As a mother, there are plenty of thing to keep you up at night worrying: Are the kids getting good grades? Do they ever get bullied? Do I push them too much? (Or not push them enough and they’ll end up living in my house forever?)
But the thing that worries me most is knowing that even if you do everything right and have a really good kid, there will come a day when they surprise you by making a stupid decision that you never saw coming.
At least that’s what I did to my mom.
As far as kids go, I was a pretty good one. I followed the rules, I got straight As, and held two jobs to help pay for college. I had my head on straight and always made good decisions.
Until the day I didn’t.
It all started the night before when I placed a cut out classified ad on the breakfast table. I knew my mom would see it on her way out the door for work and wouldn’t have a chance to respond in person.
The ad read:
Honda Elite 80 Deluxe Scooter
Red, good condition and low miles.
I placed a note next to it with an arrow pointing to the ad:
“Sounds great, doesn’t it!” (with a smiley face.)
I can only imagine what was going through my mom’s head as she saw my note that morning. Probably something along the lines of: “There is no way in hell that I am going to let you spend your hard earned college money on some cherry red death machine.”
But she wrote next to my note:
“I’m sure it is cute.”
Which to any 17 year old clearly means:
“You have my blessing to go and buy that amazing scooter!”
So naturally, I took the next logical step and called the number on the ad.
As I’m sure is common with most people who temporarily lose their minds, my memory of what transpired over next few hours is a little hazy.
For example, where did I get the money? I remember that I had money in a bank account but I also know that I didn’t have a checking account or an ATM card, so how exactly did I come to possess $750 that morning?
The bigger mystery is how I roped my father, who lived 30 miles away, into picking me up and driving me ten miles so I could meet the scooter of my dreams.
Did I tell him that my mom had said it was okay?
Did he even ask?
Was he the one that wrote the check?
The next thing I knew, I was in a strange man’s garage in Caldwell, Idaho. My dad drove off as I was sitting proudly atop my new scooter. It was even more beautiful than I had imagined. The color was a deep red that looked more like the finish of a sparkling bowling ball than mere paint and metal.
I was so excited that I didn’t have time to concern myself with small details like not having a helmet or not having a single clue how to drive a scooter 10 feet, let alone the 10 miles back home. But, with the ignorance and confidence of a 17 year old, I was off.
Somehow, I survived the ride and arrived home around 3:00: Two and a half hours until my mom would get home from work.
First things first, I called my friend Charlene to tell her the wonderful news. I don’t remember her exact words, I like to think that it was “Wow, I’m so super jealous of the great decision you made!” but I’m guessing it was closer to “You did what? Oh my god your mom’s going to kill you. Now come pick me up for a ride!”
So that’s what I did.
The excitement of showing off my dream scooter was cut short when my mom came home to the sight of me and Charlene whizzing up and down the road, no helmets: a mom’s nightmare on wheels.
My memory is once again doing me a kindness by allowing me to forget the details of what exactly transpired after that. One thing was clear: I would not be keeping that scooter.
I remember excessive amounts of dramatic “face-in-pillow” crying. They were tears of sadness and disappointment but mostly tears of embarrassment that came from knowing I had made a big mistake.
My clearest memory is of my mom coming into my room. I could not see her face (due to my dramatic ‘face-in-pillow’ sobbing.) She rubbed my back and said, “I’m sorry. I know that you love that scooter and I know that you hate me right now but it’s okay if you hate me as long as you stay safe, because I love you.”
That was it. No yelling, no guilt trips, no non-stop drilling of “what were you thinking?” Just a calm, straightforward, “this is how it’s going to be, feel however you need to feel about it but I love you.”
At that moment I thought I was just learning a hard lesson about poor decision-making. Now I realize that experience also taught me three important lessons about being a mom.
First, it taught me that even the “good” kids are capable of making really bad decisions. You can’t say, “Oh, my daughter would never do that!” Some day she just may do that and it’s not because you’re a bad parent, it’s because everyone makes mistakes.
Next, when my kids do make mistakes, I hope I will channel the calm wisdom of my mom and remember that being firm and loving is always better than being angry and judgmental.
Lastly, it taught me that parenting is not about giving your kids whatever they want so you’ll feel loved, but about loving your kids so much that you’re willing to feel hated in order to do what’s best for them.
I’m grateful that my mom made me give back that scooter and for all the lessons that she has taught me. I’m also grateful that we can both look back on that day and laugh now.
Although I think she’s mostly laughing because she knows that now that I have kids, I have a lot of “scooters” in my future.
Happy Mother’s Day, Mom! Take comfort in knowing that I know you were right about the scooter (and everything else,) and your warning of “Just wait til you have kids who do this to you” has come true, times two. I love you!
For more stories about my mom, you can learn how she managed to make this little red dress stretch across three years, two states and three major holidays. You can also learn why I think she’s the one who deserves a celebration on my birthday.
Once upon a time, Susanne Kerns was a Senior Account Director at an advertising agency working for two of the top brands in the world. Nine years ago she traded in her corporate life for a life as a stay at home mom, raising two of the best kids in the world. She started her blog, The Dusty Parachute as a way to dust off her online advertising skills and begin her job search. Instead, she now uses it as a way to spend lots of time on the computer so her kids think that mommy has a job.
Susanne’s essays have been featured in Scary Mommy, BonBon Break and Redbook and she is also a contributor in the upcoming books, It’s Really 10 Months, Special Delivery and Martinis & Motherhood: Tales of Wonder, Woe & WTF?! You can follow her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.