She is entirely a pain in the butt. Bossy, Type A and overly concerned with keeping up with the Joneses. Allow me to introduce you to my alter ego, more affectionately known as Cuckoo Mommy.
We first met, Cuckoo and I (yes—we’re on a first-name basis), at mommy-and-me events during my sons’ formative years. There I’d be, enjoying a bit of bonding with one of my munchkins, and suddenly she’d be whispering in my ear. Little Jorge over there just composed what sounds like Beethoven’s Fifth on his keyboard but your tiny tot is just drooling on the keys. Let’s make sure this isn’t a developmental delay, sweetheart. Have him evaluated or bump up the music enrichment classes, tout de suite.
She tagged along on play dates, too. As I nonchalantly said, “Really? Carter is learning Japanese AND Russian?” to the little prodigy’s mumsy, Cuckoo was whispering, “Language development is a sure indicator of overall success in life. Mandarin is the next big wave—get on that, Toots.”
As my boys grow, she tends to stalk me at school functions, chess tournaments, parent/teacher conferences and sporting events, with a checklist a mile long. Sports conditioning or he won’t make the high school team, private chess coach so he has a fighting chance at the state competition, and my favorite—weighing in on class projects. She nearly wept when, during kindergarten conferences, we viewed the “snowflake project” hanging above our heads. Given complete free rein to create the snowflake of their choice, my petulant Picasso had adamantly insisted on light blue construction paper and silver glitter. And that’s it.
But Cuckoo would have none of it. She coaxed and pleaded, and showed him wonderful designs on the Internet—to no avail. My math-minded son could have cared less if he was outshone by the model with 12 connecting CDs that symbolized the actual structure of a snowflake crystal. Cuckoo, on the other hand, was mortified at our poor showing and could barely concentrate.
What’s a mother to do? Tell Cuckoo to shut up.
Recently, she tried to peer over my shoulder at my son’s science fair. As she began to crankily highlight for me the typo on a chart, I put my foot down. I looked at my son, and said, “This is a lot of hard work here on this table. I’m proud of your effort.” When another mother told me of her child’s international travel itinerary this summer, along with all of the enrichment planned, Cuckoo started to sweat it. I calmly sat her down and told her to get a grip. And then thought of the afternoons my sons will spend creek walking on my sister’s farm, finding bugs and engineering all sorts of crazy dams. Which is not quite Paris, but so essential for a connection with nature and the calm that brings. Didn’t Abraham Lincoln start that way, after all? I’m sure of it.
I do think I’ve now successfully blackballed Cuckoo from all school functions. Yesterday, as my son,who normally can hold his own in a chess match, lost all four games, Cuckoo chimed in: “It’s because they bumped him to the higher rating. He’s not ready. You should talk to the coach . . . “
As my son put his head in my lap, near to tears because he felt he’d failed, I realized it: I’m done with this pain in the butt. Joneses, Schmoneses. Our kids are not in the foot race of their lives unless we make it so. And I’m not makin’ it so.
I’ve got this one, Cuckoo, I’ve got it.
“I’m not sure if Bobby Fischer ever started this way, honey, but I don’t care. You tried your best. Now let’s get some ice cream and celebrate having figured out four more ways not to win a chess game.”
Ok—so we need a little work on the pep talk—but Cuckoo was nowhere to be seen. I think I saw her whimpering in the corner as we left, passing by her distant cousin, Cuckoo Daddy. He was saying to his son, “Tears are for wimps. If you’re going to cry every time you lose, it just makes you a loser.” Ouch. Hey Daddy-O, I think there’s a lovely lady you might want to meet over there in the corner . . . and I’m done with her.