Although I am a mother, I am, first and foremost, a human being — and not always a good one, at that. I can be disorganized, stubborn, and impulsive; I’m not always a good listener, I’m strong-willed, and opinionated, impatient, and easily frustrated.
Being a human being is hard. I keep practicing, but I’m not all that sure that I’m improving.
My oldest son is 14 and both book-smart and practical, analytical and methodical. He likes order and quiet, routine and structure. I have no idea how he ended up with a mother like me, but I suspect our differences were designed to help each other grow. Or drive one another crazy.
We were both wildly excited about the eclipse — me in an “It’s magic!” kind of way, him in a “It’s science!” kind of way (these two opposite outlooks pretty much sum up our entire personalities).
We had talked about it for months in advance, I had even planned to take a family road trip to a state that experiences totality until I realized that school would be back in session by then.
And yet, somehow, despite all of this enthusiasm and advance planning, I never bought solar eclipse glasses. In fact, I never really even considered it until the morning of the eclipse, which is bizarre for someone who had been so excited to experience it, but pretty typical for a borderline professional procrastinator.
“I’m afraid I’m going to look at the sun,” I told him on the morning of the big event.
“Why would you do that?”
“Well, first of all because I don’t want to miss it, and second, because all of the news reports telling me not to make me feel compelled to do it.”
“Okay, ma,” he said, with an exasperated sigh. “First of all, school gave us all glasses, so if you can wait until pick-up you can use mine. But more importantly — the news is trying to help you not go blind. It’s a little different than bossing you around…”
“I know, but I wish they’d just calm down about it.”
He gave me a sideways glance and resumed packing up his backpack. “Well, please try to control yourself. It’s actually pretty easy to not stare into the sun.”
I picked him up later that day and he handed me the glasses.
“It’s incredible. You have to look,” he said.
“OK, but one of my eyes kind of hurts because I looked a little bit ago, just real quick.”
He paused for a moment, scowling as he took that in. “You looked at the sun? After being told not to? After we talked about why you shouldn’t?”
“Just real quick though. And for a reason.”
“Ma, you’re as dumb as avocado toast. What would make you do that?”
“The sun made me do it. And kind of the news, I sort of blame them.”
“I need you to follow basic safety instructions. Like, I’m seriously concerned about you being on your own for any length of time. I am not taking care of you if you go blind. Actually, I want you to walk me through the thought process that convinced you this was a good idea.”
“I made a cereal box viewer — because I was really trying to be good, I was — but it was underwhelming. It was just a shadow of the sun being reflected on paper. And I thought maybe I didn’t do it right and maybe the sun wasn’t where I thought. There were clouds and stuff, so I thought I could look really quick. I’ve looked near the sun before and it worked out fine.”
“Dang it, ma. The sun is actually brighter during an eclipse. You just had to wait until 2:30 p.m. until we were together again, and you managed to blind yourself in the half hour before that.”
“I’m not proud of it. It’s just something that happened.”
“Looking directly at the sun after being told for weeks not to is not something that just happens. This is not funny.”
“I know! I’m the one with one hurt eye!”
Later that night I laughingly showed him the photo of Donald Trump staring into the sun sans glasses. “Can you believe him?” I said, with no trace of irony.
“Seriously, cyclops?” he replied.
“Okay, look, I took a risk and I was wrong! What if the news was exaggerating to get people to watch it on television for higher ratings? What if I was the smart one?”
“I don’t think the one-eyed woman can claim to be the smart one in this situation,” he said.
I laughed and reluctantly agreed.
He is either wise beyond his years, or I’m immature for mine. He was visibly relieved when he asked about my eye a few days later and got a positive report about no lasting damage — and I suspect this had more to do with not wanting to become my caregiver once he reaches adulthood, and I really can’t blame him. Being a human being is tricky, and so is taking care of them.
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Ashley McCann editorializes the messes and mayhem of motherhood as a columnist and blogger. Named to Ignite Social Media’s “100 Women Bloggers You Should Read,” her candid humor and frank advice puts a fresh spin on modern family life.
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