17. Mom, You’re Not Going to Write About This, Are You?

17. Mom, You’re Not Going to Write About This, Are You?

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Family Matters

Mom, You’re Not Going to Write About This, Are You?

If you can’t annoy somebody, there is little point in writing.

~Kingsley Amis

My daughter recently went to her first dance. Her anxiety over the evening wasn’t that of a normal fifteen-year-old girl. What should I wear? Will my parents embarrass me when he picks me up? Will he try to kiss me good night? No, the first words out of Haley’s mouth after the young man called were, “Mom, you’re not going to WRITE about this, are you?” Such is the plight of a writer’s offspring, especially when your mom’s favorite writing topic is YOU.

While some kids might cringe to overhear their mother telling a neighbor about their latest social faux pas, my kids have to worry that their exploits will be chronicled for the world at large. To hear them tell it, every embarrassing thing they’ve ever done or said has been publicized in magazines, anthologies, and on the Internet.

Okay, I’ll admit it’s partially true. Over the years, Molly has wet her pants, Hewson mooned a church congregation, Haley picked her nose through her dance recital, and Jonah stood behind a very large man and hollered, “Don’t worry, Mom, I’m not going to ask you why he’s so FAT until we get in the car!” And it was all later recounted in print somewhere.

I try to remind them that the money I earn narcing on them allows me to stay at home and still offer them some of the extras in life. They are not assuaged. The long lead time on most stories only makes matters worse. I might sell an essay today, only to have it sit in a magazine’s inventory for years before it actually makes it onto the page. That means the essay I wrote about Hewson playing an entire baseball game with his “cup” upside down when he was eight didn’t make it into print until he was an eleven-year-old super jock.

The story about Molly’s preschool streaking phase was published when she was seven. Haley’s public inquiry about her grandmother’s enema bag hit the magazine racks when she was in middle school (like middle school isn’t excruciating enough), while Jonah’s cat vs. duct tape escapade is sitting in inventory right now like a ticking bomb just waiting to devastate him one day.

In my own defense, though, sometimes the little boogers are just asking for it. Like the time we had to grease Hewson’s head to get the training potty seat off. I’m going to keep that to myself? Or when Jonah swiped the surgical gloves in the pediatrician’s exam room and stashed them in his underpants, not realizing she was going to check the goods during the exam and those rubber gloves would pop out of his little drawers like a jack-in-the-box. Now, how do you not write about that?

Or when Jonah said matter-of-factly to our neighbor, “Well, hey, Miss Karen, you’re getting old, huh?” Or any one of their self-induced haircuts, spatial experiments involving the cat or outdoor potty adventures…

Then there was this conversation I overheard when passing my boys’ room one day:

Little brother (hollering): “Mom, I need some panties!”

Big brother: “Man, you wear panties? Girls wear panties.”

Little brother: “Well, what do you wear?”

Big brother: “Dude, I wear undies.”

The other day, I was driving down the road with my four-year-old when he blurted out something absolutely hysterical. I laughed so hard it was a struggle to keep the car on the road. When I finally caught my breath, he said, “Well, Mom…?”

“Well, what?”

“Aren’t you going to write that down?”

Am I that bad?

You hear about the preachers’ kids or children of politicians who feel like they’re living in a fish bowl with their every move being scrutinized. I wonder how they’d feel if their foibles were exaggerated and embellished for optimum laugh potential as well.

Still, I tell my kids it could be worse. Farrah Fawcett’s son had to live with a mom who posed nude for Playboy at age fifty. The worst I ever did was write a story about them eating poop. Besides, as Anne LaMott so aptly put it, “If they didn’t want you to write about them, maybe they should have behaved themselves in the first place.”

~Mimi Greenwood Knight

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