Mommy, Dearest

Mommy, Dearest

Leaving the museum, Elizabeth said, “Yes, the dinosaurs were real.  That was a very, very long time ago, Philip.  Million and millions of years ago.” 

“Were you alive, Mommy?” 

Elizabeth said cooly, “Have you been paying attention at all, Philip?”

“I think so, Mommy.  A lot of the time, anyway.”

“Well, I certainly was not alive.”  Elizabeth said with a bit of disdain, realizing that her four year old had absolutely no grasp of time in history.  They walked briskly on the city streets to their car.  A little hot dog and grilled kabob cart caught Philip’s eye as they walked by. 

“Mommy can we get a hot dog or something?  That food smells so good.” 

“Philip, absolutely not.  That is hot junk food.  We can get a green drink at Whole Foods when we get back to Greenwich.”  Philip looked longingly back at the food and the smiling man who was selling it.  Philip smiled back at him. 

“That man looked nice and very tired.”

“Maybe that’s how you look after you’ve peddled bad food for so long.”

They entered the driveway of the parking garage.  In the car, Elizabeth put on classical music, and after driving a block, Philip fell asleep.

When they reached their own driveway, Bach, the Kearn’s standard poodle ran up barking loudly, and Philip woke up.

“Philip, let’s have snack and review our trip.”

“Can we go to the park Mommy?  I need to run.  I can’t think anymore about dinosaurs and old people.”

“Philip, you’ve rested for forty five minutes.  That’s a long enough break.  Please wash your hands.  Then sit down and we can talk while I make a salad and juice you some fruits and vegetables.”

Philip put his hands in the warm water and squirted some soap on them.  “Mommy, I love my hands in here.  It feels so nice.”

“Philip, you’re wasting water.  That is more soap than some children will have in their lifetime.  Dry your hands and sit down.”

Philip looked at himself in the mirror and smiled.  “You know I liked that man selling the food.  His face had lines and he was tan.  He was happy.”

“Please eat the kale and arugula, Philip.  They’re so good for you.”  She held up a kiwi.  “What do we call this fruit?” 

“Boo woo?  I’m not sure.” 

“Philip, this is a kiwi!  Pay attention when I teach you things.” 

Philip shrugged his small shoulders.  He nibbled upon the arugula and the kale as his mother held up another piece of fruit for Philip to name. 

“Pineapple!”  Philip said with conviction. 

“Good, Philip.  Now what’s this?”


“It’s parsley.  We need a lesson about fruits, vegetables and herbs.” 

Moving his salad around the bowl with his small fork, a leaf at a time, Philip thought of the trip to the museum.  He remembered the gigantic skeletons, and the quiet docent explaining everything she knew about dinosaurs.  He thought about the green grass in the park, and the swings. 

“Mommy, I’m too little for the things we do.  I can’t think all of the time.  Let me go outside.  I want to go to the park.  I really missed school.  I want to eat junk food once.  I don’t want lessons all of the time.”

Elizabeth juiced more fruits.  

“You know, Philip, I could have gotten Terri to babysit.  I didn’t have to take you to the museum.  I know quite a bit and am willing to share it but not if you are half listening.  Act your age.  You’re not an infant.  This is the time of your life when you absorb facts and gain intelligence.”  Her voice got more forceful.  “Did I get the right child at the hospital?  Maybe you need a tutor or a new nursery school.  Not all motherscare so much about what their child eats.  Look at your salad bowl.  You barely touched it.” 

Philip took the last bit of his drink.  “Good, but not that yummy.”

Elizabeth was really angry now.  “Goodbye Philip.  Go to your room and look at your new library books.  The dinosaur books are in the green and white tote bag.” 

“Are you mad at me, Mommy?” 

“I’m disappointed.  I do so much for you and you don’t appreciate anything.” 

“Maybe sometimes we can do your stuff and sometimes we can do mine, like taking turns.  You might even get happy.” 

Elizabeth stopped washing the parts of the juicer.  She said nothing.  Philip slowly walked out of the kitchen and went upstairs to his room.  He remembered that his last tiny chocolate foil-wrapped egg was in the tote bag.  He emptied the books, but there was no sign of it.  Philip was convinced his mother had told the Easter Bunny to give him kale seeds, small pads, a few pencils and a small egg timer for counting practice.

“Mommy, have you seen my tiny egg from the Easter Bunny?  It was in library bag.  It’s gone!” 

“Philip, I hope you were not planning on having that candy.  That was not part of this arrangement.  You were to look at your dinosaur books, not eat chocolate!” 

Philip was instantly furious.  “I remembered when I was taking the books out.  The Easter Bunny only gave me two tiny eggs this year.  You let me eat one.  I was saving one for another day.  Kids sometimes want candy and treats.  Mommies do let their children eat candy sometimes!  They don’t want a timer and pencils from the Easter Bunny.  You told him to get those things.  You’re not fun.”  Philip closed his door and got on his bed.  He felt like crying when he thought about his day.  He couldn’t wait for school tomorrow.

“Young man, this behavior is unacceptable.  When you are ready to be civilized and apologize for your outburst let me know.” 

Philip whispered to himself, “You stink at being a mother.”

Charles, Philip’s father had been away on a business trip but was due home any minute.  Philip stayed in his room until he heard tires crunch on the gravel driveway. 

“Yay Daddy!  You’re home!”  He shouted at his dad out the window.

“Hey buddy, I missed you!  Come down for a bear hug.”

Philip flew down the stairs and jumped into his father’s arms. 

“Philip, you’ve grown a foot.  I have a surprise for you!”

His mother came into the hall.  “Is it a good idea to give him a present for being rude?” 

“Oh hi, Elizabeth.  How pretty you look,” Charles said, as he gave her a hug. 

Philip was happy to have his kind father back. 

“So what’s going on?  It’s good to be home.  Let’s go to Harry’s.  I’d love a burger.” 

“Can we listen to rock and roll there again, Daddy?

Rubbing Philip’s little shoulders, Charles said, “Why not?” 

Elizabeth was rearranging flowers and evening magazines on the coffee table.  Charlie went to her.  She looked so sad.  “Elizabeth, has something happened?  I know it was a long trip and you’ve had to do everything yourself.  It’s my last trip for months.  I have a surprise for you too.” 

Charles brought over a small box and handed it to Elizabeth, smiling. 

“Charles, I shouldn’t be getting a present.” 

“Don’t be silly.  Of course you should.” 

“Philip didn’t have school today.  The teachers had a convention so I took Philip to the Museum of Natural History.  It was so over his head.  I realize I’ve been making his life dull, filled with facts instead of fun.  What he wants is so simple.”  Elizabeth put out her hand to Philip, who took it quickly. 

“We’re happy now, right Mommy.  Are we, Mommy?” 

“We are,” she answered softly. 

They each opened their presents.  Elizabeth found a simple gold chain with a blue agate suspended from it.  Philip’s box contained red cowboy boots.  “Daddy, I love these.  They fit perfectly.”  He strutted around the house as if he had never worn anything else.

Philip touched the agate on his mother’s necklace.  “Hey, that lady at the museum was talking about stones like that, right Mommy?” 

“Philip, you’re right.  Agates were around at the same time as dinosaurs.” 

“Daddy that’s a perfect present for Mommy.  My boots are perfect, too.  I love them.” 

They all put on their jackets and went to Harry’s!  From his car seat, Philip could watch the backs of his parent’s heads.  Fast music was playing on the radio.  He knew for sure the right mother had brought him home from the hospital.

Written by: Anne Martine Cook, Managing Partner & Mom, with 35+ years experience teaching nursery school children.

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