Tuesday, September 14, 2004


"Why do I have to go to bed?"

"Because you have to get up early for school"


"Because you need to learn new things."


"So you can go to college or become a musician or an artist."


"Because one day you'll need to make a living and support a family."


"Because I won't be able to take care of you forever."


"Because I'll get old and won't be able to work or make money to feed you."


"Because that's how the world goes."


"But, why do I have to go to bed?"

"Because I'm YOUR MOTHER and I SAID SO!"

I promised myself it would never happen, but it did. It's really quite startling to discover that in spite of your best intentions, there's no getting around the "because I said so" thing. In fact, I believe there is a "Because I said so" gene. It's one of those genes that lie dormant for many years, and only under the extreme stress and pressure of those increasingly atomically-sized "why" questions, combined with the imminent approach of the season finale of ER, does it express itself. It really has nothing to do with self-control. It's genetic. It's primitive. Blue-green algae say it to their offspring when the season finale of blue-green algae ER is about to start. I promise you.

So, I have accepted that "because I said so" is and always has been a perfectly acceptable reason for almost any series of questions my son tosses at me that goes on longer than 2 minutes. I no longer fear retribution from the gods of Complete Explanations, nor do I fear that my son will grow up frustrated and stunted because he does not have the encyclopedic answers to all the known questions in the universe. I have embraced the simplicity of "Because." and I have made it mine.

But, there's another gene that I've never been quite as sure of. It's the "your mother is always right" gene. See, I know I say incredibly stupid things sometimes, and my son, who is unnecessarily bright, is always quick to correct me, and I am thus humbled by the presence of the "always." But I feel certain that there is something to it, and I've therefore been considering staking my claim to at least "usually". The only question that I need to answer before accepting the Maternal Omniscience gene is "can I apply this to my own mother?" Now, in spite of her unusually excellent foresight regarding the men I date, it's been historically very hard for me to accept that my mother is right about anything with any measurably greater accuracy than I am.

That is, until the other day.

I was on the phone with my mom, and while we were in the middle of a riveting discussion about whether or not a friend of her friend should sell the wicker furniture she's stored for 7 years before she moves to Minneapolis, and by the way, can I believe who she met in the grocery store the night before!?, she interrupts to tell me that her handyman just showed up to get a bird out of their chimney. It had apparently rained the previous night, and my parents had heard funny noises in the rec room so dad called the handyman and told them a bird had gotten into the chimney.

Now generally my mother will happily let me sit on the phone and listen as she conducts her daily business. I think it's for a similar reason that both my parents leave the TV sets on all day. They just like the company. So when the guy appears in the kitchen with the bird in tow, my mom does not tell me she'll call me back, she instead just screams. "AAAAH! Get it out of here!" "please, just take it outside" right in my ear. I tease her for being a total coward "It's a BIRD mom, not disease-ridden vermin, and most likely, NOT a predator," and she says, "You don't understand, this was HUGE!"

Immediately I am overwhelmed with disbelief and feel an urge to disprove her. "Mom, how big could it be? The stuff about Santa is a myth..."

Ignoring me, she says, "No, really this was the biggest bird I've seen! He was holding it in his arms like a baby!"

I am unimpressed and am thinking 'wingspan' when she says, "What's the biggest bird you can think of?"

I pause. "An ostrich."

Even though it's a perfectly good answer to her question, she gets mad. "Oh, stop."

"A turkey?" I suggest. "They're big... Ok, Mom, how 'bout a duck. Is it as big as a duck?"

"It's BIGGER than a duck."

"It's BIGGER THAN A DUCK!??!? Mom, c'mon."

"Ok, it's *almost* bigger than a duck..."

Ha! Now I'm starting to swell with academic pride. "Mom, it can't be almost bigger than anything. It's either bigger than a duck, or it's not. Think about it. How can it be ALMOST bigger than a duck?"

My mother has no idea what I'm talking about because she's still scared to death of her deadly downy friend and isn't thinking clearly. "I don't know, and I don't care, it's huge and it's black. Like a REALLY big crow."

I'm going back to the size issue again. My mom has a tendency to exaggerate during moments of fear, and I'm really dying to know how big this thing really was. "Mom, could you *carve* it?" This is my breast size vs. wingspan question.

"Oh don't be disgusting." My mom is inflicted with the standard urban dichotomy of Animals and Food. They are in her mind two very distinct things, and please don't make her investigate the possibility that she's occasionally been known to avoid reality.

Meanwhile, the pterodactylish creature is taken outside by what I'm sure is a VERY amused handyman, and my mom and I get back to our very important conversation about how many successful marriages we can name in my generation (none). Eventually we hang up.

About an hour later she calls me back. No hello. Just simply "It was a duck."

I'll be darned. It was almost bigger than a duck.

It may not be "always", and it may not even be "usually", but at the very least, Mothers are occasionally right. Now, does someone want to tell my son that?

This one is recycled from the Upper Kirby Progressive, May 2001

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