SO FAST YOUR HEAD WILL SPIN
My daughter is playing city ball. I have been happy (compelled) to attend every practice, every game, and often commanded with raised eyebrows to report back the highlights in order to prove I was paying attention. We also had to furnish her with a new ball, bat, glove and shoes, because apparently she was the ONLY ONE wearing flip flops in the dugout, which I find hard to believe, but whatever. Of course, at the end of all of this, she’ll likely receive a two foot trophy for, “Best Ponytail.” This makes me question the sanctity of the league.
Now when I played city ball, it went something like this,
“Hey, Mom, I’m goin’ to my game! Do we have a mitt I can use?”
“I don’t think so—use your hand. Have fun!”
Repeat every week ‘till the end of the season, culminating with,
“Hey, Mom! We won the championship game!”
“Fantastic! I’m so proud of you! Now go clean your bathroom.”
This kind of thing happened regularly. In fact, I think the first words out of my mother’s mouth when Nicki was crowned Homecoming Queen were, “Homecoming Queen? Wonderful! What a beautiful tiara. Here, I’ll hold it while you go clean your bathroom.”
Now it wasn’t that she wasn’t tickled for us. Or supportive. Or that we had really dirty bathrooms. It’s just that the sun didn’t rise or set on our golden fannies, which is a good way to see your children, if you ask me. I remember when I was trying out for the squad and my mother said, “Lisa, we don’t really CARE if you’re a cheerleader. We don’t really WANT you to be a cheerleader. In fact, we would really rather you NOT be a cheerleader, as it will be a terrible burden on our family. And with that being said, I want to make it crystal clear to you that if, at any time, your head becomes inflated, or you turn rotten and snotten, or heaven forbid, you begin to act entitled, I WILL RIP YOU OUT OF THAT UNIFORM SO FAST YOUR HEAD WILL SPIN.”
She said that last part quietly, but it screamed and echoed through my brain...while I cleaned my bathroom.
Apparently, my mother found no pleasure in living vicariously through me. Inconceivable. (I bet you all said that with a lisp. Thank you, Princess Bride.)
My dad felt the same way. He’d known his fair share of kids who’d let their titles and sweaters get the best of them, and he wasn’t about to let his own children join the ranks. I’ll never forget going into town with him one afternoon. I had come straight from a school event and was wearing a shirt that the varsity team had chosen for us. FOR THE RECORD, I WAS A LOWLY JV, AND HAD NO SAY IN THE MATTER—A LAMB TO THE SLAUGHTER, PEOPLE. AN INNOCENT, BLAMELESS, EXPLOITED BABY LAMB. Anyway, the back was completely devoid of any buttons or zippers—just gaped wide open making some sort of slutty fashion statement, and beckoning for the wrong kind of attention.
Crossing the parking lot, I accidentally walked directly into my father’s line of vision, and Bam! Lightning fast came the grab and clench of his fist to the back of my shirt while he propelled me into the first store in the mall to ask for a safety pin. I didn’t say a word. Just picked up speed right along with him, as I knew my name was Mudd.
Many lessons were learned that day. First, avoid walking in front of your father if you’re tramping it up. Second, record stores don’t have safety pins—neither do Mervyns, ZCMI, Nordstrom, Nations Creations, Hallmark, The Copper Rivet, Orange Julius or the entire food court. And last, but most important, dads are protectors. Not friends.
Now this is not to say that my mother and father have not become my very best friends. In fact, all those years ago, we spent many wonderful, laughing, delightful times together, being just that. But their allegiance was first and foremost to parent. To raise up a child in the way she should go. Work without praise, be modest and have integrity. Three lessons taught that will bless generations much more than a trophy or a sweater or a tiara in a glass case ever could.
And now that I am old, I will not depart from it...mostly because it’s safety pinned to my blessed heart.