Do you know what I discovered this week? I actually agreed with . . . wait for it . . . wait for it . . . Rush Limbaugh! Ugh! He was cheering the actions of Toya Graham (Baltimore Mom) that saved her son from—at the very least—doing something really, really, stupid and going to jail and at the very worst, getting himself killed, when he picked up a brick to throw it at the police. (His mother had told him to come straight home after school and not attend the protests.) Limbaugh was quick to add to his praise that it wouldn’t take more than a nano-second before some bleeding-heart liberal criticized the Baltimore Mom for “smacking” her sixteen-year-old son and accusing her of “child abuse.” Well, Lord have mercy, that is exactly what happened! My newfound liberal compadres started raising a ruckus—calling Baltimore Mom a “bad mother”—falling short of calling Child Protective Services on the poor woman. As Limbaugh screamed, “I told you so,” the fact that he and I were on the same page about something made me vomit in my mouth—if only just a little bit.
Cartoon used by permission: Nate Beeler The Columbus
COMMENTS BY BALTIMORE MOM WHEN INTERVIEWED BY VARIOUS NEWS ORGANIZATIONS AFTER SMACKING HER CHILD UP SIDE HIS HEAD AND OSTENSIBLY SAVING HIS LIFE
“I’m a no-tolerant mother. Everybody who knows me, knows I don’t play that. He knew. He knew he was in trouble.
“That’s my only son and at the end of the day I don’t want him to be a Freddie Gray. I was angry. I was shocked, because you never want to see your child out there doing that.
“Is he a perfect son? No! But he’s my son!”
After I got over the shock of having been in lock-step with Rush Limbaugh on a subject matter (Lord Jesus, come soon; I don’t know if my heart can take this), I picked myself up off the floor and decided to write a letter to all those liberal columnists and commenters who labeled Baltimore Mom a bad mother. I sent the letter as a Black mother who has successfully raised two grown kids who survived my parenting and me their crazy teenage years.
Cartoonist Mike Luckovich, Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Dear Fellow Liberals:
We haven’t known each other very long. I used to be an oxymoron—a card-carrying Black, Conservative, Christian, Republican. I recently joined your ranks after being totally and utterly scandalized by my former conservative friends (see upcoming book Fleeing Oz, launching May 20th).
I’m retired now, but before doing so I was a teacher, an actress, a singer, and an award-winning voiceover talent. But the thing I am most proud of is that I was and am a Black mother (don’t let the Polish last name fool you) who managed to rear two amazing women who are in their thirties now. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and I almost lost the war with one of them—necessitating a couple pops across the noggin and a lot of “tough love” to knock some sense into her head. If asked, that child will tell you about a time when she was on the road to losing her soul and destroying our family. I climbed up on a stepping stool to get my point across—she is almost six-feet-tall in heels and I’m five-feet-tall when I’m lying through my teeth—and smacked her upside her head just like the Baltimore Mom. She will also tell you that the scenario was so hilarious—me, teetering on top of a stepping-stool trying to swat a zig-zagging, belligerent teen—that she fell on the floor, rolling in laughter . . . in other words, my smacks didn’t hurt (neither did the Baltimore Mom’s—so chill), but it got my point across—“as long as you live under my roof . . . you will respect and obey me and the law.”
I read all sorts of criticisms that you wrote about the Baltimore Mom that said she was committing child abuse by smacking her son with her hands (it was her open hand, not a brick or a two-by-four). You said the smacks and the public humiliation would damage her son forever (no, being shot dead would damage him forever), and you said she should have used her “inside voice” to ask him respectfully to drop the brick, leave the riot, and return home with her like the good little boy she knew him to be. When I researched who the critics were—for the most part—you were single, or married without kids, or parents of infants and toddlers (in other words, judging the teen years from afar), or people who had never lived in an environment where the police shoot first and ask questions later. In other words, you were all critics with theories on how to rear teenagers in a hostile environment where the “cradle to prison” pipeline is a surety for 1 in 3 black boys born in 2001.*
I think you might be confused as to who is a bad mother. My mother was a bad mother (anyone that tries to scald you to death, starve you senseless, and attack you with a butcher knife—all before you’re nine years old is not a good mother—see my first book, Monsters’ Throwdown for the entire sordid tale). Honey Boo-Boo’s mother—now that’s a bad mother. And yet I’ve heard some of you same critics laud the fact that HBB’s mom is a loving mom and at the end of the day, they all love each other and have each other’s backs. You see a loving family, I see a modern day freak show. That is, until TLC (what I call the “mutton-headed, cretinous, moronic channel”) pulled the plug on it because “Mama Bo-Bo” started allegedly shacking up with a recently released child molester who had served time for sexually abusing her oldest daughter. (Somebody hand me a brick; I need to whack that woman upside her head to knock some sense into it before she totally destroys poor Honey Boo-Boo!)
Cartoon used by permission: Rick McKee, The Augusta
I know bad mothers when I encounter them. I had a mother call me once when her daughter and my daughter (the one I did the stepping-stool-tango with) were really testing their sixteen-year-old boundaries. I had never met the woman, but her daughter had demanded that she let both the girls engage in something that my husband and I were vehemently opposed to. The mother hid in a closet to call me to see if she and her husband could get together with me and my husband to figure out how to handle the girls. I didn’t realize she was hiding to keep her daughter from hearing her conversation until I heard loud banging accompanied by screaming obscenities: “MOM, WHO THE FUCK ARE YOU TALKING TO? ARE YOU TALKING TO MY FRIEND’S MOM? YOU BETTER NOT BE DOING THAT. I TOLD YOU NOT TO CALL HER!” [starts kicking the closet door], COME OUT OF THIS FUCKIN’ CLOSET AND FIX MY DINNER!”
“Honey, honey, I’m talking to my, my . . . sister . . . don’t get angry; I’ll be out in a minute, sweetheart. . . Mrs. Tomczyk, I’ve got to go, my daughter is really angry; I’ll call you later.” The mother hastily hung up, and I figured that was all I was going to hear from her. But thirty minutes later she called me again—breathless, and apologetic. “Oh my, Mrs. Tomczyk, it’s not easy to trick my daughter, but I managed to do it. Whoo-hoo! I told her that I didn’t have enough potatoes to make her favorite mashed potatoes, and that I needed to go to the grocery store to get some more. She pouted, but let me go, so now we can talk freely. Let’s you and I agree to a time to get together to see what we can do to save our girls. We have to handle this very, very gingerly or I, for one, will certainly lose my daughter. She just gets so angry with me—I can’t handle it.”
My liberal critics, if you had been there that day, I am convinced you would have labeled me a very bad mother because my response was: “Oh Hell to the no! You and I don’t have anything to discuss, woman. Any mother who cowers from her own child is a very, very bad mother, and I don’t want to have anything to do with you. You go on back to your closet and your Veruca Salt child**, and I am going in search of a stepping stool.”
**Veruca Salt, a character from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
In my old age, I am discovering that I was not the best mother, but I was not the worst one either. (My kids were not the best kids, but they were not the worst, so I guess we are even.) When all was said and done, they became amazing adults, and they fondly remember that I was a no-nonsense kind of mom. One of my girls is the mother of my grandson, and she cracks me up because she does not cut the boy any slack. She thinks I’m much too easy on him (I’ve grown soft in my old age), and she constantly reminds me that her black son, my grandson, will not be given the grace to make stupid choices as his white friends will—that the outcomes will be demonstratively different. She’s right. She’s a good mother.
All in all, I am a mother who did her best, who passionately loves her children, and they her, and I am confident they will say what Ben Okri said about his mother when I die: “Her passing away ripped the solidity out of the world.”
HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY TO ALL THE MOTHERS WHO HAVE THE COURAGE TO REAR HUMANS!
Cartoonist: Bill Waterson/Calvin and Hobbes
INSPIRATIONAL MOTHERHOOD QUOTES
“No one is more sentimentalized in America than mothers on Mother’s Day, but no one is more often blamed for the culture’s bad people and behavior.”—Anne Lamott
“Mothers and children are human beings, and they will sometimes do the wrong thing.”—Maurice Sendak
“Even as we enumerate their shortcomings, the rigor of raising children ourselves makes clear to us our mothers’ incredible strength. We fear both. If they are not strong, who will protect us? If they are not imperfect, how can we equal them?”—Anna Quindlen
“We never think that our mothers will die. It was like suddenly an abyss opened at my feet – I was standing on nothing. It was the strangest thing. Her passing away ripped the solidity out of the world.”—Ben Okri
QUOTES COURTESY www.brainyquote.com
Cartoon used by permission: Mother’s Day Nate Beeler, The Columbus Dispatch
LIKE TO KNOW MORE ABOUT THE AUTHOR? CHECK OUT www.eleanortomczyk.com