Friday, May 6, 2016

I Miss Mean Mothers

This article was originally published in The Dallas Morning News on Mother's Day 2002, and it has been republished in numerous publications. Although I've posted it here before, the message is timeless, and I'm posting it again in honor of my mean mother on Mother's Day. I am blessed to still have her in my life.
                                          


Growing up along the banks of the Mississippi River, my sisters and I had the kind of mother every child dreads: a mean one. She was the meanest mother in Warren County, and her list of rules had no end.

We couldn’t sass.

We couldn’t say “yep.”

We couldn’t say “nope.”

We couldn't say "golly."

We couldn't say "gee."

We couldn’t ask for something without saying please.

Indeed, life with Mother consisted of rules, rules and more rules—and they weren’t limited to 529 Hill Street. The Queen of Mean had rules for everywhere.

No smacking gum in the car. No undressing mannequins in stores. No belching in restaurants.

Even in church, Mother was mean.


As the church pianist, Mother didn’t sit beside us on the pew, but never fear—Mother’s eyes could execute orders from afar, no words required. I called it the Look of Death.

Personally, I never understood how Mother could stare at three kids simultaneously without moving her eyes either direction, but she did. No blinking. No wrong chords. Just steady staring and steady playing—lips puckered, one eyebrow cocked, shoulders rigid.

Sometimes it took us a while to realize that Mother was in the Look-of-Death mode, but once we figured it out, it didn’t take us very long to get spiritual. After all, weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth were no foreign concepts to Mother’s kids. When we sang, “Savior, Savior, hear my humble cry,” we meant: “Right now, God! Mother is looking!” The terror of the Lord was one thing, but the terror of the pianist was something else.

Mother was a very gifted woman, capable of doing just about anything. But nothing was more important to Mother than raising her children. At times, I wished it had been otherwise. Mother would have made an excellent Commanding General in the United States Marine Corps: giving orders was what she did best.

Recently, I overheard a mother counting to three after telling her offspring to do something, and I couldn’t help but chuckle. Mother never counted to three after telling us to do anything. She didn’t even count to one! She ordered. We obeyed. No countdown.

As my sisters and I edged toward adulthood, Mother’s rules didn’t disappear, but she did fine-tune them a bit to fit the seasons. Occasionally, she even made rules on the fly as she winged her way through the unfamiliar terrain of raising teenage girls.

I remember one such time very well.

It was one of my first real dates. Curfew time was nearing, and me and Mr. Wrong were sitting out front in the car with the engine off.

As we smiled into each other’s eyes, the porch light came on. Then it went off again. Then on. Then off. On. Off. On. Off.

Uhh…Mother?

Yes, Mother—still executing orders from afar. “Time to say good-night and come inside,” her switch-twitch was saying. And, of course, I wasted no time in exiting the vehicle and high-tailing it to the front door.


It seems that mean mothers aren’t as prevalent as they were when I was growing up. I don’t know what happened to them. Instead of mean mothers, we have a bunch of mean kids—fighting, cursing, killing their classmates, their teachers, and their own flesh and blood.

I miss mean mothers.

Children miss them, too. ♦

20 comments:

  1. Absolutely wonderful! Your last paragraph is full of keen observation and great wisdom.

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  2. I have goosebumps all over...touching, poignant, hilarious, and the end is somewaht sad, yet true. I say form a "Bring back MEAN Moms" group. I will be the first to join!
    Thanks for a wonderful article!

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  3. As your twin sister, I know all too well how true this is. Love my mother!!

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  4. Well said! A little structure and discipline would go a long way.
    Happy Mother's Day!

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  5. AMEN Sistah! Happy Mother's Day!

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  6. this is great...hmmm. wondering if you're one of those 'mean' moms????Have a Happy Mother's Day.

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  7. Excellent post! Wonderful to read this and think back on my own set of rules....and those of my older sister who helped raise me. Love and structure together make for well behaved and respectful kids! God bless.....Thanks for sharing this with us.

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  8. We need to have more mothers like yours! Thank-you for this wonderful post and sharing these stories.
    Blessings,
    Ginger

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  9. Great post, Gayle. It's true, we need more of those mean mothers today.

    Blessings,
    Joan

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  10. Yes, what this world needs is more mean mothers. Thank you for sharing your memories with us.
    Happy Mother's Day.
    Charlotte

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  11. This is my favorite post of yours ever!! I love it, especially the part about "the look" from the piano bench.

    AND I agree with your sentiments very much. I heard a mom essentially begging her son to stop doing cartwheels IN THE PRODUCE DEPARTMENT at Walmart the other day. I just couldn't even imagine... sigh.

    Again, great post!

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  12. awesome post...i wholeheartily agree...

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  13. This is just as good the second time around. Mean mothers are in short supply these days, as evidenced by the vast out of control kiddos, both big and small.

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  14. Oh yes...I have fond memories of my mean mother as well. This is a wonderful tribute to your meanie of a mom and I'm so glad you published it again since I missed it the first time! Isn't it is tragedy that so many mothers today have gotten away from remembering who is raising who? Your post is spot on, my friend! Enjoy your precious mother this weekend and may you be honored as well!

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    1. I agree, Debby. Kids tend to rule the roost these days. Really tragic for them and society at large.

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  15. I love Mean Moms, My Mom was one!!!

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    1. Thank you for stopping by, Dottie. You were a lucky girl, having a mean mom. :-)

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  16. Wow, Gayle, this is fabulous, and you are absolutely right! Our children need mean moms today, and these "mean" moms are those who really care and love them with hopes of seeing them honor God and live a life honoring Him! Read your interview with Cheryl on Homespun Devotions. Thank you! It was excellent! Hugs!

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    1. Thank you so much, Cheryl. I'm really glad you stopped by.

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  17. Oh boy, can I ever relate! I had one of those "mean" mothers too, and she also played the piano in church, and I remember those "deadly" stares so well... oh this post touched me deeply!!! You were so blessed to have a mean mother, as was I! I'm visiting you from Cheryl's blog with your Inner View sharing, such an incredible thing that Cheryl is doing to share the hearts of people who have been a blessing in ministry, and to share their inner views with us. So happy to have met you :)

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