Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Things My Mother Forgot to Teach Me

The things the Matron's mother forgot to teach her could fill a book.

Indeed, if she wasn't so busy being a bitterly under-employed underappreciated adjunct professor and full-time mama -- while already working on a different book, the Matron could very well pen such missive.

But since she is so over-scheduled, we will skip the book and hit the highlights.

First, there are functions of the Body. Yes, that Matron cuts right to the chase, does she not? When the Matron was a Young Miss and about 9 years old, her Mother found her reading this:

Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret.

Seizing the moment, the Mother took this opportunity to give the Young Miss her most intensive, intimate discussion of Body and its functions, ever.

Mother: "Did you read the part about where she gets her period?"

Young Miss: "Yes!"

Mother: "Well, that's all true. Isn't it past your bedtime?"

Things picked up quickly after that. Later that same year, the Young Miss stumbled across this book.

Because this was a 'grown-up' book and Young Miss generally compliant (then), she asked her mother if she could read said text. The Mother flipped through same pages and gave Hard Thought.

Mother: "Yes. Actually, it's a good idea to read this. Everything you need to know about sex is in this book. It's good, it's beautiful, it's true."

That was the complete sum total of discussion regarding sex. To this day, the Matron recalls "it's good, it's beautiful, it's true" and remains puzzled. The book or sex?

Brief digression to the next book the Young Miss stumbled upon:

Rather than ask for permission to read what she knew would be forbidden, Young Miss hid the goods under her mattress and did the most dangerous thing in the entire Universe: that nine-year old read The Exorcist at night, in the dark, with a flashlight in a bed (that could start shaking at any second).

For better or worse, those two books shaped her world view. Lest one take that statement in jest, remember that she named her only daughter, Scarlett.

Another slice of life that didn't enter the Mother's radar was this:


The Young Miss was raised by a single mother who seemed pretty happy with the adjective, single. Indeed, not only was there no dating or romance, there was a fierce and significant silence surrounding the entire topic of the Opposite Sex.

This one-time conversation took place just before the Young Miss left for college.

Mother: "You're living in a co-ed dorm?"

Young Miss: "Yes!"

Mother: "I guess you can just go ahead and shack up with somebody right away then, huh?"

Thus schooled in elements of good decisions and sound judgment, the Young Miss pretty much did just that.

While in college, Young Miss also signed on for Counseling Services, of which she was very much in need (considering all that sound judgment). During one session, she made an offhand comment about her hair, drying split ends and all that.

Counselor: "Why don't you use conditioner on your hair?"

Young Miss: "Conditioner?"

True! Young Miss missed that lecture on personal hygiene. Other topics would include shaving your legs and wearing underwear when you ovulate.

While some children may learn basic culinary arts in their mother's kitchen, one Thanksgiving Young Miss feasted on this:

She remembers going home with a friend from college and being puzzled by the Martian-like entities cluttering the kitchen counter.

Friend: "Mary, that's squash."

Young Miss (in Foreign Tongue): "S-q-u-a-s-h. "

Friend: "Haven't you ever seen squash? You know, you cut them open and bake them?"

Young Miss: "With a knife or some kind of saw?"

Before the Young Miss met her future husband, she thought the following items were as close to home-grown, real food as it could possibly get. Indeed, John is fond of reminding her that when they met, this was all she had in her cupboard:

While the Matron's culinary skills--and palate--have greatly expanded, remnants of childhood render her unable to cook these without setting off all of the downstairs fire alarms:

Matron: "What do you guys want for breakfast?"

Stryker: "Where's Dad?"

Matron: "I can make pancakes."

Scarlett: "I want Daddy."

Matron: "Eggs?"

Merrick: "Me need Daddy."

Matron: "I can make pancakes."


Stryker: "No offense, Mom, but we'd rather you didn't."

Nary a cooking secret was divined to that Young Miss, although rumor has it that her sister learned how to make peanut butter cookies.

Because we are just hitting the highlights (and--big secret! The Matron has a self-imposed rule: no more than 30 blogging minutes a day and that timer has been ringing), here's the final entry.

Generally speaking, if you were a single mother of three in 1967 (especially one whose former husband pretended to sell encyclopedias for a living) you were not exactly raking in the dough.

Indeed, you would be engaged in Desperate Struggle for Survival.

Such struggle rendered money both desirable and utterly unfathomable to Young Miss.

Remember the wise college counselor?

Young Miss: "Well, I have to go now because I have to walk a mile to the bank for a money order."

Counselor: "Money order? Haven't you ever considered getting a checking account?"

Young Miss: "You mean, the kind of thing that comes with a checkbook?"

When the Young Miss and her future husband joined households, she routinely wept over the state of her banking account.

Young Miss: "No! I can't write that check! That will make me overdrawn by $22."

John: "How can that be? The bank statement says you have $4,5601.35 in your account?!"

Young Miss: "Don't trust them. I'm broke."

John took the Young Miss and a decade's worth of bank statements to the actual institution (in the days when people would sit down and look you in the face) and there uncovered the truth about his beloved's bookkeeping methods.

Bank Clerk: "Mary. You actually do have $4,5601.35 in your checking account."

Young Miss: "Mine says minus $22."

Because for ten years, the Young Miss rounded numbers. If she wrote a check for $13.82, she subtracted $15. from her account. Deposit $367? Better make that an even $300, just to be safe.

Guess who manages the money in her current household?

Now that she is a mother herself, the Matron is certain she is cutting her own corners and has already forgotten Vital Life Lessons she planned to instill in her children while she was just pregnant with them, not actually confronted with the real breathing creatures -- whose simple maintenance (eat, bathe, don't cause undue injury to sibling) leaves her in a state of shock and exhaustion.

She's certain she's doing her part to insure that some day, years from now, her children will chortle and snort over what they missed out on! Those poor dears. But she is already nailing those discussions (multiple! frequent!) regarding sex. (as God is my witness, I will never go hungry -- or perpetuate fear of Bodily Function, all sort -- again!)

The Matron can't even imagine what that would be like--to miss out on a vita life lesson-- now, can she?

Things your mother forgot to teach you, or lessons you're planning to skip?


Anonymous said...

Oh Boy!
Firstly what fabulous fun....& now on to the advice...

Well, I got no advice at all from my mother - although she did really well at not feeling like a relative at all!

As a result I try really hard to do all the things she didn't like -
loving my children
feeding my children
talking to my children
letting them have space
not pushing too hard
not living my life through my kids

....I suspect I could go on, but that would be boring!

Mary - keep up the good work! Glad your sprogs were your first thought of 3BT!

Best wishes Hen

Jennifer S said...

Yeah, I'm with Domestically Challenged on this one.

Although my stepmother did teach me that it's best to sprinkle the cheese packet when making Kraft Macaroni & Cheese. Dumping it in all at once makes the sauce clumpy.

Mary Alice said...

That was great! I do have to say, that I never learned about conditioner until in my early teens either. It certainly made brushing that mop out a LOT easier!

Tootsie Farklepants said...

My mom was pretty good about these things. There were a lot of canned meats involved in my upbringing, however.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

I've actually had a post on this rattling around in my head.

I've got to say my mom covered food and bodily functions pretty darn well.

Unknown said...

Oh, I am inspired to dip into my deep well of neglectful mother stories. I will post at my blog, if you've got the time to stop by.

Anonymous said...

NOW I know where my mother went when she left our house!

Irene said...

Thanks for stopping by my blog and leaving such a kind and supportive comment. It all helps, you know! Knowing people are out there caring about what happens to you.


Angie said...

Being raised by my father with no mother in sight, believe it or not, I got LESS than that! My friends filled me with all their expertise on the subjects of sex, female hygiene and fashion. Nothing like learning from other kids to mess you up. And the money lessons never came - still am bad with money. Thank god for my grandma who did teach me how to cook.

I'm trying to cover all the bases with mine - actually going overboard most of the time. I'm met with rolling eyes and "we know, mom" quite often.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I can't think of any....laughing to hard at your mothers period talk..must get that book.

Rima said...

I always thought I had some pretty sketchy book keeping practices, but this definitely takes the cake.

I hope you went out and bought yourself some top of the line conditioner with the extra FOUR THOUSAND DOLLARZ.

Madge said...

your education at home sounds about like mine.

Heather said...

I came home from an overnight Girl Scout camp asking my mom what a period was. She told me that women bleed once a month. I thought that I would just start gushing blood out of random places on my body.

That was a little scary!

Mrs. G. said...

My mother never taught me to value what I do. Any job I have ever had is always followed by "thing" as in:

"The teaching thing"
"The radio thing"
"The writing thing"

She also never taught me how to be tended to-I was, in many ways,the parent.

She just wasn't a motherly mother, but I still love her.

Irene said...

My mother taught me almost nothing and then the wrong things, so I made it up as I went along and made many mistakes. As a result, I now, at middle age, finally know what I am doing, but it is a little bit late for that and I should have come to that wisdom 30 years ago when I could have put it to better use.

Bea said...

The rounding off, it is evil! I realized a few months ago that our monthly income is $800 higher than I thought it was - all because of rounding off. (Unfortunately, our grocery expenses also turned out to be about double what I thought they were, so it evens out.)

Liv said...

you know, of all of that, i really remember hiding under the covers secretly reading "the silence of the lambs." good times.

JessTrev said...

Oh my goodness, I read a book at night w/flashlight at that age (and I have blocked out the title) that had a glow in the dark skeleton on the cover and sheesh was THAT a mistake. On point: when I was 8 or 9, my dog got ahold of my mom's (used) pad while my older bro (about 14 or so) was babysitting and when I had no idea what it was (That *is* gross. Is that hamburger? I asked) he confronted my mother angrily. She still did not tell me the goods but luckily, along with the filmstrip at school where they showed us how to wash our hair with a bar of soap and to condition with a lemon (!) we learned about that Time of Month. Love this post...

laurie said...

oh god my mother never taught me anything. she had nine other children. she couldn't remember who she'd told what to.

i learned about sex from two friends on a street corner; we pooled our knowledge and came up with a fairly rough approximation of what happens and vowed we would never, ever, ever allow it to happen to us.

i remember when i was in junior high approaching my mom tentatively and saying something about my legs being hairy and what could i do about it.

she was racing off to the grocery store or somewhere, three or four kids under her amrs, and she shouted back at me, "just take a razor and drag it from your ankles to your knee!"

so i did.

um, she never mentioend things like "water" and "soap." so you can just guess how cut up my poor legs were that first time.

Anonymous said...

I recently talked with my daughter about puberty and what periods are, etc (she's 9). I remember being totally bewildered when I got my first. The great thing is her reaction to it all... She has a new sort of respect for me because I have this knowledge and answers that she needs and she feels free (and comfortable) to come to me and ask. I keep trying to image what that might have felt like at 9 years old.

Anonymous said...

Wow, I think our mothers must have been sisters. Basic hygiene? Nope. I went to college not knowing how to do laundry or style my own hair. Sex? Ha. I found out about sex because my mother had a friend who gave her some very pornographic books, which she found very offensive and was too embarrassed to put them in the garbage, so she hid them in the attic. Where I found them and learned everything I needed to know.

I did learn a lot about being nice, though. As in the most passive-aggressive version of "nice" that exists.

Bonnie said...

So Matron - you thought "sex" was being carried up a long flight of stairs in the dark by a fierce very hot man and waking up in the morning with a smile on your face?
Sounds good to me!! :)

My mom actually celebrated my "burgeoning womanhood" so that was a good thing. I will skip, however, the endless discussions of FOOD and what I consumed at each and every meal!

Great post btw!

Anonymous said...

How dang funny. The bank thing hit home, though. My dad was a banker and I had, well, issues with my checkbook. He had to bail out my overdrawn a@@ more than once. Then Mr. D entered the picture and screamed when he realized that whenever I "balanced" my checkbook, I'd just moved and got a final statement from the bank. Oh yeah.
The best advice I ever got came from my grandma who wrote to me after my first teaching contract was nonrenewed (I was a long-term sub). "When God closes a door, He opens a window." Or, whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger. Take it as you will, but she was right. 100%.

Tai said...

I was lucky, I had a lovely kind mother.
The only thing my mom didn't teach me was that there was a whole big world out there that I could discover and enjoy. But I found that out in books for myself.
Books, they are amazing.

Thanks for stopping by my blog!

Bonnie said...

MM- I too thank you for stopping by my blog! You made my day!

Minnesota Matron said...

Laurie: Nine siblings? You're lucky your mother rememebered you were in the car. Did she?

Becky Brown said...

You know what? I wouldn't worry too much about what you're remembering to tell your own kids. Whatever it is, it will be enough.

Thanks for a lovely post. All hail the Matron!

laurie said...

matron, i don't think she ever left any of us behind. but she had a hell of a time remembering our names.

i grew up thinking my name was kris-no-nanc-no-hol-no-LAWry!

Jenny Grace said...


My mom was quite good, although I would have appreciated it if, when I was 15, she hadn't made such a huge point of telling me that she would still love me even if I was a lesbian. Because I spent high school convinced that I looked like a lesbian.

dkuroiwa said...

Aren't mothers wonderful and strange creatures?!?! This was a great post...sorry, but I did laugh out loud in a couple of places!!!
My mom covered food and conditioner...but...Last year, when I was home, mom and I and some friends were on the patio talking when the topic of having "the sex talk" came up....I asked mom when I would be having mine...."when I get mine." was her answer!!!

And Judy Bloom!?!?!? Loved her...still love her!!! "Forever" is one of my all-time favorites!!!

have a great weekend!!

Anonymous said...

yea, there was no period talk, sex talk, make up talk, boys talk, hygiene talk, hair talk, cooking talk, there was definately a dont get fat, dont get knocked up,and dont let a man ruin your life talk, and sleep with both eyes open talk. yes very encourging to tell to a 6 year old