Okay, so yeah, I admit it: Sometimes I eat red velvet cake and drink soda for breakfast.
And I can go all day without making up my bed.
I’ve gone until 5 p.m. without brushing my teeth, and sometimes an entire day without doing anything to my hair.
I’ve got a wicked potty mouth (though hardly ever in front of my kids or my Dad or people I think might be offended, unless I’m deliberately trying to make a point or just plain pissed).
I’ve gone grocery shopping hungry and slipped Snickers bars and Haribo gummy bears into the cart, and devoured them just 10 minutes before I pile the vegetables high on the dinner plates.
I get impatient.
I bite off way more than any one person can chew.
I’m a rebel without a pause.
And most of these things are in direct violation of my “Mama’s Rules of How To Be” book—you know, the one I regularly quote whenever my girlpies get out of pocket. Like, ask mommy for a snack right before dinner, or try putting a spoonful of cereal in your mouth knowing you have an unmade bed upstairs, or try riding shotgun with me to the store in a stained t-shirt and unkempt hair, and seriously? It’s a situation. My girls know Mommy doesn’t play that.
I take my job as the rule enforcer very seriously (most days). I mean, it’s my wish as a mother that my kids look/act/be better than me. Because I want them to live an authentic, happy, fulfilled life. Because they deserve that much. And, selfishly, because we live in a society where kids are constantly used as barometers of how good we moms are at being moms.
Sucks, but it’s the truth.
And I admit, it can get a little intense around here when I’m so focused on enforcing “Mama’s Rules On How To Be.” For sure, my Mari tapped me on the shoulder just last week to remind me I was in violation of the rule where I insist everybody take a break after a particularly intense day.
See, I’m a firm believer that though kids must work hard, they also need downtime—lots of it—to recharge. There are plenty of days that my Mari drags in from school, her brain fried from standardized tests and in-class assignments and the intensity of building friendships and obeying school rules—sit down, stand up, do this, take that, yes you can, no you can’t. I can usually tell by the pep in her step on the way to the car in the school pick-up line if she needs to skip homework and go outside for some fresh air or tuck herself in front of the TV for a little while just to give her mind a rest.
Well, my Mari came home from school one day recently to find her mommy disheveled (really bad hair day), stressed (what with all the writing deadlines and volunteer work and family visits piled on top of my daily mom stuff), and just plain worn out (operating on about four hours of sleep). And in her infinite wisdom, she demanded I turn off my computer, grab the remote and get comfy on the couch—you know, get a little downtime of my own.
Basically, she pushed my pause button and called me out for not following my own rule. And on that day, I was glad my enforcer stepped in and made me slow down and listen to my own slick mom talk. I needed that downtime for busy moms like a human needs air.
She’s a wise one, that Mari. You can’t pull the “Do as I say, not as I do” thing on her and, like, get away with it. She has, after all, learned from the best. And maybe her insistence that I slow down is proof positive that she understands the rules and our need to follow them in meaningful ways—when they count the most.
Maybe I could take a few lessons from her, huh?
(And um, maybe we can keep that whole red velvet cake and soda for breakfast thing between us… )
Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.