“If you REALLY need to take a day off from school, just tell me and you can take it off. Don’t fib and pretend you’re sick.” My mom’s attitude was foreign to most mothers. Imagine a teacher giving her children such freedom.
Guess how many days I missed because I needed “a day off from school”.
None. Zip. Zero.
Amazing what freedom does to one’s attitude.
Mother knew her kids. We were creations of curiosity who couldn’t fathom missing out on what our friends were up to. After all, instant and constant communication with each other took place at school. Phones were still a luxury. Communication meant gathering at Mah Lun’s restaurant for a coke after school. With the Cafe located in the middle of our little hamlet, residents could walk past and wave at patrons. Everyone knew each other.
Knowing my mother, it would have been social suicide to stay home from school, then show up at the Cafe with friends afterwards. She made sure we had a grasp on consequences. On one hand, she made me feel like a grown-up, but when I weighed the choices she presented, none of them were totally hanging on the side that favoured me.
So, staying home from school meant being H O M E. Otherwise, we’d hear our mother’s dreaded words that injected shivers into our youthful spines, “The Ban’s On!”
“The Ban’s On!” – ever followed by consequences worse than a death knell for the young: isolation from friendship, favourites, fun and freedom.
The Ban meant something stopped – not now…but five minutes ago. No negotiation.
We had no defense. She must have had too many sneaky, devious, conniving and deceitful students who honed her x-ray vision. Before we could voice any scheme, she’d hand us an opportunity to dispose of it. The threat of penalties rolled out of her teacher-brain faster than coins from a winning slot machine. She tried to hide expressions hinting of a winner’s adrenaline rush.
I really disliked her consequences. I’d drop any deceptive plan fast – I knew I wasn’t going to beat The Ban.
Did my mother help invent that phrase?
As I left the house, I’d hear, “You decide, Darling.” She didn’t even have to pause or take her eyes off her book to send those chills up my backbone.
I remember the first time I thought I could beat The Ban. Even though she was one of the messiest people I knew, she said to me during my early teen years, “The Ban’s on. If you don’t hang up your clothes, you’re telling me you don’t need them.”
“I’ll pick them up when I do my laundry!” I said. While at high school, I worked part time so I could buy the kind of clothes I wanted. Her threatening comment had two strikes against it in my opinion…’her house’ was a mess and I bought my own clothes.
Apparently my reasoning was override-able. My favourite pair of Jeans and the best top EVER disappeared with the rest of the items that had been lining my closet floor for a couple of weeks. Apparently she had another priority.
“Mom! That’s totally unfair. You had no right to touch my stuff! Especially when I buy it myself!”
“As a mother, it’s my right to raise my children to be respectful.”
What’s the result? To this day, hanging up my clothes is a priority – taught by a mother who could non-nonchalantly waive her own domesticity to one side with the flick of a new page to read.
And for the first time, thanks to my mother, I’m giving myself a day off from school TODAY. I’ve been doing exactly what I want and like, in my time and in my way.
And Mom? Today I actually Beat The Ban. I skipped school AND included some ‘friend’ time. I trust the angels and you will approve: