Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The truth about mothers

There are lots of things that I would do differently given the chance.   I have made my share of mistakes, hurt my share of feelings, and misjudged the reactions of others.  An example of  bad judgment occurred when my son was in kindergarten and if I could do it over, I certainly would.  You must keep in mind that Eric has always had a good sense of humor and that we have always enjoyed playful teasing.  Here is what happened:

Eric was all agitated and excited one day after school.  He simply could not believe what he had learned that day and could hardly wait to share his new knowledge.  “Mommy, did you know that mother spiders eat their babies?”
My response was,  “Well sure, Eric, lots of mother animals eat their babies.  Even human mothers.”    (Please remember that fine sense of humor)
He looked at me, disbelieving and said, “No Mommy that can’t be right.  You didn’t eat me.” 

Continuing the joke, I said,  “You aren’t big enough yet.  You have to be at least six.”
I could see him contemplating this possibility.  Suddenly he looked at me with sparkles in his eyes and said triumphantly, “But Ben is six and his mommy didn’t eat him.”
I replied, “But Eric, don’t forget, Ben’s mother is a vegetarian.”  This latter statement was the first true thing I had said and it was at that moment that I realized that the shiny sparkles in his eyes were actually tears.  He started to cry, somewhat hysterically, and ran off into his room.
Of course I followed, hugged him, explained that I was only kidding, took a vow of vegetarianism, or at least  non-cannibalism, and he settled down.  If I could do it over again, it would go something like this:

Eric was all agitated and excited one day after school.  He simply could not believe what he had learned that day and could hardly wait to share his new knowledge.  “Mommy, did you know that mother spiders eat their babies?”
I would reply, “Oh my!  Really?   Good thing human mommies would never do that.”
But if that is what happened, there would been no story to laugh at when the family gathers. We would not even remember the day that Eric learned the truth about mother spiders, or the truth about his own mother’s bad sense of humor.   This story, while representing one of my worst parenting moments, has become a favorite in the Huntley family repertoire.  

I am generally opposed to scaring small children and I really would change the story if I could, but at the same time,  this story has become an important part of our family’s common history.   There are other stories as well;  some of these, such as the “Night of the Great Black Fly Massacre” or “The Day the Seagulls stole the Sandwiches” are stories that  Eric and Ellen begged us to tell over and over again when they were little.  “The Night Dad Kicked Ellen in the Head” (it isn’t what it sounds like) and “Mother Spiders eat their Babies” are stories that poke fun at parents who meant well, but occasionally  misjudged their audience.  My own parents loved to tell family stories, some of which may have even happened, and I wish someone had written them down.  So, while I probably won’t relate too many of them in this blog, one of my ambitions is to record our own family stories for future generations of Huntleys.

Today I am grateful that our children were resilient to our small foibles and grew up well in spite of us.


  1. I remember this story... it is a great one! Parenting requires a sense of humor... if not at least explored, it can get pretty routine. However, I have found that things change as one matures. When my kids were younger, I used to keep an empty glass jar in my kitchen cupboard that had a home made label declaring that the contents were "Poison." When one of my kids had a friend over for lunch, I'd remove the jar and just leave it on the counter in full view. My kids and I shared a little funny, silent joke as their friends looked in horror! We still giggle about it!

    Today, I also keep a clear glass jar in my cupboard for the benefit of my grandchildren and their friends. However, the label on this jar reads "Nana's Love." A little bit of
    "invisible" love gets added to every drink, every cookie and every meal. It works like a charm... My 5 year old grandson swears he can taste the difference and there is never anything left on his plate. When we bake or cook together, he measures out the "Nana's Love" for me and adds it to the recipe!

  2. love this one! oh the trials of getting motherhood right