I like to think I’m a mature person. Mature-ish at the very least. Especially since I became a mother. Because when the world hands you a screaming, leaking lump of fragile human clay and expects you to keep it alive for 18 years, you grow up a bit in spite of yourself.
I can now even say the word Uranus without giggling.
But let me tell you, the first time I heard my own mom scold my misbehaving kids, telling them they better behave and listen to their mother or else, I gloated. Oh, I gloated so hard.
(Internally, of course. I am mature-ish, afterall.)
But you could not have wiped that Cheshire Cat grin off my face with a jackhammer.
“Oh yeah,” I thought to myself. “Memaw just put the smack down on you. Who’s a stupid poopy-head now, tiny humans?”
I’m not necessarily proud of this. But then again, I’m not necessarily ashamed.
It can be lonely at the top of the family hierarchy. Heavy is the head that wears the crown made of macaroni your offspring made you at day camp. And nowhere is this more evident than when it comes to disciplining.
Now that my kids are 4 and 20-months-old, respectively, my days have devolved into one long verbal parade of “no.” Oh look, there’s the “Knock It Off” float. And the “Please Stop” marching band. And the “Don’t Do That Again” men in the funny hats riding the tiny cars.
And, perhaps my personal favorite, the “And That’s Why We Don’t Stick Our Hands In The Toilet” cheerleaders.
It’s exhausting. Especially because you have to constantly be vigilant about disciplining. And correcting. And punishing. One tiny little inconsistency and BOOM. The whole wobbly stack of cards your authority rests on comes crumbling down.
Because small children are relentless. And merciless. And love nothing more than finding a loophole in your disciplining and squeezing their squirmy little tooshies through it.
So, when someone else with familial authority steps in and disciplines your children while simultaneously giving credence to your own parental authority, it feels like one of those deus ex machina moments in a book or a movie, where the hand of God comes down and fixes everything.
At least for the next 15 minutes.
This is particularly a big deal for me since both my mom and my husband’s mom live far away. Which can make it feel like my husband and I are ruling on a remote island that is constantly under threat of a coup from the restless peasants. Just last week they were screaming “LET US EAT CAKE!” while trying to bang down our bedroom door as we huddled under the blankets, clinging to each other.
But when either one of our moms comes to visit, oh…oh, it’s like watching Cleopatra riding into the city with her giant army of weaponized cookies and stickers, ready to take over and restore order.
Because grandparents, and especially grandmothers, enjoy a different sort of authority. Parents, by necessity, usually end up becoming dictators. Otherwise chaos reigns. But grandparents are more like benevolent royalty. Since they are a degree removed from the children, (unlike us dictators who are forced to live side by side with them), Grandma and Pop-pop can show up, shower them with jewels and snickerdoodles, and earn their obedience without any bloodshed.
And it just so happens that my mom is in town this week for a visit. Which is why I am out in a coffee shop right now writing this, disastrously mixing up my political and historical metaphors in peace, instead of strolling the hallways of the gulag that was formerly my house.
What’s going on inside my house right now? I have no idea. And better yet, I don’t care. Because a divine parental authority even more ancient than mine has taken over.
And for this week I say, hell, let ‘em eat cake.