I have always LOVED Proverbs 31. She is a woman of strength and honor and her family adores her. She dresses well and is a successful business woman who cares for the poor and needy. She’s perfect really. Everything I could ever aspire to be. She has everything I could ever hope for.
Proverbs 31:28: Her children arise up, and call her blessed.
That isn’t what my children call me.
I just spent an ungodly amount of money and went in debt, maxing out my credit card, to go to the graduations of my oldest son and his girlfriend. I had wonderful tours and activities planned for the younger children, hoping to make history come alive for them on this once in a lifetime trip.
It was wonderful in many, many ways. Don’t get me wrong. But, we missed nearly all of those planned activities.
We were exhausted. Wrung out. Grumpy. Hungry. And, hurt. Very hurt.
My son warned his girlfriend’s parents about me. As though you need to mentally prepare yourself to meet me. He told them I’m a hippie.
I Googled “define hippie.” It gave me, “a person of unconventional appearance, typically having long hair and wearing beads, associated with a subculture involving a rejection of conventional values and the taking of hallucinogenic drugs.”
My values are so conventional I’ve been accused of being legalistic! Too Christian! A right wing nut! I won’t even vaccinate my children, let alone take mind altering drugs! I’m about as bland and conventional in my appearance as a middle aged mom can get! I wear make up (well, most days); I wear a bra (padded push up!); I don’t think I even own any beads.
I do try to buy only organic food. If it’s local, even better! I do make my own deodorant and some of my cleaning supplies. I prefer going barefoot. But, that’s about it, Folks!
Her parents were pleasantly surprised and actually liked me. I was nothing like what my son had built me up to be.
Friday night before my son’s graduation he and his girlfriend hosted a party (which cost me almost $200) in their apartment. It was a loud, drunken party. At one point his girlfriend asked me if she could give my 14 year old a “shot.” I responded emphatically, “Absolutely NOT!” She waited until I left the room, dumped a shot in his punch, put her hand on the bottom of his cup and directed it toward his mouth, and told him to drink it quickly before I came back. Just because you’re in a lovely townhouse in one of the richest counties in the country, overlooking the representations of the nation’s grandeur, surrounded by extremely well educated individuals, don’t assume anyone actually has any class. People are people. Some just dress better and have better vocabularies.
At this raucous celebration there were three moms: A Catholic, a Protestant, and a Jew. We made jokes about ourselves, and we got along FAMOUSLY. Sometimes I’m not sure we even knew what we were laughing at. We were just feeding off of each other’s laughter. Our jokes were probably quite inappropriate. We mocked our religions, ethnic backgrounds, and politics. We mocked each other’s, and that was funny, too. It was all very light hearted, as none of us took ourselves seriously.
The next day, however, my son’s girlfriend said that she didn’t think I got really offensive until after everyone left when I referred to the one other mom as “the Jew,” saying how much I liked her.
Ironically, however, my son had called me that in front of everyone earlier in the evening, and that, I guess, wasn’t offensive. His one friend let it be known to all that he liked me and would propose on the spot if he had a ring. My son joked that you can get a ring from Nomorerack for $10. The young man exclaimed that he had two fives in his pocket, so he was set! To that my son responded, “She’s such a Jew, she’d probably rather have the $10 than the ring!”
Admittedly, I’m not as quick as I used to be, but I don’t understand. The other moms and I referred to ourselves and each other, in a joking way, as the tags that society labels us with, thinking we were funny. When I merely continued that and stated how much I enjoyed one woman’s company, I was offensive. When the same tag was used to describe my fiscal awareness, along the lines of the old, pro ethnic cleansing German cartoons, that was socially acceptable. How so, young people? How so?
As we prepared for the trip in advance I had made a trip notebook. I placed dividers in it and labeled them according to state. I researched activities and paid in advance for some tours. We were all set for the most memorable vacation ever! We had been promised that if we could just get there, just buy the airline tickets, my son and his girlfriend would feed us, house us, and get us around.
It didn’t turn out that way.
Several months after I booked the NONREFUNDABLE airline tickets, charging $1700 to my brand new credit card, my son called to ask me if I could book some motel rooms or stay with friends. They couldn’t put us up the entire time.
I ended up booking three motel rooms total AND getting a rental car for a week. Thankfully I’d paid on those airline tickets some because this was another $900 on that credit card, and my limit is $2500. That doesn’t include gas.
When I asked my son about how long I should keep said rental car he said that I’d never be able to drive in DC–traffic is crazy–so to turn it in once we got there. Either his girlfriend could get us around, or he would get a zip car the day we planned to visit the re-enactment of the 150th anniversary of a famous Civil War battle.
Once we got there though and were at their mercy for travel, we were told “we aren’t going,” “figure it out; I had to,” and “I don’t know what to tell you.” In the week we were there we only went into DC three days, each day costing me at least $60 in transportation for the tram and Uber cars (basically taxis).
The first day I nearly sat down and cried. The girlfriend had flat out refused to take us anywhere and had given us very little instruction, none really, on how to use the tram. As you well know, I’m from a congestion, the side of a mountain. I’ve never ridden a subway before in my life. We missed almost all of our tours we were so late everywhere, spending ungodly amounts of time lost in the subway corridors, trying desperately to figure out how to get somewhere, anywhere. At the end of the day, hungry, sunburned, and exhausted we wandered off the subway onto the platform at rush hour. Because I’d been using the maps app to navigate, or try to, our way around the city, my phone was nearly dead. It began to rain gigantic drops onto the massive crowd of aggressive, busy, pushy, and apparently very important (they all seem to think so anyway) people and us. I didn’t know where we were. The youngest two children refused to walk any further and were sitting down on the sidewalk, fussing loudly. I used the last energy my phone had to call K, my son’s girlfriend. She refused to come get us and told me to call an Uber car. I told her my phone didn’t have enough battery left to figure out where I was and then use the Uber app to send for a car. She didn’t care. I used my 14 year old’s phone to call my son. He said, “K won’t come get me either. I’m in a car. I don’t know what to tell you.” That’s when I just wanted to sit and cry. I was lost in a huge city without a phone, alone with three children, and no one to help us at all.
I was afraid to go into the city again, but I knew I had to try. When I asked more questions of them in preparation for my next adventure, they said, “Figure it out!” “Just read the boards and figure it out! I had to!”
The difference in my mind was that they were single adults who had CHOSEN to move there and NEEDED to figure out this new way of life. I was INVITED there by them and had children to watch in those crowds while I tried to “figure it out,” and I’ll likely never go back. I don’t NEED to figure it out and waste all of our sight seeing time learning a skill I’ll never use again while my children cry, whine, sit in the middle of traffic, or try to run off. They didn’t exactly use the word “incapable,” but they certainly made me feel that is what they were thinking.
The word “embarrassing” was never actually stated either, but my son’s constant eye rolls and refusal to hug me at his graduation until after he’d hugged everyone else and his girlfriend’s mother demanded that he “hug your mother!” again made me quite certain that he felt I was an embarrassment.
He hadn’t acted that way in Georgia. He gave me a lovely card with BEAUTIFUL hand written sentiments. He hugged me publicly. He was sweet.
But in DC I suddenly felt unwelcome. I have no idea what I did. No one will just communicate. There wasn’t even a precipitating event. The tension was just so thick you could cut it with a knife.
The girlfriend would snap and make rude comments to me before retreating to her bedroom. My son dutifully followed her and then would come out and be rude to me. It was quite apparent he was following orders.
As I mulled it over, trying so hard to figure out what I’d done so I could fix it, I wondered if it was my parenting. My son had snapped at me in front of my 7 year old, and he and his girlfriend both regularly interfered when I tried to discipline my 7 year old. They let me know in no uncertain terms that they did not agree with my expectations. Yet, the girlfriend nearly seemed to delight, in my opinion, in being unfair to my 5 year old, who looks and acts just like me. I took that as verification that she definitely has a problem with ME.
During one pleasant conversation the last night there, my son asked about specific tours we’d taken that day. As I delighted in the moment with him and recounting the day, she interrupted, “You can’t expect a private tour of the Capital Building! There are thousands of people that go through there a day!” The hate exuded from her pores. I tried to nicely respond that I didn’t expect a personal tour. It just wasn’t my favorite because it was so rushed. She refused to let it go and insisted upon putting words in my mouth and snapping at me.
As it ate away at me though I could audibly hear the Lord tell me, “Their anger is not your problem.” So, I let it roll off my back and made the best out of things, refusing to let this young woman’s issues come between my son and me.
My son opened up the discussion about seeing us off the next morning, and I was surprised. I had assumed we’d once again be forced to ride the subway, this time with all of our luggage. But, no, he WANTED to see us off. She agreed to it, though not enthusiastically. However, an hour before our plane was to take off, she began to take the exit to the subway station! My son asked her where she was going, and she matter of factly stated, “West Falls Church.” He exclaimed, “They’ll never make it! We discussed this last night.” I could tell she was ticked, so I chuckled and said, “Oh, she’s doing pretty good to be dressed and driving. She didn’t get coffee this morning!” Everyone went along with that, and she made her way back onto the freeway just in time.
We made it through security as Zone 3 was being called to board our plane. Fortunately we were seated in Zone 3 and, though we missed the call for it, we made it onto the plane. I marveled at how we definitely would have missed our plane if we’d taken the subway and why she would have wanted to cause that to happen. It was evident she certainly didn’t want us stuck in her apartment one hour longer!
During the long hours in flight back I napped, took photos of the scenes below, played games and chatted with my 7 year old, and thought about the events of the last two weeks. I thought about the rejection I’d experienced. And, I thought about the approval and acceptance I’d experienced, in particular the approval of that young, educated, professional man whose Facebook profile picture is of him being interviewed on national TV. He wanted to know more about my opinions on religion and politics. He laughed at me. He was apparently, on some level, attracted to me as I stood there in my “mom” capris and a JC Penney T-shirt because he was adamant he wanted to marry me. And, I thought about the word he used to describe me………….
He said I was real and honest, and that is something you just don’t find these days.
My own son has risen up and called me a hippie, a Jew, offensive, and harsh and let’s me know that he sees me as incapable and embarrassing. But, someone else’s son rose up and called me real and honest and let me know that he sees value in those things.
While I still love the Proverbs 31 woman, I’m finally at a point in my life where I just don’t want to strive to be her. I’m content with being real.