Troublesome Trends

Some trends are hard to understand. Remember shoulder pads? They were designed using the same principle as fun-house mirrors that made you look wide on top and skinny on the bottom. After buying a shirt, I’d rip out the shoulder pads. I had enough lumps. My shoulders were one of the few remaining lump-free places. I learned to live with sleeves hanging over my hands. Better than more lumps.

Raising six kids, it was inevitable that I would come face-to-face with a generational trend I couldn’t accept. Looking at my adorable sleeping toddlers, it was hard to think that one day some social movements would put us on opposite sides. But it happened. My older son got one ear pierced. A decade later, two of my daughters got nose rings. 

“Cliff, what is that thing in your earlobe?” This was not how I wanted to start the school week, another battle with a teenager.

“What?” He acted surprised. Somehow, the gold ring in his earlobe happened while he slept.

Threatening him with curfew would not change his behavior. It was getting harder and harder to outsmart him. “It may not be true,” I said as I cleaned up the cereal the high chair occupant had flung onto the floor, “but there have been several cases where ear piercing resulted in an infection that moved to the brain.” Cliff remained quiet, and I had to proceed carefully. “Anyway,” I continued, “just make sure to wash your ear with soap and alcohol every morning and night.” Nothing more was said. The following day the gold ring had disappeared. 

Texting my adult daughters, now mothers, we reminisced about my reaction to their nose rings. Rakel texted, “You said, every time I look at that thing in your nose, I want to rip it out (2001).” Now, I 100% question this memory. On the other hand, I also forget how old my kids are. But their ages are constantly changing and hard to keep track of.

Gréta’s reaction was similar, and she claimed I’d said, “Don’t bother coming home until you take that thing out of your face (2003).” 

Although tattooing has been ingrained in most cultures throughout history, I adamantly banned any form of body art when it came to my family. But my teenage daughters were enamored with the idea of getting a tattoo. Telling them that tattoo ink might cause cancer didn’t faze them. Healthy young people feel invincible. So, like Custer at the Alamo, I took a stand, “Girls, absolutely, no tattoos!” Again, our memories differ.

Rakel texted that I’d said, “If you get a tattoo, I won’t pay for college. (Actual thing you said to me in 1999).” Later I learned that Rakel, in college at the time, had gone to a tattoo parlor. Because they only accepted cash, she went to an ATM. When the ATM didn’t cooperate, she saw it as a message from the universe not to mess with.  

Gréta never flirted with tattoos, but she unleashed some other memories about me. “If I ever found out you tried marijuana, I would drop you at rehab and never look back (Actual quote you said to me circa 1999).” And she added, you also said, “If I’m pregnant, you’re not going to college. You’re staying home to take care of this baby (1999).” Turned out it was menopause. In my defense, I only meant for her to stay home until the kid was potty trained, and I planned to let her take evening classes at a community college.  

In Grace and Frankie‘s television show, Grace is confronted with her daughters’ childhood memories. Finally, after popping another valium and a gulp of her drink, Grace says, “I did the best I could.” In a scene from the Roseanne Show, her husband comes home asking how the kids are doing. She says, “They are still alive, so I’ve done my job.” 

And mothers continue dealing with troubling trends and insubordinate children.