Chris slid into the green pleather seat behind me on the bus. “Oh my gosh! You won’t believe who got suspended for giving Ms. Younger the middle finger,” he said. “I don’t know, who?” I responded. Insert the name of the dark-haired, eighth grade boy I later married. “He is in SO much trouble!” Chris said, as if to really drive the point home. I got to the bottom of the story eventually. It wasn’t the middle finger, but an equally rude gesture which caused their fellow classmate Andy to laugh and then rat out my husband. (As a former bus monitor, Andy, I applaud you and your commitment to gesture free zones.)
In school and life in general, I follow the rules. I came out of the womb a mostly good girl, and then my parents drilled the rest of the good girl into me. I avoided conflict and fled at the first sign of trouble. I can’t imagine any scenario in which my middle finger or any body part for that matter, would be put to use to express my displeasure with an authority figure. Fast forward twenty years, and opposites will attract, and I married the kid who made rude gestures behind the teacher’s back. I love my man, but I always knew my good girl genes could never overpower his naughty ones when it came to procreation. And thus, two of my children prove me right as often as possible.
My love and I spent the last few days on a trip to Chicago, so my mother-in-law, soon to be venerated as a saint, came to stay with our kids. The kids like to take advantage of Mum Mum whenever possible. They tell little white lies about how many snacks they can eat before dinner or how many tv shows they’re allowed to watch. This I can handle, and so can she. It’s the other craziness I worry about. Craziness such as working Mum Mum into a tizzy because she accidentally broke a knife while cutting cauliflower for dinner. Not running with knives, or throwing knives at my kids, but cutting cauliflower. According to my children, she is in “SO much trouble. Like, serious trouble.” They repeated it so many times, she started researching overnight delivery on a replacement knife. Nothing like striking the fear of her daughter-in-law’s wrath to send a widow on a fixed income on a wild goose chase for an expensive serrated knife. What kind of children threaten older ladies prone to exaggerated responses? Mine do.
A few days into our trip, she discovered a pocket knife (aka a weapon of mass destruction according to our school district) in one of my kids back packs. Apparently, my child brings weaponry to school in a cute little silver package labeled “Survival kit”, not at all out of the norm in their Swiss school. The offending knife has since been removed, but my mother-in-law spent an entire day terrified my child would show it around and find themselves in the custody of the local police department. She didn’t fancy telling us that story either.
As if she hadn’t experienced enough fear and trembling, on our final day away, one of my kids never arrived home from school. As in, never came home. No call. No warning. No little kid at the side door come 4pm. There’s nothing like sitting in a comfortable chair reading a book, sipping a glass of red wine, enjoying the silence of thousands of miles between you and your feral children, only to find yourself interrupted by a frantic text from one of your kids saying the other kid is missing and Mum Mum is going crazy. After a flurry of texts and moments of mild panic, the missing child finally called to say, “Sorry, I’m at the playground! What? I missed German class? What German?”
And as it goes with all saints, Mum Mum performed a miracle by keeping it all together until our flight arrived home. She left this morning, and I’ve never seen a person pack their belongings so fast. I think she left tire squeal marks on the driveway.
Genetics, man. They cause so much trouble.