Jewish World Review Sept. 11, 2001 / 22 Elul, 5761

Ian Shoales

Ian Shoales
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Consumer Reports

The end of Mom -- I'M not the kind of guy who can use the word "nurturing" in everyday conversation without wincing involuntarily. Every time I hear the word "nurturing," I think of Mom.

I love my Mom. Sure, she stopped accepting collect-from-Ian middle-of-the-night phone calls around 1986, but I relate to her attitude absolutely. She's getting on in years. She might not have a career and family to juggle like today's smug thirtysomething Moms, who act like they're the first women in history to come up with the concept of children. But my Mom is fed up, frankly, fed up with me, fed up with Momhood.

All she wants to be now is card-player with the gals, knitter and tatter, arguer with Dad about the wrong turn he may or may not have taken in the Ford that ill-fated family vacation, summer of '59. What she doesn't want to be is wakened at four a.m. by loser offspring, who ask to borrow money, mutter about America's creepy cultural climate, or whimper about the latest girlfriend who dropped him like a bad habit.

All across America, Moms are unplugging the phone. "Get a life, learn to fly, my aging little ones," they say, "this nest is closed." Who was it used to say to third-grade teachers, "How dare you flunk my Junior?" Mom. Who reached deep into the cookie jar for cash to pay your lawyer? Mom. She slicked down cowlicks, and crammed feet into tight shoes, she slipped the halter around our shoulders at airports, she shielded us from the critical gaze of the public, and chided every authority figure who refused to acknowledge her little one's genius. She sewed name tags prominently on our chest, and waved to us tearfully as the yellow bus took us away into the wide wicked world.

But Mom has been defeated. How can she compete with Playstation2? Does Mom emit annoying electronic noises, or explode in a shower of sparks if you zap her? I don't think so. Thirty years ago, Mom would have thrown Playstation2 into the garbage as soon as a kid's back was turned.

Thirty years ago, Mom would have said, "Sure, son, you can be a Back Street Boy, if you practice the piano until your knuckles bleed." We are overwhelmed by publicists, personal consultants, and lawyers-- know why? Because Mom won't return our calls.

We never gave Mom that rose garden we promised, no, we gave her stupid little valentines, home-made "I love you" cards with all the "Els" backwards, vacuum cleaners, fridges-- no wrap-around shades, not even a simple damn interest bearing certificate of deposit. Yes, we're the ones who drove Mom away, all of us.

We didn't take out the garbage when we should have, we threw the wild beer party when she was supposed to be out of town until Monday. This is how we repay the woman who first informed us that products calling themselves "lemony-fresh" contain no citrus fruit of any kind, up to and including lemons. A lawyer would have charged me money for that information.

All America offered Mom was the cute cuddly world of television, where Mom was the put-upon queen, and Dad knew all the answers. We gave ourselves a cute little risk-free world, where rainbow ponies, and bears with hearts in their tummies zap unhappy monsters with love-rays. We stripped the world of any possible stimulation, and then blamed Mom. It wasn't her fault. Those litttle bears made her sick, she just didn't have the heart to tell us.. We didn't understand. The cuddly little bears are the enemy. The cuddly little bears are the ones that should been destroyed.

But it's too late. She's had it. And so I end this solemn vow: Mom? If you return my calls again, maybe front me a few hundred, I'll get a life soon, I promise. I, and all my fellow Americans, will roll up our sleeves and do our very darndest to nurture, to foster deniability in all walks of life, and finally, to put the "fun" back in dysfunctional.

JWR contributor Ian Shoales is the author of, among others, Not Wet Yet: An Anthology of Commentary. Comment by clicking here.


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© 2001, Ian Shoales