Mommy Chronicles

A funny look at motherhood and the mayhem it causes.

January 22, 2002

What kind of mother am I?

I took gymnastics classes when I was six years old, and I was awful at it.

I was freakishly stiff, and whenever I’d attempt a vault, all the instructors would stop coaching the other kids, just so they could, without distraction, watch me smack the horse at a funny angle.

So, when Lucy was mesmerized recently by a TV broadcast of a sport called “rhythmic gymnastics,” I got a little queasy. For our gene pool, the only sport that could possibly be worse than gymnastics is gymnastics with rhythm.

But there she was, watching these limber athletes juggle bowling pins and pull their noodly legs over their heads and under their chins. Lucy did her best to do everything the girls on TV did, and if her chin were six inches off the floor, she might have been displaying talent.

But I aim to be the kind of mother who helps her children chase a dream, talent or no. So, I knew I had to sign Lucy up for gymnastics. There was just one hurdle I needed to clear. The gym only offered classes for toddlers 18 months and up, and Lucy still had a couple months to go.

Rather than do the boring thing and wait, I called to find out if there were spots remaining in the class. The woman said yes, and “How old is your daughter?”

“Seventeen months,” I lied, as smooth as butter. Except for Lucy’s hair, sleeping skills and height, she is a mature sixteen months, so I felt quite entitled to a little fib.

It was for Lucy, after all, and I am the kind of mother who will work the system to get her daughter a leg up. When you’re as stiff as we are, you get your leg up any way you can.

It worked. We were invited to come to the gym. When we arrived, the woman at the registration desk took one look at Lucy, asleep in my arms, and said, “How old is she?”

“Almost seventeen months,” I said. “But she follows directions pretty well when she’s awake.”

This and $139 got us in.

“How old is she?” the instructor asked, when I sat Lucy down in the circle with the rest of the kids.

“Sixteen months,” I said, because it turns out I am really not the kind of mother who is able to lie, after all.

“But,” I said, “She really likes gymnastics.” And then I blew on Lucy’s face, to wake her up.

Lucy is by far the smallest kid in her class. The other kids have a good six months or more on her, and she’s miniature for her age so, this makes her a target for some strange advances. One boy, whose name is Gabriel, hug-tackles her at every opportunity. Last week, Lucy started saying, “No, no, no” as soon as she saw him. It was exactly what I was thinking, even if Gabriel’s mother was not nearly so sensibly inclined.

“He just loves little girls,” she explained from her safe little spot across the room, clearly establishing herself as the kind of woman who not only names her son after an angel, but also believes every action he takes is heaven-sent.

Another child, a girl named Sarah, prefers a straightforward shove. Sometimes, though, Sarah increases the intimacy of her overtures, and puts Lucy in a choke hold.

When she did this last week, I had the opportunity to find out if I am the kind of mother who could body-slam someone else’s 3-year-old. As it turns out, I am not, although I did rescue Lucy as quickly as I could without doing any damage to either Sarah’s arms or their sockets.

This is a good thing, because Sarah’s mom -- a woman with an angelic face and smooth black hair -- turned out to be the kind of mother who apologizes when her kids do bad things.

Given my history with gymnastics, the one thing Lucy has a shot at learning in this class is a chokehold.

So, from here on out, I will be the kind of mother who hopes she uses it on Gabriel.


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