My mother spent many hours trying to fight the potential future bad habits of her children. With ever turn she made valiant attempts to remind us of the things we were not allowed to do. The list, which was varied slightly but remained fundamentally the same throughout my childhood was as follows: no going on dates until you are 16, no sex until you are 18, no drinking until you are 21, no drugs, don’t skip school, wear your helmet.
All of these rules were going to make us good grown-ups, upstanding members of society, keep us free from bodily harm! But we were curious children– my brothers and I. By telling us not to do something we immediately assumed it was super awesome and that we must try it as soon as humanly possible. I was more a rule bender than a rule breaker, but in my own time I broke all of those rules. Each and every one. And with every minute I spent breaking the rules, I spent an equal amount of time trying to cover up my trespasses to make sure my mother never found out.
For years my mother tried to control where I was and who I was with and what I was doing. We fought and fought and fought and fought (usually on the front lawn– my family’s favorite place to fight) and then one day it just stopped. Us kids graduated high school, got into college, moved 600 miles away from home and then another 600 more. We moved in with strangers, have friends our parents haven’t met, broke away. The woman spent years trying tabs on me and then I became an adult, a grown-up, or at least my best imitation of one– and as an adult, I realized I could finally ‘fess up without getting grounded.
My mother had a hand in the start of the secret telling, as she discovered on my first winter break from college that if she gave me a drink, I couldn’t drive. And after two bottles of wine, I would call and cancel my plans to stay home to hang out with her. I wasn’t even home for three days that first winter break when my mom discovered (ah ha!) that if she gave her daughter three glasses of wine and a cigarette that the secrets, like the really good ones, would flow out of my mouth. And there was nothing my mother loved more than a good secret.
There was something so satisfying confessing my list of wrongdoings to my mother that first winter break and the years since– the many scandalous and not so scandalous things we cooked up and somehow managed to get away with. I was shocked to know that some of the things I told her– like when I took the car joy riding at 3 o’clock in the afternoon when I was 15– she had always known about and never brought up, while some other things she was more surprised to hear.
Growing up and development a friendship with my mother– or at least as close as you can get to friendship with the woman that raised you, has been one of the most rewarding and strangest experiences I’ve had as an adult. To find out that adults were sneaking cigarettes at the same moment they were scolding us for smelling like smoke, or that they drank the half bottle of vodka they found under the bed has been amusing. Parents are rule breakers and rule benders just like the rest of us it turns out.
Despite our many missteps, the one thing I’ll always say about my mother– with all of the rules my brothers and I broke and fights we’ve had is that she has always adjusted to us, her children. For I can’t imagine almost 24 years ago as she held me in her arms that she thought she’d end up with someone like me–a girl who broke all of her rules– but I’ve never doubted for a second that she wasn’t happy she did.