By Heather O.
A friend of mine threw a baby shower for another friend of mine recently. I volunteered to help with the prelimenaries–food prep, cleaning, etc. I went over to my friend’s house, and was doing my duty when her husband walked in and tossed her some new dish towels.
I was holding an old dish towel, and asked what was wrong with the one I had. It was perfectly fine, really. No holes, no stains, and it even had a pretty pattern. Ok, the color wasn’t fantastic, but it’s a dish rag, who cares?
My friend explained that while she was getting ready for the shower, her husband had told her that those dish towels looked “ghetto”, and that they needed new ones. So he literally went out and bought new dish towels that day that were white with a brown pattern. Yes, they looked nicer than the ones they had, but the ones they had were not bad. I certainly would not have described them as “ghetto”. But, her husband was adament, so new ones they had.
Sometime later, she explained the real reason her husband didn’t like the dishtowels. Turns out, his mother wasn’t much of a cook or a housekeeper. Her son’s reaction is to overreact to anything that he feels isn’t really nice in the kitchen, even when the things they have are perfectly passable.
I said to my friend, “Wow, I’m never showing my dishrags to your husband ever again!” My dish rags, sadly, probably could be considered “ghetto”, what with the stains, the holes, and the faded color patterns from being bleached too often. But my friend said that the concern doesn’t carry over to other people’s houses. He doesn’t give a crap what my dish towels look like because they are not in his house, and he doesn’t have to associate ownership with them. And that’s good, because if a man judges me by the condition of my dish towels, we are all in serious trouble.
But the point is that this person, who actually is a fairly nice, normal guy, has picked up some idiosyncratic habits because of the habits of his mother. He is in direct revolt of something she did, or a part of who she was. It’s harmless, I guess, needing nice dish towels, but it is sort of an interesting obsession, don’t you think?
And of course, the whole episode got me thinking about what my own son will do in direct rebellion to how he grew up. Will he hate peanut butter and jelly because he eats it practically every day for lunch now? Will he demand to have his children have organized toys because his current play room is affectionately nicknamed “The Pit of Despair”? Will he obsess about always having clean socks because that is the one item of clothing his mother seems to have a hard time providing for him? And those are just material, temporal things. Are there more sinister, deeply hidden emotional issues that he will have to share with his therapist because I spanked him for climbing on the counter?
It’s scary, really, to think how we are shaping our children. I’d like to think that we are just sort of gatekeepers, that our job is to provide a base, a solid foundation for our children so they can climb to new heights without ever having to worry about what is underneath them. But then I meet somebody who can’t handle having slightly faded green dishtowels and blames that on his mother, and suddenly my role in this whole parenting gig takes on a whole new meaning.
And we work so hard to protect them from all of the evils and hurts of the world, but who’s there protecting them from us?
I suppose I have my own revolts, my own rebellion against my upbringing. They’re not big rebellions, but they are there. I suppose everybody has them. I guess I just thought (or hoped) that when my son grows up, he will clearly think I am the most perfect mother ever. I mean, is that really too much to ask?
On the off chance that he doesn’t grow up and think I’m perfect, I guess I should at least make sure he has some nice dish towels.
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