I always felt it was my maternal duty to prepare my child to leave, um, er, to live a fulfilling life.

This series shares the lessons my son taught me, an inept mother, as we both survived experienced life as parent and child. Most often parents teach their children life-lessons that will prepare them for life; but since “motherhood” and “Lorna” were never meant to be uttered in the same sentence, Alex ended up teaching me valuable life-lessons. Maybe he learned manners, kindness, and chair-dancing from me. I’m sure these lessons will come in handy as he makes his way in this troubled economy.

Imagine the job opportunities... (click on the picture to see these guys in action)

For the first two installments, click here and here. The following lessons are more recent (double-digit years to just a few months ago).

*****

Hey, Alex, you hunk-a-boy-love, whatcha doin' at recess tomorrow? Meet me at the swing-set, 11:30, sharp.

Alex was quite a catch in 5th grade. He told me that a girl wanted to “go out” with him. We both looked uncomfortable.

“Who asked?”

“She did.”

Wow, girls are a lot different now than they were when I was growing up! I thought. “What does ‘going out’ even mean in 5th grade?”

Alex shrugged. “Holding hands?”

“Well, if you don’t know what it means, maybe you shouldn’t do it?” We were like Scooby-Doo and Shaggy: exploring a mysterious cave and nothing but question marks to lead the way.

“Yeah. Maybe. But I don’t want to hurt her feelings.”

“How about if I make a rule that you’re too young to ‘go out?’ That way you can blame me.”

Alex beamed. “Can you make the rule be no dating until I’m 16?”

“Done.”

MOMMY LESSON #7: Children may not ask you, but they want rules and guidelines from their parents. The world is a confusing place. Rules clarify some things, at least for a while.

*****

Dogs don't generally do this.

For someone who preferred dogs to cats, we had a lot of cats while Alex was growing up. We lived in a house that was Rodent Central, so cats seemed a more natural solution to home-invasion control than man-made deadly force contraptions or potions. Alex also loved kittens and cats; they loved him, too. Cats saw me as a claw-sharpening opportunity. Of the approximately nine cats that came in and out of our lives while Alex lived at home, he only got to name one of them. Several were adult adoptees who had names, but at least five came unnamed. Since felines were there because of Alex, he felt he should name them. All pet owners know how life-altering elemental important a pet’s name is to the entire family.

I tried to let Alex name these new members of our family. I did. But he was immersed in Lord of the Rings for a good part of his teen years. Imagine snuggling up with Aragorn or Boromir? If Frodo was a reptile, well, fine; but a fluffy kitten? Come on. I inevitably “suggested” more kitty-appropriate names over the years like “Dusty,” “Molly,” “Aussey,” and “Pudley.” He caught on and named one “Misty.” (We didn’t have all these cats at once, lest you think me a cat-hoarder).

Aw. Here little Aragorn, Boromir, and Legolas...

Each time I “won” the name-game, rejection flashed across Alex’s eyes. He got over his disappointment so quickly that, if I hadn’t been looking at him at that one moment, I’d never have known.

MOMMY LESSON #8: Let your children express themselves in harmless ways—like naming a kitten. Alex would have cuddled with Boromir, not me, although I would have taken little Legolas to the vet.

*****

Alex was never one to follow the crowd. His idea of “making a statement” was doing the opposite of what his peers were doing. If the “thing to do” was get drunk, smoke pot or cigarettes, or get a tattoo, Alex set himself apart by being “straight edge” and leaving art on canvas, not his skin. In 6th grade a kid offered him a cigarette. He refused and lectured the kid on the risks of smoking.

He’s currently got me hooked on the UK series, Dr. Who. I’m not quite the Whoserian that he is, but we talk at length about various episodes and actor preferences. David Tennant is his favorite iteration of Dr. Who. He may want to become David Tennant.

Guess who also has a "sonic screwdriver?"

A couple of months ago he told me of an exciting development in his life: he found a free pair of yellow Converse sneakers. Why the excitement? David Tennant/Dr. Who wears Converse sneakers of various colors on the series, yellow being one of the snazzier options.

Alex wore these sneakers out to dinner with his friend, who immediately noted them. “Alex, why are you wearing yellow sneakers? Aren’t you afraid people are going to stare at you?” His friend is more sensitive to the approval of others than Alex is.

“You’ll never know true freedom, my friend, until you’ve worn a pair of yellow Converse sneakers,” Alex replied, smiling broadly.

True Freedom!

MOMMY LESSON #9: Sometimes children turn out perfectly fine—sure of themselves—in spite of whatever you do (or don’t do) as a parent.

All in all, this motherhood thing seems to have worked out okay for both of us.