How Our Parents (and Other Elders) Screw With Our Heads

When I was younger, my father used to tell a story as proof against the notion that my mother was saintly and perfect.  Apparently, the two of them were out grocery shopping one day, and there was a young child nearby who was crying and looking for his mother.  In response to his bawling, “Mommmyyy?  Mommmy????!!” a woman who was not his mother replied, “heeere I ammm.”  Now, I don’t know if this just an urban legend, or if my mother really was the sadistic non-mother in the story, but, it calls to mind the ways that grownups/parents/older siblings screw with our heads when we’re kids.

Now, my mother is going to be the one mainly under the bus here (sorry, Mom), but I’ve got some cruel laugh moments to tell of myself, as a Mother.  They may seem a bit not nice to the reader, but my excuse (for myself) is that kids can suck the life out of you, and sometimes, you just need a little payback.  Let’s call it my self-policing campaign to avoid child abuse.

Before I became a mean adult, I had my own trials to endure, with a fair amount of “good natured” teasing, growing up. I’m not sure if I was just extra gullible as a kid, or if I was just a brat who was fun to tease, but I do have a few “fond” memories to recount for you.  Interestingly, they’re all related to food.

At a very young age, I learned that Crisco, even though it resembled delectable frosting (in the yellow mixing bowl, which my mother smirkingly encouraged me to try), is in fact, nothing like frosting, and tastes horrifyingly disgusting.

I also learned to never beg and beg and beg my mother to let me try the “adult” chocolate candy sitting on the end table at Christmas time, because, if she finally relented, I would discover that the candy was filled with some gaggingly godforsaken liquor which would teach me a lesson for years to come.  I don’t know if it was bourbon or rum, or what the hell it was, but, to this day, I go a little green whenever I unknowingly partake in candy with a surprise liquid center.

It was also a long time before I realized that poppy seeds were in fact edible seeds, and were not, as my brother insisted, the body parts of ants. I actually shed tears over the fact that I had eaten the poor ants which decorated my pastry, and it took quite a bit of convincing that my brother was only teasing.

Now, I know that we have all grown up being told little “lies” by grownups, interestingly, some of which were meant to prevent us from lying.  Our tongues would turn black, our nose would grow like Pinocchio’s, or we might end up in Limbo if we told too many falsifications. I remember being a little doubtful of some of the things I heard as a kid, but, when adults were insisting otherwise, I accepted it as truth.  After all, it’s bad to lie.

And so, I believed that airplanes flew because of magic, and that I would turn into a fish (but preferably a mermaid) if I didn’t get out of the pool, and that running to the store (or just running down the street) for my sister Libby was a testament to my superior speed and agility, and had nothing to do with the fact that she just didn’t want to go to the store or was merely trying to get rid of me (“… run reeeeally fast, and we‘ll time you, Cathy!! I bet you‘re the fastest runner in the neighborhood!!”)

Maybe when I became a parent, I felt it was my chance to start pulling the wool over some eyes.
I went for the rudimentary stuff in the beginning, like, pretending to call Santa Claus if Spenser seemed to be having a difficult time with truth-telling.  And telling him that the onions on a McDonald hamburger were rice, because I didn’t want to hear him complain that he didn’t like onions.  I never pretended that liquor or Crisco were tasty, so I guess I have that going for me.

I did eventually leave the amateur stuff behind, and participated in one particularly Not Nice Thing, along with my sister Rosalie and her husband.  I will blame them for this one, since they are older and should know better.

In their hall closet was a Halloween mask, which was made to look like the face of a very old person.  There was no blood or popping eyeballs or anything like that, it was just an old, wrinkly face.  Well, for some reason, Spenser (my son) was absolutely terrified of this thing.  Having discovered this, we would play tricks on the poor bugger.  Multiple times.  We would send my brother in law outside to ring the doorbell (wearing the mask) and have Spenser answer the door.  Then, we would have him come in from the garage 5 minutes later, wearing the mask again.

It didn’t matter that we would show Spenser it was just a mask (and let him touch it), and he could watch his innocent Uncle Billy donning the mask right in front of him; as soon as the mask was on, he was stupefied in terror.  After that, I think I could even threaten to “bring the mask out” if he was misbehaving.  I know, we were evil.  But again, I was just an innocent bystander (even if I was laughing and saying, “okay, try coming in from the backyard now!“).  Thankfully, Spenser can laugh about it today, and hopefully won’t kill us in our sleep some day, because of it.

I don’t know if this is something all adults do, or if my family was just particularly sadistic, or if this ritual is deep rooted in human genes as some sort of “rite of passage”.  Perhaps it’s just a way we learn how to laugh about ourselves.  Perhaps it is a lesson about not believing everything you hear.  At the very least, it has taught all of you that my mother is not the saint I depicted in my other post, and, if she‘s smirking when she tells you to try some innocent looking food item, DON‘T DO IT.

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