Mary Panza reading at Half Moon Books in Kingston, NY

Housewife Tuesday – Little Wars

Mary Panza

A friend of mine warned me once about being a mother. She told me that whatever hardship my girl is going through will churn up my own past. No truer words were ever said to me.

My girl is going through some growing pains. All the kids she has been friends with since kindergarten have basically dumped her and started a “we hate you” club. It is not an official club. It only feels that way.  It became apparent to me yesterday when I chaperoned a field trip and one of the kids in her group told her that they didn’t want to be in her group because her mother wasn’t cool either. WOW. Okay, first of all, if I had EVER said that to another kid about their mother I would have ended up with two fat lips. First, from the kid I said it to and then from my mother for having rotten fucking manners. Well, South Troy rules don’t apply here. Second of all, even in my darkest hour as a child, I NEVER disrespected anyone’s parents. It was all I could do not to explode and tell this kid what I thought of her and her little attitude. I say nothing. I don’t want to get sued or called in for a conference to discuss feelings and ways to make this situation better. I hate feelings and can’t afford a lawyer. With all said, that is not the worst of it.

My girl begged me to make this right. These rotten kids told her that they didn’t want to be her friend. She told me that she even apologized just in case she did anything wrong. Please keep in mind that I know my girl is not totally innocent in any of this. She is smart and around adults most of the time. Her tongue is sharp, cutting and quick. It even surprises me sometimes how fast she is with a nasty remark. At least she comes by it honestly. I tried to reason with her and tell her not to chase after them. They made their choice and she had to live with it. I told her she didn’t have to like it but to pursue them would only make things worse. I wasn’t saying what she wanted to hear and we were both getting pissed off. After 30 minutes of her whining, I lost it:


My girl: You are the worst mother ever! Who says that to their daughter?

Me: I am only telling you the truth. You have to stop being so thick headed and listen. They are not the only people in your grade and besides, friends don’t treat others like this.

My girl: You are the worst mother!

Now, normally when she says those things to me I don’t flinch. I didn’t flinch at this either. I knew I was right. I knew that she needed to hear it. I knew that when I was her age, I wish my mother had said it to me instead of trying to bring God into it.  I wish she screamed at me and said that you don’t need those assholes. I wish she was brave enough to be herself and not worry about fitting in with the mother’s at St. Joseph’s and stand up to the mean priests and nuns that made my life a living hell. She wasn’t and I forgive her. See, none of this comes with a manual. My mother was a flawed human like everyone. I am flawed and so are you.

After I screamed at her, she stomped upstairs. I didn’t say or do anything. I sat in my chair in silence for about 20 minutes until she was ready to come down. I changed up my tactic and we talked some more. I explained to her that sometimes people move on from friendships. I explained that we can’t change anyone, only how we behave and react. I told her that I have been both the mean girl and the one everyone hated and eventually ignored. I told her that she was a good kid and to find people she can be herself around. I told her that it was better to be alone than mistreated. I told her that if she keeps trying to pursue people that don’t want her she is asking for more hurt and why would you do that? I told her that I know how she feels and I remember ever detail of how I was laughed at and made fun of. I also told her that I did my fair share of shitty things to people as well and I still pay the price for my bad behavior. One of the teachers told me that today she was sitting by herself. My heart broke. I also know that she heard me and eventually it will be okay.

Being a mother is hard. So is fourth grade.