I’ve never actually met Al Gore, but I’ve always been a big fan, big fan. Which is why I take his whole green initiative to heart. Or more precisely, to home. I mean, we’ve really got to ask ourselves—why stop at global warming? During a time when reusing, recycling and re-purposing is paramount to preserving our planet, we all need to take a closer look at how we can conserve our parenting fuel as well. So now is not the time to expend our precious energy on re-evaluating naptimes, meal times or time-outs! No, today is the day to shuffle through our grey-topped parenting bins and recycle what we’ve already got: Our mothers’ wisdom!
So last week, I dusted off the Kerry archives and came across a few gems worth a second look to implement in my own home. (Mr. Gore, I’m sure if asked, would urge you to do the same.)
Don’t lick the flowers off your plate! Actually, we ate on brown, earthenware ceramic place settings for my entire childhood, which is probably why it took me a while to digest this metaphor. But as I watch my sons face-planted in color-coded IKEA cereal bowls, my mother’s curious wisdom is as clear as day to me now. DON’T CONSUME EVERY LAST CRUMB JUST BECAUSE IT’S IN FRONT OF YOU. IT’S UNSIGHTLY. PLUS, I DON’T WANT OVERWEIGHT KIDS. Check, check, and…sorry, but…check.
If you can walk, you can go to school! Technically, this isn’t true. Lice, fevers, rashes – all stay-at-home mandates per the state of California. But according to my mom’s rules, unless you have a compound fracture that these-rusty-garage-sale-crutches-I-have-on-hand-just-in-case-you-try-and-pull-a-fast-one-on-me don’t work, it was “Here’s your lunch box, missy.” Boy, how I could have used this nugget last year! But now, just the thought of sending my kids to school all Benadryl-ed up so I can get a little work done—the glory! Next time, Mom, lunch is on me.
When life gives you lemons, don’t waste them! My mother was a recycler even before it was hip. She’s actually known for pilfering through people’s kitchen wastebaskets in search of half-eaten, bruised apples. “Mmm…delicious,” she’ll say, unashamed. “Want some? You just have to eat around the yuk.” This is a blatant contradiction to her anti-flower-licking thing, I realize, but considering my mother lives in a house that four of mine could fit in, she’s clearly doing something right. So starting today, all scraps need to go through me first at my house.
What do you mean red glasses frames are “out?” Fashion, smashion, according to Kerry. “If kids laugh at your coke-bottle, Sally Jesse Rafael, bigger-than-satellite-dish glasses, honey, who needs ‘em?” Now, at the time, I really felt that I did need these people. My best friends. Well, technically, my only friends. But where are all of you now, Jessica H? Monica D? Karin WITH AN ‘I’?! Who’s laughing now, huh? Anyway, my kids need to know that it’s what’s INSIDE that counts, too – the deeper side. And clearly, my mother taught me that.
No milk cartons on the table! We ate dinner as a family every single night—in the dining room, with forks on the left, knives on the right, and…milk cartons in the fridge. “They’re just so ugly.” my mom would complain. (This was before the missing kids campaign.) But I had to scratch my head in wonder—what could be uglier than this pigs’ feet stew? Regardless of this discrepancy, however, I can’t have milk cartons on my table either. It’s probably some chromosomal thing that my kids will inherit as well. So we pour our milk before we sit down to eat, and if you’re still thirsty and want another glass, well…tough. Here’s some more stew.
Is this your best work? While this may sound unoriginal, let me describe Kerry’s delivery. D- science paper in hand, she’d square her shoulders and look me in both eyes, void of any traceable emotion.
“Is this your best work, Cynthia?” she’d ask.
“Yes,” I’d answer.
“Well, then congratulations! All we ask is for your best effort!” And then she’d hang it up next to my brothers’ A’s and pinch my cheeks.
Brilliant, that woman. Last D- I ever got.
So you see—all these parenting articles we tear out and download—unless they’re mine, they’re pretty much a waste of energy, not to mention paper. Because when it comes to preservation – be it of our sanity as parents or that pesky ozone—we’ve already got what we need. We just have to dig through the trash until we break through to the layers of wisdom of those who loved us most. Our mother. Our earth.