The biggest arguments my mom and I had were over apparel. Typically, this happens in the teen years when a girl wears something that shocks the previous generation. Less and less material is used as each decade clicks by, which can cause a young person and her authority figure to be at odds.
I was in kindergarten, so this was way before the appointed time. And I wanted to cover up more, not less. I was raised with a pack of wolves, known as brothers, and I wanted to run free and not be slowed down by dress shoes and skirts.
Depending on what I was wearing determined my comfort level for playing. I couldn’t have my brother launch me halfway across the backyard unless I had pants on.
He would lay on his back and put both of his feet up. He would balance me on them and then do a countdown. He would push me forward with all his strength to see how far I could go. Similar to shotput but from a prone position.
Because I was so young and trusted everything, I never contemplated the head injury I could have sustained. I always landed face first in the grass. I would get up and have him do it again.
This was in direct competition with what my mom was trying to accomplish.
She, on the other hand, had received her last child and wanted to mold and shape me into what she thought was “proper.”
“My job, Chris, is to teach you social graces.”
Whatever that was.
It was like a page ripped out of My Fair Lady. We spoke in different dialects.
She tried her best, but I defied her at every turn.
She recognized that I would fight her every step of the way. I didn’t want to give up my brother’s circus training I was participating in. Who knew where my high-flying tricks would lead me?
Being a negotiator, she said,
“You have to wear a dress to school at least once a week.”
I was five, so I was learning how to tell time. We had analog that actually made you have to think and count. But the concept of what it was still was a mystery to me. I desperately wanted to be like my older siblings, so I even wore one of their old watches.
It had stopped working when it was given to me, but it made me feel less behind the rest of them.
When she would say,
“Today is the day for you to wear a dress,” it felt like it had just happened the day before.
I would slide into whatever she handed over and go into funeral mode. It felt like I was dying. It was bad enough that my days of freedom had been interrupted by the school demanding I be there for half a day.
I had other things I wanted to do instead.
I had to associate with children my age which seemed lame compared to all the older people I lived with. This particular kid always wanted to sit by me, and when the teacher would say,
“Exchange your crayon with a person next to you,” he would always come for mine.
Just because I extended him a few seconds of my time, he thought he owned me. I couldn’t move anywhere in the classroom without him next to me like my shadow. And he always asked me what time it was because of my broken watch. I just made up a number.
The whole experience felt unnecessary, and so did wearing a dress.
I wore her out because she dropped the rule by first grade, but our war moved on to another article of clothing.
I did not like wearing them when the weather changed. She would send my tennis shoes with me to change into once I got to school. We did not live that far from the elementary school, so I thought it was overkill to change.
As I went up in grades, I resisted wearing them more and more. I believe I had assimilated into what the rest of my peer group was doing. Snow boots were deemed for babies. I had witnessed a classmate of mine being ridiculed for wearing them, so to ward this off, I would leave the house, take off my boots and wear my other shoes the rest of the way.
What she didn’t know wouldn’t hurt her, and I wouldn’t be targeted.
This was all going along swimmingly until the day I forgot to bring my boots home from my locker. In my haste to get out of jail and back into the free world, I grabbed my jacket, my books and walked out the front door.
It was a Friday, so that made it even better.
The house was unusually quiet when I walked in. She was at the kitchen sink rinsing a glass. Turning, she said in a whisper,
“I lost my voice.”
I was going to respond as I saw her eyes travel downward toward my feet.
I was in trouble. She didn’t need her vocal cords to bring fire and fury.
“Where are your boots?” She hissed, moving closer. She knew by motherly intuition that this was probably an ongoing habit that I had hidden.
The look on her face was pure anger. I was trying to come up with an excuse, a lie, a handwritten note from my doctor, but nothing was coming to me. So I went with the truth.
“I left them in my locker at school. I didn’t wear them home.”
If she had stopped interrogating me right there, we would have gone about our lives. But, no, she had to say,
“Do you go to school and change into your tennis shoes before you get there? And put your boots back on when you are almost home?” All of this was forcefully said in a hushed tone.
Had she hired a private investigator to track me and my underhanded ways? How did she know this? Because she could be scary like that. I decided to be bold.
“Yes, I do. I don’t like wearing boots. It looks stupid!”
“You need to wear them! There is ice you could fall on.” A physical injury was less important to me than psychological trauma.
Because of her laryngitis, her lecture wasn’t as long as usual.
“I don’t like them.” I kept it simple.
“I don’t care! Where are they?”
They were in my locker, not available until Monday.
This took it up another notch.
“You better never do this again! You know this was wrong!”
She was trying to exert herself to get me to be compliant. I slid out of my shoes and walked away. It’s hard to take someone seriously when they are whispering.
I realized that if I wasn’t in front of her, she couldn’t yell, and my chances of hearing her were less. I was not committing to her ways anytime soon.
She followed me.
“Christine Ann, don’t you walk away from me while I’m speaking!”
Not the full name. I faced her again.
“You will wear your boots like I have told you!”
I cannot explain why I did what I did next. But instead of talking to her in my normal voice, I whispered back,
“No! I won’t! I hate them!”
She thought I was making fun of her, and now we had another problem.
I was going to try and explain myself, but then the humor of it hit me. I started laughing. It appeared I had just gone into total rebelliousness. This just made it worse. Coffin, meet nail.
“Don’t you dare mock me! How dare you first not listen to me and then think my illness is funny!”
She was straining super hard. I wish I had known then to tell her that she could permanently damage her voice by doing that. It was probably good I didn’t.
I had to get myself under control. I knew she wouldn’t hit me, but I didn’t want to chance it. I had never been this far down the road before.
“I don’t know why..” I started to explain, and then I started laughing again.
She stood there with her arms crossed, looking at me like I didn’t belong to her.
“Get to your room.”
She walked away.
I didn’t dare slam my door because she would make me open and close it quietly whenever I did. So I skipped that part. There was enough to contend with.
I was met with icy silence, and it was not all related to her losing her voice.
Later, she came back into my room and sat on my bed.
“You don’t have to do what I tell you.”
This was the best news I had heard so far.
“Won’t you be mad at me if I don’t?”
This seemed too easy.
“No, I won’t be angry. I will be disappointed. There’s a difference. I have to trust that you will obey me.”
She was speaking directly to my conscience, and it was like she took a hammer to my chest.
“You can keep up with what you are doing, and if you fall and hurt yourself, I won’t be mad. I will be sad that you didn’t listen.”
I wore my boots and put up with the heckling from that time on. Her relationship with me was more important than a group of losers at school.
I have had to get to that point many times on various issues with God. I want my way, but I hear that still, small voice say, “No, do this instead.”
It might put us in an uncomfortable situation, and we don’t always see why at first, but we have to trust that heaven sees and knows what is best for us.