A Thank You Letter to My Mother’s Mortification

I knew that she knew. I wasn’t sure that she knew that I knew.

So, as I watched the white Subaru station wagon pull around to the front of the high school’s main office, where I waited by the pay phone, I wasn’t sure how to read the pursed lips my mother wore.  I didn’t have long to wait.

“Where were you?” my Mother asked. The car stayed in park.

“I told you, I had a tutoring session in math. My teacher said I needed tutoring in math.” The lie tumbled from my throat, but its strength wavered when it met my Mother’s gaze. She already knew where I had really been.  And it wasn’t at math tutoring for my Algebra shortcomings.

Then came the stream of fears and angry embarrassments and horror at what people would think.  My Mother’s best friend had seen me walking from school. She had seen my boyfriend – my first actual boyfriend – walking with me. We had quickly turned our heads when we saw her car approaching. And my Mother’s best friend knew where he lived, and she could see where we were heading. My Mother’s best friend also knew that my first actual boyfriend’s parents both had jobs out-of-town, so his house was empty.

My Mother’s best friend told my mother. They both knew where I had been.  And, in a small town like mine, if my Mother’s best friend knew where we had been, there was a good chance that most of the cars that had passed us as we walked knew where we had been. And all those cars had people in them. People with imaginations like my Mother’s best friend’s imagination. And that’s what made her embarrassed and afraid.

Since I knew that she knew, it didn’t make a difference that I said nothing had happened. I told her that the non-existent tutoring session had been cancelled, so I went to my boyfriend’s house.  I had lied; I was still lying. I had gone to a boy’s house. He was two years older.  And while imaginations are usually more powerful than reality, my Mother had every reason to be angry and embarrassed and afraid.

After the berating speech and the probable punishment that I no longer remember, I told the story of getting caught to my first actual boyfriend. At the time, we laughed and made fun of my Mother’s best friend and my Mother for their “Big Brother” system of parenting.  He even wrote “Your Mom’s friends are watching!” in my yearbook.  It was hard to look my mother’s best friend in the eye. I could be defiant with my Mother, but with her best friend, it felt wrong. She was an eyewitness. There could be no doubt.

I continued to date my first actual boyfriend. His braces even gave me a huge hickey some weeks later. I lamely attempted to cover it with a “cute scarf” when I had to wear my shame to school.  Dating him became rebellion and scorn for my Mother and her best friend.  I flaunted my continued relationship by playing the music he liked really loudly when I should have been doing Algebra homework.  And I asked, at least once a week, if I could go to Algebra tutoring.  I felt so mutinous.

Now, I look at it differently. I’m thankful that my Mother’s best friend saw us and tattled on us. I’m thankful that my Mother used words like “slut” and “shameful” and several other German words to express how she felt.  Because the truth is, at thirteen years old, going to my first actual boyfriend’s house terrified me.  Because of being found out that first time, things slowed down considerably (hickey notwithstanding).  I was relieved; I didn’t have the tools to assert my opinions to a sixteen year old at thirteen.  And when he broke up with me – my first actual breakup – over the summer, my broken heart and swollen eyes recovered quickly because I could finish out my summer without being, shall we say, encouraged.

So, thank you to my Mother and my Mother’s best friend.  Thank you for doing what parents and friends of parents are supposed to do.

I’m hanging out with the fantastic writing community at Yeah Write this week. Check them out!

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About That Unique* Weblog

Adjusting to car culture, dealing with leaving a career I loved, and spouting off along the way. #RESIST
This entry was posted in Parenthood, People do silly things, Suburban Life and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

50 Responses to A Thank You Letter to My Mother’s Mortification

  1. Erica M says:

    Thank you for sharing this. I don’t have any other good words for it, but I was absorbed by your writing and your experience. Excellent storytelling.

  2. Lenore Diane says:

    Great story, KD. I applaud your Mom and her friend for being involved and active parents.

  3. raymmmondo says:

    I got teary.

  4. mamamzungu says:

    At first I was totally on your side and remembering my own rebellious trystes. But after realizing you were 13 and he 16, I’m team “mom and mom’s BF” just like you. 🙂 Great engaging post!

  5. Danielle says:

    Moms are supposed to be parents, not friends! You’re mom is awesome! And good for the BF too, totally what I would have done as an adult. Thanks for sharing the story =)

  6. Betty says:

    I pray every day that my best friend (and my daughter’s god mother) helps me to parent her with a “big brother” attitude. I hope I have enouogh friends in the world that will help me keep an eye on her and prevent her from doing anything crazy and foolish; something she’ll regret later in life.

  7. Kerry says:

    I love this! I, too, was on your side as a teenager remembering my mild rebellious streak at the same age (not so long ago, either), but also ended up siding with your mom. I was horrible at lying to my mother; I always felt insanely guilty. My excuse in my head was that she would never allow me to do the things I was lying to her about. Of course now I realize that that was the problem. If I had to lie to my mom about it, it probably wasn’t a good idea! I’m glad that my mother was a mother first, and friend second, as yours seemed to be. I do not have children of my own (the thought actually terrifies me — a blog post for another day?), but I am sure if I ever do, I will be protectively similar, if not worse.

  8. Mayor Gia says:

    I’m glad your mom ended up helping (though I understand why it wouldn’t seem like that at the time!)

  9. Emily says:

    What a great story! Your writing is really engrossing. And I really appreciated how you shared about your 13-year-old self not having the tools to assert yourself. I often think about junior high and high school and wish I could go back to myself and shake me by the shoulders and yell, “don’t worry if they don’t like you! who cares what they all think!” Thanks for sharing.

  10. Great message about parenting! Kids will never understand “why” until they are grown.

  11. Jamie says:

    We can all put ourselves right there. From your mother’s perspective and yours. I know the thought of feeling uncomfortable but doing something to feel older. Great story of mother daughter moment.

  12. PhaseThreeOfLife says:

    Thank you for sharing! I think we can all relate to this in some way.

    Found you on the Yeah Write hangout!

  13. morethanmommies says:

    If I am ever in the same position I hope my bff doesn’t turn the other way! I’m fairly sure she wouldn’t.

  14. I keep telling my kids that I will find everything out so they may just as well be open and tell me. 🙂

  15. Ado says:

    Well – wow what a post. While I agree that it is excellent they were keeping an eye out for you, calling a 13 year old girl a slut to me is abusive and I’m so sorry your mother did that to you. PS: Aren’t hickeys the worst?

    • Technically, she didn’t call me a slut, she said that that’s what people would think. And based on friends’ experiences, she was absolutely correct. I’m not sure I would call it abusive, but definitely a reality check. I think “abusive” should be reserved for repeated or larger occasions.

      And yes, hickeys are the WORST. Especially when you think you’re getting away with covering it up and some obnoxious peer points out that everyone knows what’s under the scarf (that I had never worn before in my life!).

  16. Lisa Nolan says:

    I was a latch-key kid, so no mom home until after work. Not a good situation for a teenage, tho! Yes, I had my boyfriend over… but I was older than him! What helped me stay out of trouble, most of the time, was tons of responsibilities (I was raised by a single mom): buying the groceries, doing the laundry–at the laundry mat, cleaning the house, cooking dinner, and so forth. All that responsibility made me rebel!

    Now that I look back on my teenage years (sex and drugs and rock and roll) at the age of 49, I’m grateful, because I made many, many accomplishments in my 20s and 30s and still at it in my 40s!

  17. sisterhoodofthesensiblemoms says:

    Excellent story. But now I have ice water running through my veins says the mother of a 13 year old. Ellen

  18. Having grown up in a small town with a mom who was a principal (yep.), this situation is familiar. I never really bothered to rebel because I knew I would get caught. And I’m with you. Deep down, I was glad that I would get caught. I saw kids going down scary paths and I felt safe.

    Great post.

  19. MonkeyMomma says:

    Its amazing how much perspective we gain as we grow older. Great post!

  20. Great post. At the time, we never do think they’re doing what’s right for us. “why are you trying to ruin my life?” is a line that comes to mind. And usually, they’re not really trying to ruin it, are they? Only make it as great as possible.

  21. David Wiley says:

    Excellent story! I am glad you shared it with us on Yeah Write, and I look forward to reading more of your stories in the future.

  22. Great storytelling. I could really see the nervousness during your inquisition.

  23. Anna says:

    funny how different things seem now, versus then….

  24. Love this, especially because I related all too well. *ouch*… I recently delivered a verbal apology & thanks to my parents for much the same thing. Does that mean we’re “all growed up” now? lolz! Thanks for sharing — it’s good to know I’m not the only one…

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