What’s a Mother to Do?
by Ann Edwards Cannon
[p.135]I recently found a diary I kept when I was ten years old, and I was interested to see my list of New Year’s resolutions on the inside cover.
1. BE PATIENT.
2. DON’T TALK ON THE TELEPHONE TOO LONG.
3. BE NICE TO ALL MY FRIENDS.
4. BE A GOOD STUDENT.
5. DON’T SHOW OFF LIKE PEGGY MOORE. (Author’s note: Peggy Moore was a very snotty fourth-grade girl who thought she was better than everybody else just because she wore a real bra.)
6. DON’T SWEAR OR SPIT.
About half way through the year I apparently did a little self-evaluation because penciled in the margin next to each resolution are the words (a) “needs work,” or (b) “needs more work,” or (c) “needs a lot more work.” In fact, I probably ought to be working on them still, although it is true that I no longer spit at my brothers when we get into fights. Also, even though I now have a real bra just like Peggy Moore’s, I never brag about it.
The problem with my old list, as I look at it, is that I set myself up for failure. I had no idea how to set realistic goals, and thus ended up feeling frustrated and incompetent, which dramatically lowered my self-esteem and so forth. Therefore, these days I only set goals that are manageable, goals I know I can attain with a little discipline and perseverance.
Well, now that we’re well into the new year, it’s time to check up on this year’s batch of resolutions:
1. DO NOT CLEAN OUT MY CLOSET: A
2. DO NOT PAY OFF VISA: A
3. DO NOT START A REGULAR EXERCISE PROGRAM: A
[p.136]4. DO NOT TAKE UP A NEW HOBBY: A
5. DO NOT IMPROVE MY MIND: A+
Yes! And it’s another great report card!
See? Setting and realizing a goal is a snap once you know how. Actually, I came dangerously close to making a genuine resolution this year. Here’s what happened. Right before Christmas I stood in a Payless checkout line behind a woman who was packing an infant around in a carrier on her back. Now I have the exact same model as she did, but whereas mine is dirty and dingy, hers was crisp and clean.
I tapped her on the shoulder. “Doesn’t your baby ever spit up?” I asked her politely.
She regarded me, a complete stranger, coldly. “Excuse me?” “Your carrier looks brand new. Mine looks—you know—totally gross.” I tossed off one of those airy laughs you’re always reading about.
“Well,” she said, “I clean mine.” Then she started to inch away from me.
Suddenly I felt just like I did that time Dylan swallowed some staples, and I had to tell the emergency room nurse that he was one shot behind on his immunizations.
“Okay fine,” I said to the nurse who pursed her lips, then scribbled away on Dylan’s chart. “You just go right ahead and put down that his mother is white trash.”
It is true that I have this huge streak of white-trashiness, and although it doesn’t usually bother me, sometimes I get the urge to do something about it, which I did right there at Payless. I shook and turned red in the face and silently swore that from now on I would be a paragon of middle-class virtue and that I and all my possessions would be completely respectable.
Of course, by the time I got to the parking lot, I was feeling much better, so I downgraded my resolution a little, then added it to my list:
NEVER ASK STRANGERS IF THEIR BABIES SPIT UP.
Bonus!!! Cosmo-type Personality Quiz!!!
In case you are wondering about your own personal level of white-trashiness, I have developed this quiz for you.
1. Grease and salt are two of my favorite foods.
[p.137]2. I have empty pop cans rolling around in my car.
3. There are Big Wheels on my front porch at all times.
4. I have also had a large household appliance such as a broken washing machine sitting on my front porch overnight at one time or another.
5. Twinkies are another of my favorite foods.
6. My children sometimes wear socks to bed.
7. I leave my Christmas lights up until the Fourth of July.
Scoring Your Quiz
—If you answered NO to all of the questions, you are no doubt the lady I stood next to at Payless.
—If you answered YES to some of the questions, don’t worry. No one will ever know about your tendencies unless you choose to show them your answers.
—If you answered YES to all of the questions, take off your shoes, grab a tub of bar-b-que curly fries at the drive-in nearest you, and come on over to my house. I’ll be waiting!