If you’re not willing to look crazy, you don’t deserve to be a mom. My own mother taught me this by example.
When I was nine, my younger brother, Chris, and I were taking a walk around the neighborhood with our mom. A car pulled up next to us and the driver began to roll down his window.
“RUN KIDS!” Mom suddenly screamed. “RUN!”
“What’s going on?” I cried, looking back and forth between Mom and the man in the car.
“Run!” Mom repeated, trying to get her own feet in motion.
Chris bolted up the hill in front of us, never bothering to look back and make sure his sister and mother were still alive.
I, on the other hand, was crying half a mile ahead of Mom, who was struggling to move quickly. She tasted blood whenever she tried to run, so this safety plan wasn’t working out so well for her.
“Mom, hurry up!”
Shaking her head, she motioned for me to keep running. “Just go,” she yelled. “Don’t worry about me.”
We all made it back to the house that day. Turns out the man in the car only wanted directions.
My mom—well, she only wanted to save us.
When I was 10, I shit myself in a movie theater.
My family was vacationing in Deep Creek, Maryland, and wanted to break up the lake activities with a trip to the movies. My parents decided it would be OK if we split up—Chris and I seeing “Jungle 2 Jungle” and the two of them catching a Barbara Streisand flick in the neighboring theater.
But 40 minutes into the movie I started to feel sick. Realizing I had approximately 10 seconds to make it to a bathroom, I shot up out of my seat.
Unfortunately 10 seconds turned into that very second, because as soon as I stood up, I pooped my pants.
“Chrisssss, go get Mom,” I cried, before running out of the theater.
A few minutes later I heard Mom call my name in the bathroom.
“Where are you honey? What’s wrong?”
“I’m in here!” I sobbed, locked behind the third stall.
“It’s OK, don’t worry about,” Mom assured me. “Just hand me your underwear.”
“Mom! I’m not handing you my underwear.”
“Lauren, just give them to me. I’m going to wash them out and put them under the hand-dryer.”
It was no use arguing. Heaving uncontrollably, I carefully handed my soiled underwear over to Mom, watching in horror through the slit in the stall door as she carried them over to the sink and turned on the faucet.
Scrubbing and grunting as she worked on my previously white pair of Hanes, Mom finally shook her head and tossed them into the trash.
“I’m sorry, sweetie,” she said, “they couldn’t be salvaged.”
I rode home from the movie theater that day sitting on a plastic grocery bag in our teal mini-van. We were all disgusted that Mom used a public sink to wash a desecrated pair of underwear.
She didn’t seem bothered in the least.
When I was 14, Mom choked on a garden salad.
“It’s the vinaigrette,” she gasped. “It’s ta-king my breath a-way!”
“Stop talking while you’re choking!” Dad yelled, as the rest of us sat around the dinner table at the beach. “And stop getting vinaigrette dressing.”
“I know, but I love it,” she said, wiping her eyes before a second wave of dry heaving commenced.
Mom choked on a lot of things—vinaigrette, mozzarella sticks, church incense—for no apparent reason. Chris and I always waited until she was out of the woods before we began laughing. There was an unspoken agreement that we were allowed to make fun of her choking habit when she was no longer in danger of dying. There was an unspoken agreement that we were allowed to make fun of her for anything, really.
She was our mother after all.
But as Mom reached for her throat, this particular choking incident was getting less and less funny.
“Mom, are you OK,” I asked, dropping my fork and completely losing my appetite. Chris kept eating.
Reaching the point where she couldn’t even gasp for air, Mom and Dad made a beeline to the bathroom across the hall. Behind the closed door we could hear him attempting to give her the Heimlich.
Eventually, Mom started to cough, then blow her nose, then clear her throat.
Peeking her head out of the door, her face was covered in sweat and mascara was smeared around her eyes. She looked like Tammy Faye Baker.
“Keep eating, kids,” she said with a smile. I’m fine, just enjoy your dinner!”
Like I said—if you’re not willing to look crazy, you don’t deserve to be a mom.
I used to marvel at women who looked so put together when raising children. Now, when I think about my mom—the best mom—I realize that motherhood isn’t about having it together.
It’s about turning a lost driver into a murderer and washing the shit out of your daughter’s underwear and wanting your kids to enjoy their dinner while you’re choking to death.
It’s about being crazy in love.