When I was growing up, my Dad lived 5 hours away. So my mom had to play both roles fairly often. She did it so effortlessly that I probably rarely thought about the toll it took on her or how difficult it was.
My mom made sure my brother and I always had nice things, clean laundry, and healthy meals. She made sure that we did our homework and that we realized the importance of work ethic. She made sure we played every sport and participated in every single activity for which we signed up. In fact, there were several times my mom ended up going to school and working full time while also coaching those teams. She coached tee ball teams. She coached cheerleading teams. She even coached a soccer team when she knew nothing about soccer, because none of the dads would volunteer to coach it. Which was amusing, because in spite of none of them volunteering their time, they all volunteered to line up to try to tell my Mom how to coach after failing to volunteer to do it themselves. In that instance, my mom taught me how to politely smile when people said stupid things, but also to always wear sunglasses outdoors in the event that you needed to roll your eyes at someone.
My mom led girl scout troops. 3 of them. There were up to fifty girls, and after she fought to get the elementary school cafeteria for our weekly meetings, one of the little girls, possibly her own daughter, pulled the fire alarm because all she (I) could read on the alarm was the word PULL. I followed those directions, because that was something else my mom taught me.
My mom taught me how to drive a car, even if that meant that she banged on the dashboard so hard that I often feared she would suffer burns after activating the airbag with the strength of her fists as they pounded the dashboard as an attempt to tell me to slow down. I did really well on my driver’s test, because driving with the instructor was nothing compared to driving with Janice. The DMV should seriously hire her.
My mom taught me how to ride my bike without training wheels. She even carried me 200 yards after I classically yelled, “LOOK MOM, NO HANDS!” Which, of course, ended in my bicycle hitting a huge rock and me skidding down the pavement face first after somersaulting through the air. My mom picked rocks out of my skin in spite of the sight of blood making her nauseous.
My mom hates meat, but when my brother and I were kids, she would attempt to cook hamburger even though the smell of meat made her sick, because my brother and I loved spaghetti. My mom did a load of laundry before she hit the bed every night no matter how tired she might be, because the idea of her children showing up to school or anywhere in dirty clothes made her soul ache. My mother did so many things as a parent that there were times when I thought she might have a clone. However, I now know that she doesn’t have a clone, because if she did, she would assign her second body to Kentucky so that my laundry would still always be clean.
My mother never minded in middle school when I would invite tons of girls over for slumber parties, and then volunteer her to drive us all to the local movie theatre. She just usually ordered us pizza and hoped that the whatever pranks we planned to pull were not on her. She was even calm the time that my friend Leslie jumped over the backseat to dive into the trunk of my mom’s SUV and Leslie managed to black her own eye on the corner of the back speaker.
My mom didn’t beat me when I was 19, and I told her I was pregnant. Probably because 19 is too late of an age to start spanking your daughter. She was just supportive and concerned. And when I became a single working parent and then decided to go back to school, I knew I could do it, because my mom did it with two kids. Surely I could do it with one. And I did, with lots of venting to Janice.
Also, my mother blew her knee out and had to get a total knee replacement jumping on the trampoline with me when I was 14. I can’t remember if she was helping me with a back-handspring, or if she was trying to be a spring chicken and do a toe touch. She hobbled around on crutches afterward. She kept working, she kept coaching, and she kept parenting. Because she’s Janice.
I’ve called my mom by her first name for the longest time. I think I picked up the habit being around so many other kids she was in charge of by way of coaching or leading in some way. But it stuck. There was once a time when someone told me it bothered them that I called my mom Janice, because it was disrespectful. I probably politely smiled and rolled my eyes to myself, because to know my mom is to respect her. And she has never told me to quit calling her Janice, because she knows that I respect her more than anything, and there many ways to respect your mother. I know plenty of people that call their mother mom and have no respect for her or really even themselves. But I respect Janice, because she is the best combination of parents that a girl could be lucky enough to get. Janice is strong, loving, and wise. She is the funniest person. She is persistent and reliable. She will put me in my place when I need it, and is usually accepting when the roles reverse.
Happy Father’s Day Janice. I’ll get all Bette Midler and tell you that you are the wind beneath my wings, even though it is now me that beats on the dash when you drive.