My 10-year-old girl darted up and said, “Mom, can you make me dinner?” Even though I was holding my 19-month-old niece, who’d been fussy, the girl assumed I’d immediately drop the baby to fix her dinner.
She assumed wrongly. I blinked at her, astonished. “Your dad’s making dinner right now. See him?” I pointed to the kitchen area.
“But Mom can you get me some…?”
I interrupted her. “I have a baby on my lap. Your dad is in the kitchen. As are your grandparents and your uncle. Can you please ask one of them for help?”
She pouted and headed to the kitchen, giving me that “you are such a neglectful mom” look over her shoulder.
A variation of this scene occurs in my world multiple times per day. Regardless of what my kids need or want, whether or not they can get it themselves, or whether or not they easily can ask another adult for help, they always, always, always ask me first. And nine times out of 10, the first three words out of their puerile mouths are, “Mom, can you…?”
I’ve been on my knees in the garden, locked in the bathroom, even driving the car, when one of my kids has said: “Mom, can you…?” If I answer the question with a question, such as “Why do you need me?”, the typical response is, “Can you come here for a second?” or “Can you look at this?” No specifics, just that vague compulsion for me to engage, help, see or support, all of which must have been in the “Mommy” job description that no one gave me before I agreed to procreate.
Frequently, to buy time, I’ll ask if it’s an emergency situation (defined in our house as vomit, arterial blood, or flames).
“No, but I need you.”
The need is often, but not limited to, examining a mosquito bite, admiring how adorable the dog is, or mourning a broken toy.
Is it because I’m the mom or because I’m the primary caregiver? Do moms who work outside their homes get pestered as consistently when they are home? Are moms always the first go-to person, or is it just whomever seems in charge? When school’s in session, my kids often inadvertently call me by their teachers’ names. As in, “Ms. Patti? I mean, Mom, can you…?”
Then I have nightmares about 20 elementary school students repeating my name all day, and I wake up thankful that I’m no longer teaching while trying to raise my own kids.
There are also the “Can I….” or “Can we…” questions that usually involve asking permission for something that they know the answer will be “no,” but they have to ask anyway. These questions have included, “Can I have ice cream for lunch?” “Can we jump off the roof of the tree house?” and “Can I have eight friends for a sleepover tonight?” If I accidently reply in the affirmation to one of these ridiculous questions, their joy at catching me is palpable.
I suppose I should be thankful that my kids actually ask even asinine questions. For them, asking and being turned down must be preferable to getting caught and punished for doing something they know they shouldn’t.
Sometimes, they don’t even have a real question to ask me. They’re just so used to saying, “Mom, can you….?” 400 times per day, that they’ll repeat those three words and then stop.
“Can I what?” I’ll ask.
“Never mind,” they’ll reply.
This sends me into a frenzy. “Never mind? Never mind? What the heck were you going to ask me?”
“Nothing,” they’ll say, giving each other the “Mom’s batty” look.
Five minutes will pass before I hear again, “Mom, can you…?”
Anne Fitten “Edgy Mama” Glenn writes about a number of subjects, including parenting, at www.edgymama.com.