Your mother really did know everything.

She knew far more than you ever thought you knew and you should have just let her teach, guide and show you exactly which way to turn as the road forked.  And chances are she still knows more than your arrogant little behind but she’s gracious enough to let you make your own mistakes.  Or maybe she’s just too tired to argue with you anymore, so when she walks by the bathroom and you’re brushing your teeth with your left hand and crimping your hair with your right as the water runs dangerously close to the electrical cord, she might not see this situation as a 2nd degree burn waiting to happen, but rather a chance for a good life lesson to burn itself into your memory.  Or maybe she’s just weary from raising such a ruthless teenager and seeing your hair catch on fire might just give her the strength she needs to continue mothering you one more day.  Of course, this is all conjecture on my part because the only experience I have from the above mentioned situation is the fabulously crimped hair.  The geometrically flawless triangle of kinked, bent hairs that cascaded down my shoulders was undoubtedly the envy of all the 8th grade girls, as were my neon orange and black MC Hammer pants and the stainless steel, heart shaped  “I Love Joey McIntyre” pendant I bought for only $2.99 in Tiger Beat magazine, but now I’m just bragging.

I know slightly more today than I did back then, although still much less than my mother knows now and hopefully still more than my 13 year old daughter thinks she knows now.  At least that’s what I’m telling her… so here’s to bluffing.  I know why she needs to scrub her face twice a day and I know exactly in which laundry basket she can find her favorite pair of jeans.  I know why my oldest son should put his DVD’s and video games back into their cases when he’s done with them and I also know where the new jar of peanut butter is hiding in the cupboard.  I know that my daughter’s favorite grip pen is in the third left drawer of the smallest desk in the downstairs closet and I also know why she needs another glass of water before walking out the door to school.  I know why my oldest son actually needs at least nine hours of sleep every night and I can find his pen drive in less than 12 seconds.  Half of what I know is appreciated, saves them hours of chasing their own tails and results in “OMG I love you Mum! Thank you!” And the other half of what I know is “preposterous, annoyingly absurd” and the sole reason they can’t wait to move out, get their own apartments and get out from under my domineering thumb.  It’s usually about this time that I grab the classified section, their savings account booklets, our latest energy bill, dig out the last grocery receipt from the bottom of my purse and give them a crash course in the basic economics of living costs for one month, without Mum & Dad’s “preposterous, annoyingly absurd” checkbook to provide a soft landing.  I quote these colorful adjectives because my little Miss Wordsmith recently used them to describe my parenting and I was compelled to kiss her cheeks for being so smart while pinching her butt for being so sassy.

I’m thankful to catch glimpses of the sweetness lurking just beneath the anguished, puss-filled surface of her adolescent exterior; it’s what has kept me from eating her alive on nine different occasions.

Most often, I know why I do what I do.  I’ve got a home to smoothly run, a schedule to timely keep and three young people to successfully raise.  Two baskets unloaded, one lunch packed, three sheets signed, one dose given, four beds nearly made, six reminders offered and ten miles driven.  I know what goes where, who gets what, how it zips and where it fits.  I’m the mother and I really do know everything.…usually.  I mean, I have my off-days.  Who doesn’t?  Sure, I’ve sent my six year old to school wearing his shirt inside out and backwards; it happens.  And I’ve occasionally forgotten to sign very important forms only to receive gentle reminders from the school…for the third time. And who hasn’t taxied their children to three different schools all over town and back home again only to realize they were wearing two different sneakers?  That happens too.  I’ve even forgotten to pick my oldest up after school because I thought he’d texted me that he was taking the bus.  Turns out that had just been a dream, but it all worked itself out.  Life happens, mistakes happen, as do unwashed dishes, late drop-offs, mistakenly missed doctor appointments, disorganized piles of paper cluttering various household surfaces and neglected loads of dirty laundry.  Us mothers really do know everything we need to do it’s just that sometimes we get a little behind and we don’t always make the best choices under the pressure we’re faced with.

Take this afternoon, for instance.  In between today being toilet cleaning day (granted, every day is toilet cleaning day at my house), post office, grocery, manicure, menu planning, vacuuming and take-the-kids-to-the-gym day, I tried to fit in an extra load of laundry.  In my haste to unload the dryer, a few stray socks fell into the piles of existing dirty laundry.  Some mothers might just cut their losses and let those socks lie and other mothers, like myself, might take her chances with a sniff test to see exactly which were the clean socks and which were the dirty socks.  Now, if they had all been little seven inch socks worn by a six year old, that would have been reasonable, but given that a few of the fallen socks were giant 27 inch socks worn by a 15 year old, I can only conclude that my sense of judgment had been clouded by an urgent desire to stay on schedule.   Not that any particular pair of dirty socks won’t have some level of unpleasant stink to them, but there is a significantly greater margin of funk between six year old piggies and 15 year old hooves.

The inadequately-thought-through sniff test resulted in painfully watering eyes, a burning nose, full body shudders and me wondering what in God’s name could my oldest son possibly have stepped in to make his dirty socks smell like the rotting carcass of a wildebeest as it lay in the midday desert sun, ravaged by turkey vultures and maggots? Not that I know what that smells like but I’m pretty sure I do now.

Mothers really do know everything but we’d lose credibility if we told you how we came to be so smart.

Renée Chalou

About Renée Chalou

Renée Chalou lives and raises her family in Presque Isle, where she owns a fitness center, LiveWell United. Her oldest son is in his second year at UMO, her daughter plans to attend UMPI in the spring and her youngest son is an active, happy 11 year old in 6th grade. From her life experiences as a homeschooling parent, blending a family, and transforming herself from an overweight, side-line mother to a competitive athlete mother and fitness leader in her community, she writes about what she knows: living life well even when it's not perfect. She writes about finding and clinging to the good even when it would be easy to focus on the bad, no matter what challenges life brings. Life in Northern Maine is wonderful, full of adventures and sub-zero temperatures. It's not for everybody and nobody claims it's easy. But it's a good life, it's hers and she'd like to share some of it with you.