A few weeks ago, I was out with some work colleagues at one of our favourite restaurants celebrating the retirement of one of our own, a man I’ve worked with since I first started as a wet-behind-the-ears magazine editor at the tender age of 28.
Sigh – I can still remember back to when I was 28 and drove a black, two-door, sporty-looking car rather than a honking huge minivan – but I digress.
Anyway, our buddy was pumping back the drinks and we were having a good time when one of the women in the group brought up the subject of her children. Now, I’m not sure if you’ve figured this out yet or not, but I’m a bit of a smart-ass. Actually, I’m a big fucking smart-ass. So, when people start telling me about their wonderful, angelic, gorgeous children, I usually start talking about what little shits my two Goobers are. Not because they actually are – hell, all kids have their projectile-vomiting-pea-soup-Exorcist moments – but because I like to interject a little bit of reality into these types of conversations. My ad manager usually plays along, agreeing with me about my Goobers’ horrid behavior (she should know, she’s actually babysat them).
So, I’m joking about my Goobers when the co-worker sitting next to me – a man – states: “I guess you’re never going to be Mother-of-the-Year.” I laughed, my response being: “Damn right!”
Fast forward to this evening. Like most Wednesday’s, I am responsible for transporting my son to and from his Cub meeting – they’re currently in the middle of making their Kub-Kars so this is really important shit. As I back my huge honking minivan out of the driveway – which is currently a very narrow, single-lane plowed through deep snow – I veer off course slightly and end up driving up a snow bank. I have no problem getting the vehicle out – one of the actual benefits of driving a big honking minivan – but I joke to my Goober that I’m acting like I have just learned how to drive. His lightning quick response: “About fucking time!”
And then it hit me – like a tonne of bricks to the head – I sure as shit am never going to be Mother-of-the-Year because I’ve made one of my Goobers a carbon copy of me: a foul mouthed smart-ass.
Personally, I have no problem with my children swearing, as long as the word (or words) being used fits the situation, is meant in jest and is not hurtful to another person – the dog and cats are open season. I do have a BIG problem with the C-word and generally don’t go there, although my Goobers have informed me they hear it from other kids at school all the time.
It wasn’t the swearing that made me laugh with a slight hysterical edge. It was the realization that, by example, I have taught my son comedic timing and he will now be burdened with the need to make every situation – no matter how horrific, depressing or awkward – into a stand-up routine. And that sucks.
I can remember as a little kid, my mother coming home from work to find me sobbing, upset because kids at school were teasing and making fun of me. Her response – a la Singin’ in the Rain – was make ‘em laugh. So I did, using the one thing I already knew they thought was funny – myself. Rather than wait for the big bully of the schoolyard to call me a fucking pizza faced fat bitch with shit-for-brains, I would call myself that first. It was ingenious. Soon, I was known as that weird funny girl and treated with a certain amount of reverent respect because I wasn’t afraid to make other people laugh at my own expense.
But – looking back on it as an adult – that particular method of dealing with bullies and uncomfortable social situations is a tricky tight-rope to walk. You have to be pretty sure of yourself and have a lot of confidence to repeatedly beat yourself up mentally for the big laugh. I was neither one of these and it was damaging. I certainly don’t blame my mother for this – she gave me the best advice she could at the time. But when it comes to my own Goobers, I’ve tried to steer clear of the make ‘em laugh approach, relying instead on the you’re-better-than-that, they’re-just-jealous, ignore-them philosophy.
But obviously, if my son is any example, some of that joker crap managed to seep its way through. And I’m to blame. For now, I’m going to watch to see what develops, how he chooses to use his comedic skills. Hopefully, he won’t turn down the self-deprecating route and I can provide him with some other pointers.
I will never, ever, ever be mother-of-the-year – like ever. But I can always hope for smart-ass-of-the-year!