Bad Mommy


This weekend will be filled with beautiful tributes to wonderful mothers. You know the ones: the mothers who healed a wound with a kiss, the mothers who baked hundreds of customized goodies for the bake sale; the mothers whose house was a haven for all the neighborhood urchins.

If you were one of those mothers, I salute you. Happy Mother’s Day to you.

I was not that kind of mother.

In fact, looking back, I can recall three distinct events that probably scarred my daughter for life. I know that because, now that she is 32, she tells me frequently that I have scarred her for life. I suppose I should be grateful that she is telling me and not a therapist these things.

Here are the three things I did:

  1. The Shadow of Her Smile.

My daughter was at that age when she thought smiling just meant baring her teeth. I flipped through the school pictures, each one with a rictus of a grin that was worse than the last. Thoughtlessly, I told her, “This is a terrible smile!” I think my mind was on work. Really, though, I have no excuse. A sad little voice piped up, “I have a terrible smile?” It took forever to explain the difference between her natural, gorgeous smile and the one in the photos. And I’m not sure she’s over it yet. Bad Mommy.

2. You Can Die From That

It had been a rough winter. Every kid in her class had some form of a bug. Hacking coughs, sneezes, and So. Much. Snot. Her pediatrician listened to her breathing and, shaking her head, advised me to go to some lab for further testing. “I just want to be sure it’s not pneumonia,” the doctor told me. In the car, distracted and worried and more than a bit exhausted from the second night of sleeplessness because of her coughing, I wasn’t paying attention when she asked, “Mama, is noo-moh-na bad?” “Oh yes,” I said, without thinking. “You can die from it.” Silence. And then, the tiniest sniffling from the seat in the back. “I…I…don’t WANNA die,” she wailed. Yes, Bad Mommy struck again.

3. Hey, Your Kid’s Bobbing Around Back There!

When my daughter was in high school, we took her on a whitewater rafting outing. We rented wetsuits, donned our protective helmets, and met our hired guide at the launch point. My husband was first in line in the seats, then me, and, finally, in the rear thrill seat, my daughter, an excellent swimmer. Each raft launched toward increasingly turbulent waters. I do not swim. I should mention that, just to explain that I had a death grip on the ropes that served as handles along the sides of the raft. When I didn’t have my eyes squeezed shut, I gazed rigidly ahead. Other rafters waved greetings at us, but I didn’t let go long enough to return the waves. Finally, one skilled rafter pulled alongside. “Hey,” he said, “your kid is back there in the water.” Yes, my daughter had bounced right out of the raft. I had not even noticed. She wasn’t far away. I would like to think that I would have noticed sooner rather than later, certainly before we were out of sight down the river. Still, after the talented guide maneuvered us back enough so we could yank her out of the water, the look she gave me haunts my dreams. Bad Mommy. No, Worst EVER Mommy.

So, to all the mothers out there who bungle their way through motherhood with good intentions but poor execution…Happy Mother’s Day!!

world’s okayest mom

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