Parenting Gone Awry

And Then I Bought Myself A Rubber Snake

Before I could put the car in park, he was unbuckling his seat belt. We were at Sonic where he is allowed to climb into the front seat with me and eat his burger.   If it’s nice, I open the sunroof and it’s our own version of a picnic.  We’ve been picnicking at Sonic since he was two and it’s kind of our thing that we do together, a time when we talk.

Going to Sonic with Sean is special for me because I went there every Tuesday for lunch when I was pregnant.  I hosted a small Bible study at my house with four older ladies.  Afterward we’d all pile into one car and go to Sonic and have lunch.  They would fuss over me and give me advice.  It was like having four moms which I really needed at the time since my own mother was three states away.  Even at my advanced maternal age, I needed and craved mothering.

Later, when Sean was two and started a mother’s day out program, we’d go to Sonic after I picked him up.  With just the two of us in the car, I’d discreetly reach over and turn on my little voice recorder while he chattered away.  When I go back and listen to those conversations and hear that sweet baby voice it turns me into a big gloppy mess.

As we sat in the car waiting for our burgers, we watched the car hops whiz by on roller skates.  I looked at him standing up on the passenger’s side, peering out the front window.  Tall and skinny, his head almost touches the roof. But in my mind’s eye, I saw a little boy with long blond curly hair who couldn’t see over the dashboard.

I asked Sean if he remembered the time he spilled the blue coconut slush in my car.  He said he did.

“Do you remember that I yelled at you?” I asked, wincing and hoping he didn’t.

“Yeah.  I remember,” he stated as a matter of fact with no trace of lingering ill will.  “I bumped it over on the seat.”

“Well, I know I’ve said it before, but I’m really sorry.  I wish I hadn’t yelled at you.”

“That’s okay,” he said. “You’re getting to be a better mom and I’m getting better at being more careful.”

“Well, just the same, I’m sorry,” I said again, not so much because he needed to hear it but because I needed to say it.  Not a day goes by that I don’t think how I’d like to do it all over again, start over right from the day I found out I was pregnant.  I’d do it better this time. I wouldn’t yell.

After our picnic, I took him to Target to let him pick out a toy for no particular reason other than he’s been a really good and helpful boy lately.  We’ve done some stringent expense cutting at our house since before Christmas and he has not once complained.

When we arrived in the toy department, a bin of rubber snakes caught his eye.  For twenty minutes or more, he went through the entire nest of snakes, examining each one like a jeweler with a loop, looking for the most perfect and flawless of rubber snakes.

‘Which one do you like best?” he asks holding up a baby blue cobra and a lime green rattler.

“I like the green one,” I say.

“Oh,” he says flatly.  He looks from snake to snake and I can see on his face that he can’t make a decision. He wants them both.  But he doesn’t ask.

A minute passes.

“You need to pick one; we can’t get both,” I say sounding like a bonafide grown up.

“I just can’t decide,” he says and sighs heavily to convey that the decision is causing him a great deal of angst and pain.

Even though it’s only a $3 snake, to give in and let him have both would be a mistake. It would be a violation of our family’s new financial philosophy.  And I had already clearly stated that he could only have one.  I had to stick to it. And I hated that.

“Well, if you don’t mind,” I said, “I think I’ll buy the green one for myself.  I’ve been wanting a rubber snake.”

“Really?” he asks, bewildered.

“Yup. Always wanted one.”

I grab the green rattler from him.

“I didn’t know that,” he says narrowing his eyes in disbelief, waiting for the punch line.

We lock eyes. He searches my face to see if I’m yanking his chain. He cracks a little half smile, not quite sure about his wacko mother.

“Let’s go pay for these,” I say.

He reaches for my hand and we turn and head towards the front of the store towards the cashiers, each clutching our very own rubber snake.

89 thoughts on “And Then I Bought Myself A Rubber Snake

  1. You are so good. Don’t you love it when in that moment you did just the right thing? You may have some moments you regret (like yelling – don’t we all?) but in THIS moment, you were perfect.

  2. What a sweet story, even if it involved rubber snakes!

    I think the boys and I will start a Sonic tradition. Andrew and I went a lot when it was just him. We haven’t been so much since Will came along. Thanks for reminding me!

  3. Aw, you have made me verklemt! This is so much like some of the moments I have with my daughter. And I’ve made a couple similar apologies to her, and she accepts my past transgressions with the same lack of ill-will. I gotta go get me a tissue now!

  4. Your posts always make me miss my little red headed boy, who is getting ready to enlist in the marines.

    I sure do wish I could go back and do it over again – to erase my mistakes and soak up the countless sweet moments like the ones you have written about today.

  5. This is so precious. I suppose we all have moments we’d like to do over. Glad you had such a good day with your little man – and that you now have a snake of your very own. 🙂

  6. Sucker. 🙂 Yeah and I just bought my two year old granddaughter a set of drums. I said a “set” of drums, with cymbals, base, snare and of course the “sticks”. Not brushes (those a quieter). But to see the expression on her face as she played was well worth it.

  7. “That’s okay. You’re getting to be a better mom and I’m getting better at being more careful.” Your little guy is so sweet.

    My boy and I frequently go on little dates together. It definitely tops my list of favorite things to do.

    I love that you bought the green snake for yourself. You are a good Mom.

  8. “I sure do wish I could go back and do it over again – to erase my mistakes and soak up the countless sweet moments like the ones you have written about today.”

    Ditto Heidi, Ditto

  9. What a beautiful gesture. You’re such a wonderful and smart mommy.
    You know, if you have somewhere where you’d like to keep birds away, you can hang up your rubber snake and he’ll scare them off. My parents used to hang one in the middle of the garage to keep out the barn swallows who wanted to make messy nests in the corners when it was open….and it was open a lot.

  10. I just loved hearing this as I’m sipping my coffee. My little boy is 12 now, and I long so much to freeze frame the sweet (just you and I) moments that seem to be fewer these days. I know it is part of growing up, but I need to make more of a point of taking him alone (without my girls) to places like Sonic to just chat. Only our talk will be about guitars and 80’s music.

    Bless you and your little guy!

  11. I love hearing that someone else does the Sonic bit. Ours isn’t quite as much of a regular routine, but he LOVES getting to climb up to the front seat and eat his lunch. And the first time he got to do it, he was just in awe.

  12. Awww, how sweet! : ) To have those simple little days back! *sniff sniff*

    I know I hate it when I make ‘the rule’ and then I want to break it but I have to be ‘the good mom’ and keep the rules. Sometimes being the grown up isn’t all that fun! LOL

    I’m glad you got yourself a nice rubber snake though. Hope you like it. : )

  13. You are such an awesome mom! You’ve got me crying again today, I love to read your posts. Your son is so lucky to have you!

    * * *
    It’s I who is lucky. Sean, could do better. ~AM

  14. Awww. What a good Mommy you are! He’ll always remember the day you bought yourself a rubber snake. And if he doesn’t, you surely will.

  15. Awwww…I really needed that today! My little one was being a “challenge” as we like to say around here. I keep telling myself that tomorrow I’ll be a better mother. Your post reminds me that it’s today that counts.

    As soon as that little monster wakes up from his nap, he’s gonna get some serious snuggling from his also-antique mom!

  16. I used to take my little boy to Sonic too (he’s 24 now). He was living in another city for awhile but he’s just moved back home and has started a new job. He works nights, and I’m taking a half day of vacation today so I’ll think I’ll see if he wants to go to Sonic when I get home. Thanks!

  17. OK rubber snakes make great uses for:

    They do keep predators out of the garden.

    They do keep birds from nesting on your porch.

    However, user MUST remember to move them every 3rd day OR the birds/predators figure out they are rubber/fake becasue they DID NOT MOVE.

    We use them in Illinois. They work.

    wanted to let you know.

    (I think we use the plastic ones also when they were the only ones available)

  18. That is so precious.

    I would like to go back and do a few things differently myself. I tell you what. Being a mother is the most wonderful, but definitely the hardest job I’ve ever had. Good thing it pays so well!

  19. Well that made my eyes well up, and my nose run, and made my heart go pitter patter. Gosh, that was sweet!

  20. I loved this entry. What a great idea with the snakes. I could just imagine the look on his face when you told him you’ve been wanting one. Too funny.

  21. I feel so bad whenever I yell at my kids. I was never yelled at as a kid. Or very very rarely, and never by my mom. That’s true. It’s not that I’ve purged the memories; it’s that my mother is naturally a very calm and peaceful person, adores children, and doesn’t yell.

    A friend once said to me “but think what you’re doing for your own kids. You’re relieving them of that huge burden of guilt. They won’t feel as bad as you do, for yelling at their own kids. You’re doing them a favour.”

    I don’t completely buy that, but perhaps there’s something in it. I offer this to you as a guilt-reliever. I do realise that my mother is the unusual one, and it took me years to know that. I don’t have to feel quite so inadequate in comparison.

    * * *
    Same here Iota, no one yells in my family but me. And the great irony is that I HATE being yelled at. Hate it. And I hate myself when I yell at my child because it’s just so stupid and damaging. I am the youngest of three and I realized at some point that I was yelling to be heard, it was the only way I felt I could get anyone to listen.

    I took the Love and Logic parenting course a year or so ago and it changed me. No more yelling.

  22. Do you think you would have been such a good mom if you had had him at 24?

    * * *
    Me personally? No. But I see lots of 20-something moms who are doing an amazing job with their kids. ~AM

  23. Kudos to you. That was brilliant. We also have the ‘pick one’ rule and sometimes it’s hard, especially when it’s a very inexpensive item, to not get both finalists.

  24. Forget all the fancy Wii things, the video games, the car DVD players, ect ect ect…why do I know in my heart that two coveted rubber snakes and the joy they bring will last a lifetime when all else would be forgotten?

    * * *
    This morning Sean was talking to a little friend and trying to explain this silly game of chase that we do at our house where either I or AD carry Sean while running away from the other parent (you have to be there) and the little girl looked perplexed and said, “Well, we have a Wii.” And then Sean looked perplexed.

  25. Oh and we just found our yesterday that my son did not get an appointment to the Airforce Academy that he had worked so hard for and has been hoping and waiting for since Oct. He is handling it like a gentleman, but oh. The look of disappointment on his face. Made me wish for the time when a rubber snake would have made him feel better.

  26. Please write a book. I will buy it. I’m an antique mom myself and you encourage and challenge me with each post. Thanks.

  27. I love it! I hope I can think that quickly on my feet for my little boy. I would put that snake in a most special place that you can see it every single day for the rest of your life. 🙂

  28. A friend sent me a link to your site this week and I’ve returned several times because, well … reading about your life beats living my own. 😀 Anyhow, as a mom to a growing-up-way-too-fast-son, I think this is a wonderful story! I love it!!!

  29. He picked out a rubber snake. I love that. The imagination he is developing with his (and your) rubber snakes is worth its weight in gold (far more than $3).

    I give Anja old spice tins, pieces of ribbon, and plastic pill bottles with beans inside for toys. She loves them, often much moreso than the expensive Christmas or birthday gifts with lights and sounds. A little stuffed dog that was mine in college is her current favorite companion, and he receives more than his fair share of “milk” from that pill bottle. 🙂

  30. I owned a fleet of matchbox cars for the very same reason. He was only allowed to choose one. And then everyone in the family could choose one. Sometimes we shared ours with him. And sometimes not. That way he never took it for granted. My special one stayed on a shelf and he left it alone. Nice Story!!!

  31. Loved that. I think I’m going to have to get out the videos of our children when they were young so I can hear their sweet voices. I didn’t think to make audio tapes. That’s a great idea to pass on to mothers of young children. I think I finally need to get around to interviewing my aging parents, too! Thanks again!

  32. I too wish that I could take back all the times I yell(ed) at my kids. I know that there aren’t do-overs, but I’m thrilled that there are start-agains.

    And instead of snakes, I get to do the same thing with clothes for The Girl now. Buying more than one dress/shirt adds more than just more laundry to the pile…

  33. Good job, A.M.! I’ll have to remember that move when I am in a similar predicament. You’re a good mommy!

  34. You are an amazing Mother well on your way to “raising a truly great kid!”-( name of a conference I went to last weekend!)
    carla

  35. Thanks for sharing a wonderful story! For the record – I wish that I could go back in time and erase all the times I’ve yelled about spilled milk and gobs of wet toilet paper in the bathroom sink and butter smeared all over the kitchen cabinets and . . .

  36. I don’t know why, but this post made me all teary. Lately, I guess I’m really feeling how quickly my boys have grown up…how much they don’t need me anymore…and worrying that I missed something really wonderful or important along the way while I was so busy being an adult. Good for you for buying the snake! That’s the stuff your Sean will remember…not that you yelled at him over the spilled blue coconut slush.

  37. Oh gosh, I hope I remember this someday when I need to pull it out. Let’s just hope it’s not a rubber snake. Hmmm, maybe I should say I hope it’s *just* a rubber snake knowing my little gal!

    Thank you for this amazing post.

    Kiy

  38. That is so sweet. My youngest boy is 6 years old and I always think of him when I read about you and Sean. He is 3 years younger than the next oldest child, so when the rest of the kids were in school we had a few years of just us hanging out. He is in first grade right now and I really miss having my little buddy around. Savor every day!

  39. As I was sitting in church last night, we prayed for our families. I thought over my mistakes when my 3 boys were growing up. I wish I could do it over again. I was too busy, working, cleaning, cooking, bathing, laundry, mending, all things that needed doing, but I wish I had a few minutes right now just to play with each one. As they are now 37, 33 and 27 it might be a little hard to get them to play with me. But then I read your post and we did have moments like that. Thank God. We had one last night after church when middle son invited us all for supper and then we played cards. Not exactly like snakes but good enough.
    That was a good decision mom – you are doing well.
    I find it strange that I was thinking the same thing (past mistakes) and then your post said it for me. Maybe I did do ok.

    Hugs,
    Marie

  40. I, too, regret all the times I have yelled at my girls. I remember when my oldest was about 4, and I had yelled at her and taken away her favorite toy. She is now nearly 19, and I can’t remember anymore the exact reason for having done that, but what I do remember is when I gave the toy back to her about a week later, how excited and thrilled she was to have it back. She threw her arms around me and gave me the biggest hug and thanked me over and over for giving it back to her. I remember thinking how much I did not deserve that hug at that time, because I was still feeling so guilty for having yelled at her and taking that toy away from her. Now she is all grown up, and I’m sure she has forgotten all about it, but I still haven’t.

  41. I reread this again this morning and remember this weekend what happened with my 19 month old. He was about to tip over a bucket full of toys that we keep in our masterbedroom, but we were in a hurry to go somewhere. Without really thinking, both my husband in unison said, “No JK, do NOT tip the bucket over!” We said it loudly, forcefully, and impatiently. He looked up at us with the biggest eyes that started welling over and his little chin started trembling. I knew instantly that we shocked and scared him and hurt his feelings. We had overdone it.

    *sigh*

    Will I EVER get this right?!?!

    I immediately got on my knees to hug him and apologize. I felt awful. Still do. He’s a baby doing what babies do – explore! He truly had no idea why he got yelled at. THANK GOD FOR GRACE! My prayer now is that I give to my tiny son, what I’m given everyday so freely.

  42. You know that scripture that talks about older women teaching younger?
    I learn so much from you, from your blog. I have my own precious priceless 4 year old boy so I can relate to so much of your writing, but you cause me to think more intently about my parenting. Little Sean must feel so loved. I want my boy to feel that too. And thanks for admitting you have yelled and overreacted. Me too. Thank goodness for the forgiveness of children.

  43. I know I’ve said it before, but your son is very lucky to have you as a mother. You’re clearly quite thoughtful and aware of the memories you’re creating as well as the lessons you’re teaching. I hope you both had fun with your new rubber snakes!

  44. It’s those little moments that make up a life of no regrets…another example of the ” power of small!”

    Lisa

  45. I yell, and I refuse to feel guilty about it. It’s sometimes the only way I can be heard in this house, frankly. I think there is a place for yelling. LOL.

    Even so, you are the bomb, AM. I love this post.

  46. Just yesterday at Wally World, I bought myself a beautiful Easter dress . . . it had wonderful purple flowers on it, a cute little purple half sweater thing, and it twirls like nothing else you’ve ever seen.

    Princess was disappointed for me when she saw that it didn’t fit me – she asked if she could go with to take it back. I’m not quite a size 6 anymore . . . not in adult or little girl clothes. Amazingly, it fit her perfectly.

    And she looks a lot better twirling in it than I would have anyway 😉

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