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Janis Jaquith
janis@radioessays.com
504 words

SHOULD I TAKE A BOW?

This morning, my son moved out of our house. He's nineteen years old and has rented an apartment.

I should be happy; my work is done. During all those exasperating scenes of child-raising: the whining, the tantrums, the screaming - and that was just me - through it all, I truly thought it would never end. From the moment our twins were born, we were all caught up in a whirlwind drama. At 7:45 this morning, it was over.

Both of our twins have now left home, and it feels like the end of a performance. The play is over, and we're waiting for the reviews to come in.

As Waldo carried his boxes out to the car this morning, I wanted to shout after him: I'm sorry I ever spanked you. I shouldn't have done that. And I'm sorry I made you eat your green beans.

I swore I'd never do any of those stupid things that other parents do.

I thought it would be so simple. Just read the child-care book and do what it says. But I'd find myself slamming down the book and yelling at the kids for interrupting me. My real kids were messing up my plans to be the perfect mother.

During pregnancy, I had visions of myself as Maria Von Trapp, dancing and singing across the hillside, followed by my adoring children.

Ha.

Whenever I would sit on my daughter's bed and sing, "Hush little baby, don't say a word..." Jill would hold her little hands over her ears and shout, "Don't sing, Mummy, don't sing!"

What I needed was a good scriptwriter - a director. Someone to whisper in my ear and tell me what to say, what to do next.

A few years ago, I came up with a brilliant improvisation technique. When at a loss for words, I ask myself: What do I NOT want to hear about at the Thanksgiving table twenty years from now? Do I want to hear Jill say to Waldo, "Hey, remember the time Mum made you eat that scallop and you threw up?"

And so, when Waldo came to me last year and asked for sixty dollars for an application fee to Harvard, I wanted to say, "Harvard? Oh, right!" Instead, I pictured our Thanksgiving dinner table in 2017, imagined my son saying, "...and I could have gone to Harvard. But no, Mum and Dad wouldn't part with sixty bucks."

I bit my tongue and opened my checkbook. Now he only has Harvard to blame.

We have been in rehearsal for two decades, and now that I'm getting the hang of it, they are writing me out of the script.

It's over. And no one is even applauding.


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