My mom is earning her Masters degree while working full-time and she tends to get stressed out when she’s up against a school deadline. At the last minute she always predicts that her solid grade report is suddenly going to be marred by a big, fat F, and she panics. Then she gets an A as usual and life moves on. Repeat. (Yeah, I know; I do the same thing.)
My sister and I both made excellent grades all the way through grade school and college. We worked hard to make that happen, and, contrary to what my mother would have you believe, we are not prodigies. According to the image my mom paints of us she’s stuck in the middle of a family of highly evolved geniuses who can barely stand up under the crushing weight of our oversized brains. We ran with it, because, why not?
When my sister and I finished college my mom began regularly harassing us with requests to read and review her homework for her, claiming that we were smarter and therefore willing to help her. (The logic part of her brain, it is lacking.) My sister and I formed a plan whereby we would acknowledge her requests by providing minimal feedback in the form of questions, trying to guide her away from relying on us as a sanity check for all of her homework. Unfortunately our plan backfired when we decided we’d help her out at all, a point for which our father laughs at us as he reminds us that we should have followed him and ignored her requests altogether. Alas, such is our fate, and we’re still frequently subjected to scenarios such as this one:
On the first day my mom sends me–and presumably, also my sister–an email with her paper attached and a brief message
asking telling me to review it for her. I ignore the email.
On the second day my mom sends me an email reminding me that I need to review her paper for her. In the meantime she has already revised it on her own, so she attaches the latest version of the document. I still ignore the request, hoping that the deadline has passed and the paper has already been submitted for grading.
On the third day the following phone conversation takes place.
Mom: Hi. READ MY PAPER!
Me: Ugh. That again.
Mom: I have to turn it in soon and I need your help.
Me: No! I don’t want to!!!
Mom: You have to because you love me. (playful giggling)
Me: You’re my mom. You’re supposed to read my homework, not the other way around!
Mom: Okay, give me one of your papers and I’ll fix it for you. (evil giggling)
Me: That’s frightening and you’re evil.
Mom: Just do it. (maniacal laughter)
After today’s session I was reminded of a scene from my middle school years. My favorite art teacher was away on an extended absence, and in her place we’d been assigned a substitute teacher who assumed that because I turned in above average art projects that I was necessarily getting my parents’ help with them. She decided to bring the subject up at an open house event.
Teacher: Hi! I’m C’s teacher!
Mom: Oh, I know you! You live around the corner from us and your dog tears through our garbage every week!
Well, that’s where the conversation stopped. As it happened, this was the first face-to-face meeting my mom had with the neighbor whose dog broke into our trash bin every week and left a huge mess for us to clean. I tried to hide my face as the teacher’s face reddened and she stumbled over her words. She brought the subject up again later after she’d had a chance to regain her composure.
Teacher: C takes her projects home a lot, doesn’t she?
Mom: Yes, she does. She works very hard on them because she enjoys this class.
Teacher: I wonder if she gets help sometimes? Do you ever help her out with her projects?
Mom: (laughing very loudly) That would be funny.
Teacher: Why is that?
Mom: I have no artistic ability. Here, would you like to see what my art looks like?
By this point my mom was already on the warpath, angry with the teacher who didn’t control her dog and who dared to accuse her Firstborn Prodigy Daughter of cheating. She grabbed a sheet of paper and a marker and proceeded to draw a hideous stick-figure creature on it, complete with a block-letter label, “DOG,” above its head for all who, quite understandably, might have assumed it was a drawing of a train or a shoe.
My mom, that’s how she rolls. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go peer review a paper.