Monday, September 19, 2011

Like Fingernails on a Chalkboard

This blog inspired by Deb (the motivation to write, not the mother involved)

About two weeks ago, I went into the City to get a facial. I can't say that I see much of a difference or any difference for that matter, but it was nice to go in on the train and have some quiet time to myself, or so I thought.

It was late afternoon on a Saturday.The ride in was quiet. I read an old Oprah magazine I'd bought like two months before and hadn't read. There was a great piece about Emily Mortimer the actress from Dear Frankie, Lars and the Real Girl and regrettably the new Pink Panther series. She's wonderful and it's a great story about shyness and overcoming insecurity even as an adult.

I had a lovely facial, nothing painful or smelly. Just a nice quiet hour of relaxation. Then I got back on the train to come home. Two very cute kids entered the car I was sitting in and their mother followed. She looked pissed. Granted she had two little kids and an infant seat and a stroller and two bags and quite a few extra pounds - but she looked pissed.

The father arrived with the baby and they all took their seats on the train. The boy looked to be about my son's age - maybe 12. He had a very sweet face, big dimples and long hair. He was reading a book when his mother started to fixate on his fingernails. "Oh my God, would you look at your nails?" And it just kept going and going and going. "You can't finish your book until you cut your nails."

One thing I've learned as a parent is to choose wisely the lines you mark in the sand. Because kids will test you. So you better feel strongly about the point you are arguing. This mom kept hammering. "Luke, cut your nails. Do it, or I'll do it for you. And you don't want me to do it for you."

It's one of those stock lines parents use that doesn't actually make any sense. As a kid I would be thinking, I don't want to do this. You're volunteering to do it for me. Sounds like a good deal.

With that threat lingering in the air, the mother stood up and walked to the bathroom. The son turned to his father and said, "Did you ever argue with her even when I was young?"

"You're being a fresh kid."

"I hate when adults say fresh."

It's hard to explain but this next part was actually kind of sweet - a father and tween son bonding over swear words while the overlord was in the bathroom.

"Okay, how about I call you a douchebag?"

"I'm not saying you have to call me a douchebag But I'm not 5."

Mother returns to son picking at his nails with a piece of paper. "What is he doing? Picking his fingers with a piece of cardboard?"

I watched and wished I'd sat anywhere else on the train. My fleeting "me time" coming to a sudden halt. I felt really sorry for this little kid being bullied by his mother over something so silly as fingernails. Really?

But I also felt for the mom . I've been there. Fat and wearing unattractive stretchy pants. Loaded down with so much crap you feel like a pack mule. Food on your shirt. Exhausted from not sleeping. Wanting to control something. It's unfortunate that the one thing she chose to control that day was her son, and his nails and his reading.

I felt like saying, "Lady if your kid is reading anything, you should be grateful. Your kid has a sense of humor. Your kid is healthy. Your kid is bright. Give it a rest."

But I didn't say anything. I hope her son grows Howard Hughes fingernails the minute he turns 18.

1 comment:

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