I swear, in my pre-mom days, I was a patient, calm, quiet person who never raised her voice, who handled conflict with serenity and aplomb, who never sweat the small stuff, who rose above petty annoyances. That was before I had to get recalcitrant kids to do homework, clean their rooms, take out the trash, practice drums/sax/voice/etc., feed the dog, rats & fish, study for an upcoming bar mitzvah, and so on - all of which take multiple reminders, and supervision, and maintenance visits to make sure one kid isn't spacing out and another isn't slacking off after 5 minutes. ("I swear, mom, I worked so hard, I need a break, and my clock says it's been 35 minutes!") I think I spent more time yesterday reminding Ben to practice drums than he actually spent at the drum set - and this is a kid who actually likes playing an instrument, I shudder to imagine the suffering of my friends whose kids resist piano lessons.
When my mom nagged me, I remember vowing, "I will NEVER bug my kids, I will teach them to be conscientious and responsible on their own." Oh, how charmingly naive I was. First of all, 'self-reliant teenager' is the ultimate oxymoron, because although they really WANT to be independent, they keep forgetting little details, like oops, that 8 a.m. call right after you've gotten home from carpool, "Mom, I forgot my lunch/spanish book/science project". And face it, their standards of cleanliness and hygiene are somewhat different from those of anyone above 18. (My friends with teenage daughters claim they have it worst, describing rooms with piles of discarded clothes from the last "I have nothing to wear" melt-down, but I defy them to complain to me after they've smelled the room of a teenage boy who gets any sort of exercise. I once picked up a pair of freshly-used tap shoes, and nearly passed out!)
So sure, I have the best intentions of staying detached, letting them suffer the consequences of a forgotten lunch, a disappointed drum teacher, a room that needs fumigating. But I'm a mom, too, and sometimes I can't help myself. I think they need a new 12-step program for moms who struggle with letting go - "Hi, I'm Lauren, I nag my kids." "Hi, Lauren!". But come to think of it, nearly every one I know would need to join.
At least now we have very public examples that make the rest of us not look so bad. Ayelet Waldman has a new book out, "Confessions of a Bad Mom", that glories in her non-perfect parenting (as well as revealing way too much information about her wild sex life as a teenager). And apparently the talk shows and blog-o-sphere are all a-buzz with a recent episode of Jon & Kate which showed her screaming at her kids not to eat so many strawberries, and commentators are debating whether she is a control freak or just a human mom with way more kids than anyone should have. So all of us who merely nag can take comfort not just in numbers, but in knowing, hey, at least no one has caught me yelling at my kids on national t.v., or talking about my sex life on a book tour. And next time my kids accuse me of being a mean mom, I'll just rent "Mommie Dearest" and hope they appreciate me for never screaming "No wire hangers" at them - sure, maybe that's because I can't find a path to their closets, and they never hang clothes up anyhow, but at least in comparison I look like the saint I used to be pre-kids!