Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The Mom Report Card.

"We gon' be alright." 

- Kendrick Lamar

Some days? Man. I feel like the worst mom ever. 


That might come across more dramatic than I intended. I mean, obviously not the actual worst in the history of crappy moms. Like, not as bad as that woman I recall seeing on some photo on-line who was taking some really inappropriate selfie snapshots in her bathroom mirror clad in pretty much nothing. . . .  but neglected to note the reflection of her infant child sitting on the tile floor behind her-- in what appeared to be a very full diaper.

Yeah. So maybe not the worst.

But seriously though? There are some days that I just feel like I'm flying on one wing as a mother. And as if my shortcomings will ultimately lead to the same unfortunate demise of a plane trying to operate with only one wing.


Okay, so honestly? Most days, I don't feel this way. But man. When I do? I like really do. I'll be doing something like hurrying to get the kids somewhere. And then my poor planning mixed with their lack of urgency explodes into me barking orders and eventually just setting the house alarm forcing them out of the house. Sometimes holding socks and shoes in their hands. Okay, a lot of times even.

See? I told you it wasn't pretty.

So then we get in the car and someone says a smart ass comment. Or declares that they forgot something quasi-essential to their future success as a student and it becomes abundantly clear that, given our tardiness already, that they'll just be shit out of luck for the day. And I find myself communicating all of this to my kids minus the word "shit" but with enough surly snark to count just as much as the aforementioned expletive.

Yeah. So that's how it goes on some days. And without fail, when the last kid is dropped off, my shoulders slump and I let out a big, defeated sigh. Followed by saying (many times out loud): "You so suck." Then, like always, I start running down my grades on my Mom progress report determining that I just might be at risk for academic mom probation.

Case in point:

Breakfast: Wait. You didn't eat breakfast? Shit. I thought you popped down a waffle, dude. Ugh.

Lunch: Not organic. At least one item with too much sugar.  Or conversely something so healthy that my kid won't eat it at all.

House: Lived in looking. Not hotel neat. Unless somebody other than mom does the clean up job.

Laundry: In dire need of doing. With simultaneous need for done things to be folded. Or moved from the couch after being half folded. Or just so badly in need of doing that everyone is to the point of beach towels being used for regular Tuesday evening showers. Eek.

Homework: Asked about but not confirmed on school website that day. So hoping it's exactly what the kid said it is. A form needs to be signed that I did sign but we left on the kitchen table after I kicked everyone out with the house alarm.

Dinner: You asked for breakfast for dinner. And I said yes. Twice in one week.

Night time reading: Me listening to Audible and you reading whatever I told you to read. Then you bargaining video game time with reading time. And eventually you listening to my Audible book with me, even if an occasional F-bomb is in it.

And so on.

So I go through all of this until I come up with a Mom grade point average which, on days like this, is not EVEN passing. Like, at all. Nope.

So yeah. A few weeks ago that's how I was feeling. Like the mom on mom-probation for poor performance in several subjects.


So when this happens, I do my best to chuck myself under the chin. I say stuff to myself like, "They know they are loved. It will all balance out in the end." Then I close my eyes and imagine them slapping knees and laughing as grown up men about how their mom used to flip on the alarm and force them out of the front door in 60 seconds or less. But in the most loving way, of course.


I'm not a perfect mom by a long shot. I'm not. And while I do think that I do a great job of loving my children and letting them know how much I love being their mom, on my beat-myself-up days, I tell myself that the best moms do that and feed their kids gluten-free, grass-fed, cage-free, organic food dinners and set timers for video game time. They plan camps like 5 years in advance for the summer instead of 5 days and they don't throw their kids out of the front door under the duress of a beeping ADT alarm. See, man. Those great mamas do all of this. 

And then they do some hot yoga after all of that.

I was exceptionally sucky the other day. I'd made the mistake of starting "Born a Crime" by Trevor Noah on Audible while walking Willow one morning. Oh my goodness. . . the combination of his witty candor and that mesmerizing South African accent of his drew me all the way in. Like. . . . all the way in, man.


My kids would be asking me stuff and I'd yank out one ear bud, raise an eyebrow and try my best not to look impatient. But since my kids know how I get when I get into a crack-equivalent Audible narration that this is just par for the course. Mom will do 90% of everything with iPhone earbuds in until finally that creepy music pipes in that says, "This has been a production of Audible."

I even set the house alarm while listening to Trevor Noah this morning. "You got 60 seconds, dudes. Chop chop," I said. I wish I could say that wasn't true. See? Those really good moms would never do something like that. The only person who gets a mom upgrade when I'm on an Audible binge is Willow because he almost always can count on a longer walk. Otherwise everyone else? Not so much. Ha.


I am really just rambling mostly about how this motherhood thing isn't for sissies, man. It's no joke. Especially when you intermittently suck as a mom.


Now. Before you go worrying about me, know that I generally think well of myself. And though my marks in the mom class are not always passing, I have an extensive history of figuring out how to round out my grade in the end. So I'm hoping big time that this is what happens with these two little dudes living under this roof with the BHE and me.

Which reminds me of something else that happened recently. Like to hear it? Here it go.

So check it: A few months ago, I was in one of my mom-probation slumps. While I wasn't Audible binging or Netflix binging, I was busy with work and generally ready for the kids to be out of school. Most of my head butting was with Isaiah and somehow it almost always went down when it was just us two in the car. He's now twelve and growing smarter and smarter by the year. But not just smart. Smart and a smart-ass at the same time.


Because this kid has always been an old soul with a cantankerous streak like an old man in a barber shop, he likes to push my buttons. Questions things that are generally worth questioning but does so at the most inopportune times. Furthermore, he calls me out on things that are 100% true which, when I'm running late or already feeling a bit low, I could do without.


So on this one day, Isaiah began pointing out that I need to work on not being distracted behind the wheel. Then he started talking about how just because I'm not texting doesn't mean I'm not distracted. And since he's like an old man, I come right back at him like he's not even a kid. Or rather, like I'm not even an adult. Yeah. More like that. It's pretty funny, actually.

"Mom. Checking your eyelash make up stuff at a red light is still a distraction."

"It's called mascara."

"Well checking it makes people honk at you. That guy was honking because you needed to go."

"I did go."

"Once he honked."

"Horn honking is rude, man. Where I'm from? You don't go honking your horn for no reason."

"He had a reason. You were looking in that visor mirror checking picking black stuff off your eyelashes. Which looks not so good anyway so I'm not sure why you do it."

"Do me a favor. Let's ride in silence."

"That's not a favor."

"You're killing me."

"I want you not to be looking in the mirror so you won't be killing me."

I scowl in the mirror. He smirks back. And eventually the whole cycle restarts with another surly exchange.  So yeah. This went on for probably the last few weeks of school. And each day we'd bicker about the most unimportant things of all time. Then, I'd ask him a question about something he needed to have done and from there, would end up shifting from petty tween with him to fussing, nagging mom.


After enough days like this, you start feeling like you're dropping the mom ball, man. My sweet baby that wanted to hug and cuddle me was now groaning in my direction and ducking my hugs. I told myself that this was age appropriate although some piece of me had always hoped that tween-age behavior would somehow skip my boys.

So yeah. That was going on and I was feeling tired. Tired of no longer being sweet and awesome mom. I liked being her. Man, I did.

This one day, I pulled into Isaiah's school on two wheels to pick him up at the last minute from after school care. I scurried up the path to the gym and another mom decided she'd chat with me--even though I was clearly in a hurry.

"Did you see the 6th grade art project?"

"Um, no. I need to see it." Another reminder of my poor mom grades. Because clearly she'd seen it.

"You should stop on the way out to see it," she said.

"Uhh. . . yeah, I'll be sure to check it out." I started walking to the door. But she spoke again.

"It's pretty amazing. Especially Isaiah's part. Did he tell you about his part?"

Another 'F' on my record. "I'm trying to remember." Except I wasn't trying to remember. I'd heard him mention the 6th grade art project and how he'd decided what he'd do. I asked if he needed anything and he said no. So that was it.

I did at least know that the project was this giant tapestry made up of tiles drawn by kids in the class. That compliment given of Isaiah's part didn't shock me considering he's a pretty creative dude. But her persistence was a bit off putting. "You should really consider stopping in the main building to see it before you leave today."

That was the last thing she said.

When Isaiah got into the car, I asked him about the project. "What'd you do?" I queried.

And he shrugged a surly twelve year old shrug, yawned and leaned his head against the window.


I whipped my minivan around and made my way out of the parking lot. That woman imploring me to look at the art display niggled at me. Finally I pulled right next to the door and told Isaiah I wanted to run in to see the project.

"Coming with?" I asked.

"Nah. I'm good," he replied.

And so. I punch in the door code and hustle inside. Immediately I see this big quilt-like thing covering part of the cafeteria wall. It's made up of several squares each drawn by a different pair of hands.

"Oh. Okay, I get it," I said out loud. I said that because the project was a tribute to Influential African American Women in US History. This very liberal parent at my child's very liberal school was encouraging me, a black woman, to revel in this special celebration of sisters lovingly put together by my son's entire grade. Like, urgently.

Well that was nice.

I stood there looking. Lip jutted out and nodding. Ode to black women movers and shakers, huh? Cool. So yeah, I guess it's fair to say it did make my heart feel warm knowing that this activity is what his entire class was working on and thinking about and talking about. And that his school had deemed this the kind of thing worthy of their attention.

Not to mention it wasn't even February, man.

So I'm checking it out. It was an impressively diverse group of women, too. From several eras which was pretty darn awesome. Sojourner Truth. Phillis Wheatley. Michelle Obama. Marian Wright Edelman. Shirley Chisholm. Nikki Giovanni. Simone Biles. Oprah Winfrey. Lena Horne. Barbara Jordan. Debbie Allen. Misty Copeland. Maya Angelou and. . . . wait. . .who?

So there it was. Plain as day. My name. Kimberly Manning. Listed among the Harriet Tubmans and the Ruby Dees. My name. Chosen by my child as his Influential African American Woman in US history.

Wearing a damn superhero cape, no less. Seriously? Seriously.

Yeah, man.

I stood there in silent disbelief for at least two or three minutes. Then I slipped back into my car and started the ignition. Isaiah was now dozing off in the back seat.

"Son?" He opened his eyes and didn't move. His eyebrows went up to let me know he heard me. "Son?"

"Yes, ma'am." His voice was flat, purely obligatory. He knows his mother well enough to recognize that that second "son" meant to open his mouth and answer with words.

"I saw your drawing. For the project. That was amazing." I immediately started to cry.

"Oh my gosh, Mom. Are you seriously crying?"

"Of all the people though. I guess. . .I don't know. . . you picked me?"

He shrugged. "They said for us to pick an Influential African American Woman in US History. So I told my teacher that my mom is a doctor who writes and teaches. And that she's super influential to a lot of people." I just stared through the rear view mirror. Then he added, "Or at least she is to me."

After that, he just let his eyelids fall closed again and didn't say much else. Which was fine with me because I was trying my best not to let him hear me full-on ugly crying while driving the whole way home.


So listen. . . .  there are some days that I feel like a complete mom failure. And definitely in the runner-up finalists for the worst mom ever. But then. . . something happens that makes me feel like I just nailed the final exam and brought my grade all the way back up to a solid A, man.

This? This was one of those times.

Am I a perfect mom? Nope. But if this . . .this is who my kid envisions when he takes out a box of colored pencils to describe his mother and whom he perceives to be an influential black woman? Then I just might pass this Mom class after all.

Maybe even with honors.




  1. This made me cry too. What a lovely tribute from your son.

  2. Now you got me crying.
    Like my grandmother used to say, "You can't fool kids and dogs. They know who loves 'em."

  3. I think you won the Internet today, Dr Kimberly!

  4. I just had one of those fail-feeling days on Monday where a ball got dropped and I needed to hear you say this.

  5. Awesome! Snif, snif. Now I'm all stuffy doc!

  6. Your description of teen boy behavior is spot on. Your writing brings me to tears. You got this mom thing, don't you worry about it.

  7. You are a wonderful mom and your boys know it, in spite of teen age behavior. x0x0 N2

  8. Crying was not on the day's agenda, so why'd you make me cry??? : ) . . .

  9. Tears. As I was reading I was trying to think how to reassure you that you've got this. But I don't need to. Isaiah's tile said it all. Those teen years can be rough going but I promise you'll all come out the other side, laughing. You, all of you, you've got this. And notice Isaiah drew you with family first. He knows your heart.

  10. You made me cry.

    To be honest I really liked this post a lot. I read you often and I am in awe of how much you manage to do and how kind you are. It's intimidating sometimes, but in a good way:) But I feel like a slacker next to you.

    To read that you get impatient, that you rush, that you get distracted, it's good to know that you're human and not perfect. And I mean this in nicest way, if that makes any sense?

    I deeply admire you and your work but it comes at a price doesn't it?

    Just one question, why don't you hire a housekeeper to do your laundry and make supper?

    I love your writing and I wish I worked with more docs like you, deeply caring individuals who see and hear their patients.

    "Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see." Mark Twain


"Tell me something good. . . tell me that you like it, yeah." ~ Chaka Khan

Related Posts with Thumbnails