wall. I got grounded for a week when, after my mother said there was no way in hell I was having dreadlocks, I decided to just stop brushing my hair. It was like Gandhi with the march to the sea and the salt and all that, you can just imagine. She ignored me until it was time to go to church on Sunday morning, and then our matted week culminated in an ugly pre-church fight wherein I first yelled the F-word. My little brother cried. My mother cried. I ended up brushing my hair.

Winner: My mother (thank god)

1995: The Violent Femmes bring ALL of their equipment on the bus

I came home for Christmas break after my first semester at college, and when I went to take a shower one day, I played a mix tape someone had made me, featuring “Waitin’ For the Bus,” by the Violent Femmes. This song begins with Gordon Gano yelling, “…the Violent Femmes, they bring ALL of their equipment on the bus. And you can’t f*** with the Violent Femmes, YOU CANNOT F*** WITH THIS BAND!” My mother came barging into the bathroom while I was in the shower (because I couldn’t lock the bathroom door) and started yelling at me for “bringing this kind of trash into her house” what with my “eleven year old brother’s room RIGHT ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THIS WALL!” This is a lot funnier if you imagine my mother yelling these things in the same voice as Gordon Gano. Then she took my tape. She TOOK my TAPE. She gave it back later, but dude! I am an ADULT! I am EIGHTEEN! Now can I please have some money for my campus card!

Winner: My mother, but only temporarily: when I went home several Christmases ago, and my brother drove me around to do some shopping, this was the CD in his car.

1999: I regret to inform you that I will not be wearing pantyhose underneath my college graduation dress

Hoo boy. Here is where I should tell you that my mother was raised by a proper Dallas lady who was raised by another proper Dallas lady who did not go shopping at Neiman Marcus without her heels and white gloves. My mother herself is a beautiful woman who is immaculately groomed at all times, so you can imagine how she must feel about having a daughter who regularly gets salad dressing on her nightgown and irons her clothing with the Norton Anthology of English literature. So, I mentioned casually over the phone that I’d found a dress for my college graduation ceremony, which is stupid anyway, since it’s a dress that goes under a robe. This was the conversation:

Mom: Oh, good. Did you find shoes too?
Me: Yeah, they’re open-toed heels.
Mom: And did you get pantyhose?
Me: Uh… they’re open-toed heels. No.
Mom: What? What do you mean no?
Me: They’re hot and they’re itchy and no one is going to see them, and I’m wearing open-toed heels. It’s May!
Mom: Well, you wear sandaltoe hose, then.
Me: I am not wearing pantyhose, Mom.
[Rapid sucking in of breath]

Then the yelling began.

Winner: Me! But no photos exist from this day that show my feet.

Tomorrow: Why would you write about all of our personal arguments on dooce? I realize you’re trying to be funny but I’m not happy with the world knowing these details. Also that’s not how the pantyhose discussion went, I never forced you to wear pantyhose, and I definitely never yelled. You are always the one who starts yelling. Is that mayonnaise in your hair?

Winner: I’m sorry, Mom.

  • d3 voiceworks

    it’s nice to relive my childhood and teen years through this blog entry–thank you!

  • kate the great

    Aww, you were a total shit! I’m gonna show these to my mother when she’s sighing about how difficult I was as a teenager. You were slightly worse!

  • Sarah Brown

    I was truly horrible. Every time I think I want babies, I remember my own teen years and think again.

  • Geege

    It’s nice to hear that somewhere in the world, there is a bathroom door that doesn’t close…just like mine.

  • kacyd

    in the same conversation where I told my mom I was pregnant for my now 16 yr old daugher I apologized for everything I ever did as a teenager….it was too late. she acts just like me but I love her with all my heart…this cracked me up especially the 4 yr old story

  • Chriss

    I think we may be related. Because this post right here? It’s like my teen years all over again. Although I was worse. Oh so worse. But hey you may be candy coating for your mom’s sake.

    And now today I have my own 16 year old daughter who hates me. Like for real, HATES ME.

    Karma Sucks

  • m9r1el

    i got in trouble too at 18 when my mom found my 7 year old brother and cousin dancing to the very same Violent Femme’s song!

    i love you sarah! :)

  • NolaMomma

    My daughters are 3 and almost 5. Thanks for the glimpse into my hellish future. To be fair, I’m sure I was pretty awful as a teenaged girl, but I think I blocked a lot of it out. I’m so afraid.

  • pixiegolightly

    ” This is sort of like you making an irritating sound and someone saying, “I would rather you not do that,” and then you shoot them in face and end up in jail. It took me approximately eight years to learn that no matter how good my comeback was, it was in my best interest to keep it to myself. ”

    God does this ring true. Almost every fight my mum and I ever had was because I couldn’t keep my damn mouth shut.

  • CourtneySamantha

    My mom would have let me have the dreadlocks just so she could have made her point when I had to shave them off my head.

  • dolphy36

    “and irons her clothing with the Norton Anthology of English literature”…OMG…tears in my eye!

  • mrscunning14

    My favorite Sarah post so far! Loved it!

  • Karazi design

    ha.. grew up during the same time period.. and had the same naughtiness.. love it!

  • g.b.

    Holy moley, yes… a thousand times yes.

    I wrote (something I honestly cannot remember now, it was a diatribe against my parents for not letting me skip an 8th grade field trip because THEY WERE NAZIS AND I HATED THEM SO MUCH) all over my painted steel bedroom closet door in lipstick. Which, let me tell you, required sanding to remove! A lot of sanding! By hand. And then painting.

    Ages 12 – 19 were a little rough. My parents still have PTSD from it and my father refers to that period as “The Dark Years.” Haha! Except he’s not kidding.

  • kristanhoffman

    “This is sort of like you making an irritating sound and someone saying, “I would rather you not do that,” and then you shoot them in face and end up in jail. ”

    LOL oh yeah, just like that, happens all the time. :P

    Great post. And let’s face it, the winner is ALWAYS mom. Even when you think it’s not, it is. (Can you tell I was raised by an Asian mother?)

  • Mamapumpkin

    Oooooo…..I used to give my Mom a lot of grief by leaving F*** YOU!! notes in my drawers because I knew she’d snoop, and I’d run away from home, and the words that spewed out of my mouth would have sent any mother to jail for murdering her own daughter etc but only because she was a lousy mother! Now that I have 2 girls, I’m already seeing the attitudes. It must be in them blasted genes!

    Incidentally, for being a lousy mother, my Mom is now compensating by being the best grandmother to my girls. Ever!

    So how’s it going with Leta & Marlo? Moms & daughters, moms & daughters….it’s a love-hate thing till it ends up either way!

  • mmoxxie

    Norton Anthology! Yes! I have so many of those.

  • Schnauzie_Mom

    I feel as though I somehow got up in the middle of the night, wrote out my adolescence and then posted it on Dooce under the name Sarah:-) Awesome post! Now that I’m no longer clutched to the prickly bosom of adolescence, these memories are quite entertaining. Somewhere in my mom’s basement is a portable phone that was also smashed in a bathroom door and did not live to tell about it.

    Also, WHY does it always hurt so damn much when someone french braids your hair??

  • samatheart

    My mom did let me have the dreadlocks and probably rolled over laughing everytime she looked at her white redheaded straight A’s getting daughter with shoulder length dreadlocks. Pretty funny stuff. And loved your whole piece – sounds like we grew up at the exact same time!

  • Cooky

    Sarah, I love your writing style. It totally cracks me up. Thank you for sharing your wonderful stories with us.

  • sherrye22

    “this weird elementary school hairshirt phase I went through and confessed. I tattled on myself”

    What is with this? My sister went through it too.

    It’s 1986 and I am 9. My mother has decided that my sister (age 5) and I are old enough to get ourselves off to school in the morning instead of taking us over to the babysitter’s house in the morning (from which we would walk to school with babysitter and her children).

    After a couple of weeks of us successfully getting out the door and to school on time without mom’s help, mom decides to brag to grandma about how ‘mature’ we are.

    Mom: I’m so proud of the girls! Getting their breakfast themselves and getting to school on time!

    Grandma: What do they make for breakfast?

    Mom: Oh, cereal, or toast or fruit salad.

    My Sister Jessica: Or ice cream.

    Me: JESSICA! Shut up!

    Jessica: See, I told you they’d find out!

  • Ray1987

    OMG, that was all so hilarious! Thank you for this. I needed to laugh. =P And I can see why you and Heather are friends. ;o)

  • confusedkaty

    My goodness. I think about everything I put my mother through and I want to cry.

  • naysway

    Not only is it comforting to know you and I are the same age, but that you practically lived in my house. We could be twins! Oh, you are not making me feel good having two girls.

  • CanadianGirl

    LOL

    The best punishment I ever gave my son was when he was about 11. He sheepishly came down the stairs at midnight one night because he couldn’t sleep and needed to get something off his chest. He told me that he had visited a porn site on the Internet that day, and he just knew that I would find out and be sooooo disappointed in him. I told him that, as his mother, it was my responsibility to protect him, and that I would have to see what exactly he had seen. I made him sit beside me and navigate to the site, and then we looked together at all the pages and images he had seen.

    Yeah… I’d say I won that one. ;-)

  • susnot

    LOL! I think I had many of the same arguments with my Mom too. And I too recall my early teens as a period (where I decided for reasons I can no longer recall..) that I hated everyone. This makes me fear having children from my loins who are teenagers.

  • Ommax3

    Ahhhh…

    Mom vs Daughter(8) over Malt O Meal:
    1978:
    Mom: Eat your Malt o Meal, so you don’t miss the bus.
    Dot: I don’t like MOM, mommy…
    Mom: Think of all the starving children in Africa(oh, yeah, she went there…)
    Dot: (went there and bought the real estate) Then you should send it to them…(shoving it across the table where it fell and shattered all over the floor…)

    cleaning and spankings ensued….late to school with teary eyes…and MY SISTER told the world on the bus what was going on…

    Winner…Joyce(my sister)
    Loser….Me!

    yep….that was the most memorable…Joyce saved all hers for High School…like when no one would buy her boxers when it was cool to wear them as shorts…and so she just wore our dads….the look on his face was classic horror…and my mom’s scream was loud enough that my grandmother(who lived across the street) stuck her head out the door and yelled at my mom for yelling in front of “God and everyone!”

    good times man….

    can’t wait….

    hmmmmm…maybe I can…..

    Ommax3

    mom to a 3, 8 and 10 year old….uhg those years are coming fast!

  • Linka72

    HAAA..this reminds me of the time I was at a friend’s house and he was playing tapes for me…FULL BLAST…but one song had the unfortumate lyric of BRING THE MUTHAFUKKIN RUCKUS!!! over and over. His mom came up those stairs at top speed screaming: OH NO WE WON’T BE BRINGING ANY SUCH RUCKUS!!
    I have never laughed so hard.
    I think she would have been less offended if she would have caught us having sex!

  • Sarah Brown

    “WE WON’T BE BRINGING ANY SUCH RUCKUS!!”

    I think I’m going to start saying this.

  • confusedkaty

    Ya know, I was an AWFUL AWFUL AWFUL teenager, so this post resonates with me. My mom was pretty tolerant with the music I would play at top volumes, until I brought 2 Live Crew “As Nasty As They Want To Be”, home and started jammin’ out to “F**k Shack”.

    That did not go over well. I was 14.

  • Dani

    I remember the last time my Mom ever spanked me (not that there were many) but I remember this because to this day I don’t think I deserved it and I was to old for it too. Actually I remember being the winner in most of the arguments we had. Could be I have selective memory or it could be that my own daughter will make me pay dearly when she hit’s puberty. Sigh.

  • JennyBeans

    And that’s how it goes with mothers and daughters…. Good luck tomorrow!

  • sge

    i have so many of these moments and just sent this post to my mother to prove i wasn’t the only terror out there :) . the best reaction i ever got was having change thrown at me. it was the only “violent” act my mother ever made towards any of her children. it was so childishly awesome in retrospect, but it terrified me at the time because i knew she must be pretty damn angry to actually throw something at me! in her defense, i was quite a handful in my pre-teen/teenage years. i don’t even remember what the argument was about, but it was definitely one of those that devolved from something relatively minor…i believe it involved my lunch money.