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Ultimate Rebellion

By Lilli Lee

June 15, 2011

Most people rebel against their parents in traditional ways: tattoos, belly button rings, sneaking out of the house. I never did any of those things growing up. I was saving the real rebellion for when I became an adult. The first thing I did that really flaunted my independence was when I went to college and the first weekend I returned home (which, in and of itself is a bit of a stretch since my college was about 9 minutes away from my childhood home and that’s with traffic) I was wearing a brand new pair of never before seen Birkenstocks. It was a spur-of-the-moment purchase and one I knew would get me a fantastic reaction. “What are those on your feet!??!” my mother asked. “Oh my God!” My sister wanted to know if I was a lesbian. Enjoying every second of their shock, I paraded around in my new hippie-chic sandals with great confidence.

I was on my own and didn’t need anyone’s approval to buy overpriced, hideously ugly, not terribly comfortable shoes. I didn’t even wear them with the benefit of a pedicure. I was all grown up.

But shoe shopping couldn’t compare to the ultimate giving of the bird to my mother’s core belief structure. Because when my son started kindergarten and I became a room mother, I might as well have dyed my hair purple and joined a nunnery. To be fair, this was the final insult after a long history of locking fists over glorified maternal stereotypes. It started when I was very young and I insisted on clipping beautiful, glossy coupons out of the Sunday paper. My mother ignored me at first, figuring I was brushing up on my cutting skills. Her eyes widened in horror, though, when I begged her to use them at our local market. I wanted to dress up like Samantha Stevens in white gloves on her way to visiting Darren at the ad agency and stop by the market to pick up a few things on the way. My mother was horrified at the thought of one of her pals thinking she was suddenly poor and looking to save 15 cents on Hamburger Helper, a product she would never in a million years even consider buying in the first place. She compromised by allowing it to happen ONE TIME by surreptitiously glancing from side to side before sliding over a few crumpled coupons to the checker she knew by name, apologizing under her breath while looking my way with an amused expression that translated to, ‘It’s her idea… the whims of a child. You know how it is.’ I beamed with pride. We were on our way to becoming the ideal mother of yesteryear.

Growing up, we were taught certain undeniable truths: nursing babies was for hippies who didn’t like to bathe too often, mothers making school lunches led to wholly dependent, uncreative children and the idea of driving a station wagon was pitifully laughable as if the poor women who were forced to endure that kind of humiliation might as well be chained up in a dark basement with a bowl of water and no lipstick.

So, imagine my mother’s horror when she learned I was actually going to nurse immediately following the birth of my first child. She looked at me like I was one of those crazy freak women still dirty from Woodstock. When the going got really tough and nursing proved one hundred times more painful than 20 straight hours of labor, and as often as I liked to scream at my husband that I was a formula fed baby and ‘I TURNED OUT FINE!!!’ I kept sticking that baby on my cowering boob just to spite the woman who thought I shouldn’t do it.

Then came the day a few years ago that it became painfully clear I’d have to disappoint my mother again when it was no longer feasible to haul three kids in and out of a smallish car. I knew I was supposed to think station wagons were sexless mobiles only handled by matronly old bags with bad hair and worse clothes. But, deep down, I knew that couldn’t possibly be the case. Watching Carol Brady cheerfully zip around in her two-toned brown and green wagon seemed pretty hip to me. And who didn’t jump at the chance to sit in the way back of a friend’s mother’s ride? The day I succumbed to the necessity of buying a beige minivan, my mother only shook her head and smiled in a way that only meant one thing: ‘You’ve become one of them. It’s finally happened. Sad.” But look! The doors open automatically with a button on the remote! You can squeeze four, maybe five kids if they’re skinny into an array of rows that fold down if you want to put a bike in there instead! But I doth protested too much. My transition to total embarrassment was nearly complete.

The final nail in the maternal coffin came on that fateful day when she knew I was gone forever. Joining the PTA was bad enough but becoming room mother was the ultimate failure in the school of “have I taught you nothing?!?” I couldn’t help but be pretty self satisfied at my pure act of extreme rebellion. “That’s right, lady. This is me. I’m going to organize class ice cream socials and be at the center of the infighting between housewives and working gals alike. I will tactfully assign food assignments for parties and be the bill collector people flee from at Christmas time. I will tsk alongside the teacher like we are special pals, sharing a bond that non-room mothers would never understand. I will keep a modest distance from my child during class time so as not to elicit jealousy and resentment amongst the other children. Oh, yes. I will be the suburban nightmare with no other hobbies or interests you warned me about. Watch me micromanage!”

Rebellion is fairly exhausting. It’s still not too late to get a tattoo or tongue ring but really, what’s the point? It’s much more satisfying to say it’s my turn in carpool after wondering what I should whip up for Saturday’s bake sale.

Lilli's June Letter
My Helpful Sister

Ben Lee

Real Estate Broker
Licensed Attorney

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Cal BRE #01808926

310.858.5489 direct

310.704.6580 cell

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