…Like a Boss

Every time I drive past a used car lot, I think of the first time I was grounded.
Stay with me.
The details are a little fuzzy, but cut me some slack because I was only five. All I know for sure is that I was with my parents at a used car lot, and it was dark outside. In the distance, I saw it– gleaming in the light of a fluorescent lamppost, a pile of tattered plastic bunting.
And by tattered plastic bunting, I mean decorative flags that would surely match the Pocahontas motif in my bedroom. I would decorate with all the colors of the wind, and it would be spectacular.
I asked my parents if I could take it home, and they said no, because that would be stealing and it was trash anyway. Um, hello– had they never heard the universal motto of yard sales? One person’s trash is another’s treasure. And it would look great in a Pocahontas room.
Ever the problem-solver, I decided if I wanted to take it anyway, I had to ball it up and stuff it into my coat. I don’t know if it was the sheer puffiness of my neon coat a la 1995, or the fact that my parents were distracted by cars and my two younger siblings, but they didn’t seem to notice. I was totally getting away with it, like a boss.
It wasn’t until we were driving home that it occurred to me that my parents might eventually notice this “trash” (how dare they) once it was taped to my bedroom walls. Panic set in. What was I supposed to do with this stuff? Take it out of my coat right now and admit the jig is up? I would get in trouble for taking it. Throw it in the trash when we got home? They would find it, and I would still get in trouble for taking it. Hide it in a dark corner of my closet? Bingo.
I committed to this plan and no one was the wiser, until my mom decided to clean. In my bedroom. In my closet.
Boss status, retracted.

I don’t totally remember how the next part went– the part between the finding and the punishing– but I imagine my mom coaxed me into telling on myself before actually producing the evidence. She’s always been good at that, like a special mom superpower that I can only HOPE to possess someday. All I know for sure is that I came home from my exhausting day of finger painting and snack time (kindergarten, as it should be) only to find out that she’d thrown away my avant-garde decor and I was grounded. Yes, you heard me correctly– I was five, and I was grounded.

Boss status, reinstated.

When I told my friends at school the next day, they could hardly believe their little ears; none of us had ever been grounded. This, coming right after my exile to the Red Square Table for sticking a pencil up my nose (on a dare, I’ll have you know), basically made me a kindergarten badass. So much street cred.

I remember my little friends coming to the yard to play after school, and all I could do was pout at them through the sliding glass doors while my mom told them I could not come out to play. This must be what prison’s like. While I was supposed to be taking this opportunity to learn a lesson in lying, I resolved to put more energy behind not getting caught.

This was an endeavor I pursued for the rest of my childhood. And just when I thought I could pull one over on her, my mom was quick to put me in my place. There are only a few instances where I actually got away with anything, and they are obviously the crowning moments of my adolescence.

But here’s the thing– it’s all of her sneaky mom-ness that turned me into a good kid. All those times she hacked her way into my MySpace account and threatened to ambush dates and sleepovers and mall-ratting (this woman had eyes everywhere) kept me on my toes, and wary of ever truly testing my boundaries. It wasn’t until I was safely 200 miles away in the mountains of central Pennsylvania that I did anything remotely questionable, and even then I somehow managed to stay on the dean’s list and off of the 6’oclock news.

Even now that I’m all grown up (well, mostly), I still have the feeling that she’s looking over my shoulder with every decision that I make– and I think that’s a good thing. While she might not be able to ground me anymore, I have what has become an inherent need not to disappoint her. It’s all of her sneaky mom-ness that has turned me into a good person.

That is easily the single hardest job of a parent, and I hope I can pull it off just as well. I hope my kids push their limits just far enough to find out where they are. I hope they get away with enough things that they maintain the confidence to defy me once in a while, just so that I can put them back in their place (like a boss). I hope that in another five or ten years, I’m the one turning their friends away at the sliding glass doors while they plot new ways to get away with things. Most of all, I hope that I’ve inherited enough sneaky mom-ness to turn them into good kids.

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