We were a snug little group of mother and children sitting on the floor watching the Carol Burnett Show. My oldest was eleven and the three-year-old sat on my lap. It was unusual for me to be watching television. There never seemed to be time for such luxuries because I always had so many "important" things to do. I’m not sure what enticed me to sit there with my little ones that evening but I would soon see myself in their eyes and learn that I should laugh more.
Carol Burnett was doing her spoof of "Gone With the Wind". The scene took place on the grand staircase of Tara. Carol Burnett was at her best doing an over the top imitation of Scarlet O’Hara. She was carrying on and on about the need for a beautiful dress so she could entice Rhett Butler to give her money in order to save her southern mansion. She suddenly spied the green velvet curtains hanging above the stairway and snatched them down (creating a cloud of dust) and ran up the stairs to fashion a magnificent gown.
As we watched, Scarlet came prancing down the stairs in her new dress. The curtain, with the rod still attached, was draped over her shoulders and sashed at the waist with the gold tieback cord. It was very funny. I have seen it since and it still gives me a big chuckle. I laughed so hysterically my little guy fell off my lap. It was a classic rolling on the floor laugh. I couldn’t stop—my entire body was convulsing with glee.
The kids were staring in wide-eyed amazement at me not Carol Burnett. I determined later that they knew nothing about Gone With the Wind. And for sure they had never seen anything like what was happening to their mother. Maybe they thought I was losing it. I definitely didn’t laugh much. I was serious and busy and sober and sometimes mad but a belly laugh—that wasn’t me. It made me sad and I tried to laugh more after that but never did really get good at it.
Motherhood for me was very serious business. Too serious
Another time my little family would see me cry and it would also surprise them.
When Mike and I married he told me to never ask him what he wanted for dinner and he would try to eat whatever I cooked (except onions). Fixing a meal that would please everyone at my dinner table was an enormous challenge. I don’t remember it being such a problem when I was growing up. One of my brothers lived on peanut butter and jelly but most of us would eat whatever my mother put before us.
I know some of my dinners were better than others but I consistently cooked something and tried to make our suppers tasty and nutritious. On this occasion we all sat down together and had a blessing. The forks were lifted, the complaining began and they all refused to eat (I don’t recall the menu)—even my husband told me it might be best not to fix "it" again (trying to be tactful). I am usually good at being tough and stoic but it must have been a bad day. I left in tears.
I went to my bedroom and locked the door. I stayed there all evening. The kids knocked on the door repeatedly to say they were sorry. They couldn’t understand why I would cry about such a thing. I don’t know why mothers want to be so strong. Are we embarrassed? Are we fearful of appearing weak? Are we afraid no one really cares? For sure, I didn’t cry enough.
The next morning the dishes were done, the kitchen cleaned and the offending food was thrown in the garbage. I guess they all ate something. Never again did I have to endure a dinner bashing session, quite like that one. How does anyone learn empathy if we don’t cry on occasion?
The pressure cooker of home life can make parents tough but I have come to believe that a little laughter and a few tears can go a long way.