Friday, January 22, 2010

Grandma Muttering Darkly

It was the evening of Daughter's preschool graduation. The children had all prepared and prepared for this big night, wearing costumes and little graduation caps and receiving scrolls that were their "diplomas." But there was something wrong. There was a weight upon my lap. Oh yes. Daughter, sitting on it, crying, and refusing to take place in the ceremony.

Why? Because she was a neurotic mess.

Me? Can't pull me away from a ceremony. Daughter? Sobbing on my lap.

Me? Participated in every piano recital I could get to, collecting miniature plastic Beethoven busts until they cast a shadow over my piano in Skokie. Daughter? Will only take lessons of any type if guaranteed ahead of time that there will be no performance.

This all would have been fine, just personally humiliating - nothing unusual for me as a parent - if I hadn't made the mistake of asking my mom to attend the graduation. I didn't always ask her to attend things, what with the leaving the house issue, and wearing enough coats and the sickness issue. But because I did, I had a double humiliation:  Daughter on my lap sobbing and my mother next to me muttering about spoiled children and how I should "make her go up there."

Flash back to Skokie, 1971. It was a big year for me. I had become a big time Skokie pianist, famous in my own mind. My amazing talent had catapulted me past all the other little Jewish girls marching reticently over to our piano teacher's apartment building each week and had managed to get me the hard version of every song the entire fifth grade was playing - from Sunrise Sunset to If I Were A Rich Man. This earned me two distinct accolades: a spot in the elementary school orchestra playing Kumbalalaika, and a spot playing Love Story in front of the entire auditorium for my fifth grade graduation.

My piano teacher was there. My friend's trampy mafia-hooker mother was there, a ring of empty seats around her. My teachers were there. Guess who wasn't there for either performance? My mom. In 1971 she was busy all year readying herself for my oldest sister's wedding. In 1978, the year I graduated high school, she was busy all year readying herself for the third sister's wedding. This year I'm turning 50. She'll be away on a cruise. Coincidence?

Yet she sat there fuming at my sweet, nutty Daughter, like she herself was an expert at graduation ceremonies. Little did she know, later that evening that little nut of mine reenacted the entire ceremony for us from start to finish. She sang all the songs, danced all the dances, and had me call out her name with her play microphone so she could come up to our pretend podium in our family room and get her diploma.

No sobbing, no sitting on my lap. No muttering grandma looking on.

Are you the kind of parent who goes to everything or just the necessary things? Did your parents attend every function when you were a kid? Do your kids relish time in the spotlight or shy away from it?

A big thank you to Kristen at Motherese, for reminding me about the topic of neurotic children!

In the Help Haiti Blog Challenge, from Jan. 15th to Jan. 20th this blog received 48 comments, for which I am donating $2 each to the Red Cross, or $96.00, and adding an additional contribution of $54.00 to equal $150. Thank you for helping me help Haiti.


  1. Too early to tell with my little ones, but my parents were big on attending everything. I injured my back my senior year in high school and missed the entire basketball season; my parents still went to every game, even with me sitting on the sidelines. I will say that it meant a lot to me - then and now - for them to be able to do that.

    Thanks for helping Haiti here at Barmitzvahzilla, Linda!

  2. My mom would come to things that weren't inconvenient.
    If it was a work night....If she was tired. If the part wasn't 'that big'. She didn't come.
    By the time I reached high school I knew better, and on the opening night I was in a play, instead of asking my mom I asked my favorite teacher. Mrs. art teacher.
    I had to beg her to come to my art exhibit.
    It's always been that way, what with her not wanting to actually leave her house.
    My kids, I go to everything.
    Almost every class I'm invited to sit in on, recitals, karate belt graduations. parent night in high school where I got to squeeze my fat *ss into a desk...(I am looking forward to that this year...I am alot thinner.)
    I also took it a step further and homeschooled.
    I AM the girl scout troop leader.
    Sometimes I bet they wish I would just leave already lol.
    Oh, I left you a blog award.
    Pick it up anytime.

  3. I am amazed that you can make this sad story into something humorous.

    Before I get to the questions, I want to tell you that I am saddened by your experience. It is one that many people can relate to.

    I told my husband that I hope I can attend all of my kid's functions when they get older. It is my goal. I know it may not happen each time, but I want to make that the exception not the rule.

  4. Kristen, unbelievable to have parents who were not only so supportive of you, but of your teammates! All I can say is it must have been some Eastern European Holocaust mentality thing - they didn't get it, and if it didn't exist in the Old Country, it didn't exist. Period.

  5. Chris, Your comment brings to mind that even now I never tell anyone about anything, like when I've been in readings (just my husband). Weird how that stuff stays with you! And I love how you're the awesome Girl Scout mom now.

    Also, thank you for my award! I appreciate it!

  6. Ambrosia, thanks for your comment. I just want to say, that my mom finally started showing up at my graduations for my BA and then for my Master's, and for the Master's she even had to go out of town! So, she wasn't unredeemable, it just took her awhile to get with the American ways, I think.

  7. I am the go to everything mom. One August to November my now 21 year old daughter was at a Division 1 university and on their soccer team. I put 13,000 miles on the car in those three months going to all but four games - including post season.

    My "baby" - 15 at the moment - has a part in the high school musical production that opens Thursday. There are four performances. I will be at all of them.

    My oldest did not want to go to his college graduation. That was fine with me. He did, though, want to attend the Baccalaureate Mass the night before graduation - a Catholic college tradition. I went to Mass with him, not pushing him to the ceremony.

  8. My parents went to everything. I got sick of them always being the chaperons for everything, though. A little too involved.

    Even more than wanting you there, it is the effort to attend that the kids love. They know how important they are to you. I even hate when schedules conflict and my husband and I have to split attending functions, but so far we've always been able to make it work.

    Also, I would have flipped if my parents complained about my parenting like that.

    I love the ceremony recreation!

  9. Nicki, that is amazing about the 13000 miles. Now I feel bad that I can't both pick up my daughter from school on Tuesday and get to my son's soccer game 30 miles away. If only there were two of me - or Husband could leave our store... And, it's quite a credit to you that your son chose to attend the graduation Mass, not to mention a Catholic college. We'll see if my son ends up an Orthodox Rabbi... :)

  10. Charlotte, sometimes, in old age, my mom doesn't appear to know the difference between what she's thinking and what she's saying - it just comes out! Horrible, I know. And you wouldn't believe how she nailed that ceremony (at home, alone)! She knew everything. It was like she was on a three-hour delayed performance.