My mother often tells me how rebellious I was. Like I need her to tell me. My adolescence was spent trying to thwart her every disciplinary tactic. I did not — and still don’t — like being told what to do. I didn’t go quite as far as the “Live fast, die young” motto, but I liked to think I was close.

I’m a Taurus. We’re notoriously stubborn. But I think it goes deeper than that. I’m just hard-wired to resist authority.

Over the years, I’ve mellowed. Growing up hasn’t always been easy, but I’ve learned to accept that parking tickets have to be paid and bosses appeased.

Becoming a mother has been a huge part of this growing “up”. I’m often humbled by the task of raising children, as it brings me to a place beneath fire and brimstone to just being open.

The boychild, now 6, has inherited my inner rebel. He’s been telling me for years now that he wants to be “the boss of me.” Tonight, while reading The Little Prince to him in bed, he repeatedly asked me what the word “authority” means.

Thankfully, he listens to me when I attempt to steer him in the appropriate direction. Because discipline, at this point, is still primarily about behavior that’s “socially acceptable.”

As in, please don’t whip out your diddly bits out in public. Please try not to pick your boogers and eat them. Try sitting down at the table to eat your dinner.

It’s strange, at times, to be “the authority” figure in my child’s life. I’m more comfortable in the realm of play than doling out disciplinary tactics, especially as I haven’t got that seemingly natural knack French women possess of keeping children “in their place.”

And while my son’s rebellious cravings sometimes scare me, it also puts a smile on my face. I recognize his independent spirit. I admire it. I hope he can channel it to some greater creative good. And it reminds me of my younger, more fiery self.

There’s not much in my immediate universe to successfully rebel against any more, unfortunately. Sure, I can advocate for reform in areas of the broader political and social landscape — I’m always signing petitions against those evil overlords Monsanto, for instance — but standing up for what I believe in doesn’t quite invoke the same pleasure that my 15-year-old self took in slamming a door in my mothers’ face.

Where, oh where, can I stage rebellion today, and not be either locked up or shunned by my local community?

Don’t laugh, but it occurred to me while writing this post, that after my recent mini-rant about twitter parties, perhaps my rebellion lies within the walls of social media. Has anyone actually staged a twitter sit-in? Or a twitter strike? Forced the tweeting masses to go on a twitter holiday?

Oy. The idea bores and intrigues me at the same time. I just have this thing about twitter that I’m resisting conquering. What is it? Am I just a lazy technophobe? Do I secretly want to use twitter but don’t know how, thus presenting a hearty defense mechanism to the world? Or does some elemental part of me deeply resist the reduction of thought into sound bites?

Probably all of the above.

Please share your thoughts on rebellion and authority with me, while I drum up some more worthy strategies for mid-life rebellion.

I just returned from the BlogHer conference, a fabulous gathering of  about 5,000 strong, unique, entrepreneurial and creative women bloggers.

Whew! I’m fried. And yet all that estrogen has given me an appetite. Now that I’m home, I’m chilling in front of the Olympics, watching women with crazy bodies pump a ball across a net, while I snarf down a turkey sandwich.

Is it possible to feel energized and lobotomized at the same time? Because that’s my state of mind.

I met some wonderful women — not only mommy bloggers, but women who blog about issues that haven’t, I confess, entered my mind since I became a mother to 2. I met women who blog about: mid-life transitions; parenting kids who’ve flown the coup; life after divorce; how to live on a depression-era budget; and more!

I also learned that I must must — despite being a luddite at heart — TWEET. And set up a Facebook page for my blog. I have to admit that the idea of throwing a twitter party seems like the work of the devil to me. Call that a party, chained to a laptop and a bunch of hashtags? I’d rather be engaging in in-person chit-chat, and making my way slowly through a pitcher of sangria.

Ah, well. Sigh. These are the times we live in. I must adapt!

Martha Stewart spoke at lunch, and though I was prepared to give her the thumbs down (I’m sure I’ve just nixed my chances of ever blogging for her now…), I actually appreciated how herself she was. No pretense. Though she conveniently avoided discussing how her jail stint fits into her personal brand.

And I found myself wondering — just what has given her such drive to succeed? I know I’m not supposed to ask these questions — because we don’t ask them of successful men — but as a woman and a mother, I’m always curious. Part of me envies that kind of ambition, but a greater part of me knows I could never leave my children at home to be raised 100% by someone else. Which isn’t to say it’s wrong. No, not at all. I’m just curious about what it is that drives her. Fear of failure? Fear of poverty? A desire to rule the world?

Thoughts?

Then, there was Katie Couric. I have to admit that I just adore her. And secretly covet her job. Apart from her filmed colonoscopy. Bless her. Driven by telling people’s stories, she just has this knack of creating and finding empathy and connection. Which is what I eventually hope to accomplish with my blog and the interviews I’ll be sharing with women who are looking back on raising children from an older, wiser perspective.

My personal icing on cake was being back in New York, which will always feel like home, congested and dirty and smelly and humid as it is in Summer. I even managed to pop across the street to the MoMA store to buy treats for the hordes at home, who apparently rather missed me 🙂

When I got home, the boychild gave me a unicorn he’d painted for me at Plaster Fun Time, decorated in rainbow hues of pink and purple. He used “girl” colors he said, “just for me.”

The boychild paints his unicorn, while Miss B paints creates a jolly green Dora.

Melt.

Last week, I took Miss B to the dentist.

Her maiden voyage.

Yes, that’s her, looking adorable in her upside-down sunglasses, while I contort gracefully in the background.

And that’s her somewhat-dishy-minus-the-metrosexual-haircut dentist on the right.

Who insisted on calling me “mom” throughout the entire visit.

“Ok, mom, just make sure she’s not using the pacifier quite as much.”

“No cavities, mom. Great job.”

Really?

You’re going to call me “mom”?

Do I look like your mom?

Because you sure as hell don’t look like my son. I estimate you’re about 28, which means I would have had you at 13. Which is illegal in first world countries. And much though I imagined myself at 13 as a woman of the world, accompanying  Simon Le Bon around the world and serving as his muse, in reality, I was home, picking my spots and studying the timeline of the Normal Conquest.

Mom.

Do I not have a name?

How about “Melissa”? Or even “Mrs. Woodman?” Hell, “Ma’am” would suffice and make me think you were raised by a nice Southern woman.

But “mom?”

And what kind of mom am I, pray tell? Betty Draper? June Cleaver? Peg Bundy? Joan Crawford?

Or are we all the same? So easily categorized? A Tiger mom? A Helicopter mom? Or a Soccer mom?

I suppose I’m grateful that you didn’t call me “Madam”, which though, in certain contexts has appeal (“Madam, you’ve been very naughty and how shall I spank you?), in most (“What size hosiery is Madam looking for?”) does not.

Dude, I know you’re but a dentist, but please get more creative next time.

You could try making me laugh, for instance, by greeting me as “Hey, the poop meister’s here!” Mature? No. But guaranteed to set me off guard, at least.

Or charm me. “Mi’Lady” could take you to places you never dreamed of.

But “mom?”

Not even my husband gets that one past me. I’m mom only to my kids, and very occasionally, to Viktor, our cat.

That’s it.

It is hot.

Weather advisories tell us there is a heatwave afoot.

Our plants are wilting (plant-killer that I am, I  blame our friendly star, the sun) and tempers are rising.

If we had access to air conditioning, our troubles would lessen.

Not for the plants. With me as a caretaker, they’re screwed whether they have access to cool breezes or not.

But for us humans. If only. If only.

Luckily, our apartment, being on the garden level, stays relatively cool, compared to those who foolishly inhabit penthouse suites.

And yet, limbs and bodily crevices still sweat, leaving a sheen matched only by the tiles in the shower.

The journey from home to car seems to transport us into the mindset of the ancients.

We trudge in sandals, swatting imaginary flies, carrying our chattel up the pathway and across the street to the Honda Civic chariot, which, in a cruel twist of fate, has a busted air conditioning system which its owners have not yet fixed, in the hopes of affording a bigger, newer vehicle.

We settle our chattel into their respective harnesses in the back seat, cringing while fastening the hot, black safety systems in place.

“Owwwwww!” the 2 year old screams, bangs plastered to her forehead.

“I can’t get the seatbelt in,” the 6 year old growls.

The heat in the Honda chariot, in our home, on the streets…has seeped into our consciousness like a serpent.

Should we find the nearest escape, and spend all day at the air conditioned Children’s Museum? Aquarium? TJ Maxx?

Or should we embrace the fact that in this relentless heat, we might as well be living in some long-forgotten civilization, 20 or 30 BC, before cellphones, televisions and air conditioning blighted our existence with distraction and relief.

The former would be a practical solution.

The latter, infinitely more fun.

I could don a white toga, gold sandals (Jimmy Choos, please) and braid my hair on top of my head like a Grecian goddess.

I could revel in the heat as hubby feeds me grapes and we feast on wild boar.

I could pretend I am an ancient queen, suffering in the desert as my troops build a gigantic monument in honor of mummies who mummy in the heat. A bad-tempered Sphinx in Spanx.

And then I could invoke a dramatic climax to the summer, clasping an asp to my chest in protest.

Wait. What am I thinking? An asp?

What is this? My life? Shakespeare? Myth? Or reality?

Time to drink a tall, cool glass of lemonade, reapply deodorant, and get dinner on the table.

My gorgeous madre

I decided to interview my own mother on her choices and discoveries along the path of parenting. 

My mother and I fought constantly when I was a teenager. I am a free-spirited soul, and she is more controlling — a result, in part, of having grown up in a fraught household run by feuding parents.

I had wanted a mother who baked cookies, lounged around in sweats and enfolded me in her warm and ample bosom. My mother couldn’t be further from the stereotype I’d created in my head of the ideal mother. My mother is a brilliant and beautiful intellectual, who’s above all, a pragmatist.

For many years, I felt confined by her, unseen — hampered by a narrative of mutual misunderstanding. I felt she didn’t give me what I needed. For instance, after college, she encouraged me repeatedly to go to law school. Couldn’t she see that I was an artiste??!  And that becoming a lawyer made as much sense in my life as having a sex change?

Then, when I was preggers with the boychild, I asked her if she thought I’d make a good mother. When she replied, “Darling, you’re a wonderful woman — you don’t need validation as a mother,” I wanted to throttle her. Why couldn’t she just tell me what I wanted to hear?

It’s no coincidence that I finally understood — deeply — just how much my mother loves me, when I became a mother myself. None of us are perfect. We all have hopes and dreams for our children. My mother wanted me to become a lawyer because, for her generation, such a profession signaled  independence, intellectual challenge, and financial success. And hell, after working for years in the non-profit world, I realized that maybe being a lawyer could have actually created some positive change in the world.

We all know that motherhood isn’t a picnic. We love our children, but we don’t always get it right. We don’t always manage to see our children for who they are, especially when we want them to fall in line with the routines we’ve created for them (“Working on recreating the Sistine Chapel in Crayolas? Too bad! It’s dinner time!”)

It may sound trite, but over time, I’ve realized that my mother loves me as who she is — not what I want her to be. Which is a good life lesson for any relationship. We can’t change the people we love and who love us back. But we can be grateful for the good, and forgive our disappointments.

Today, I’m relieved to say that while my mother and I disagree on much politically and socially, I think we’ve established greater intimacy and understanding. And I’ve indeed learned to even enjoy my mother’s intellect, energy, beauty and pragmatic view of the world. 

Read on.

As a mother, what are you most proud of?

First: I am most proud of the fact that I managed to stay the course and do the best I could, even when I didn’t feel up to it; give my children the best start in life; provide a first class education; keep standards high; impart morals and values (my proudest accomplishment); and keep sane and trim!!!!!

As a mother, if you could do anything over, what would it be?

I wish I could have done things differently with my own mother, who was ill-prepared to be a mother and had many needs that I could not possibly recognize.  I would have been more generous minded with her, more forgiving, as SHE KNEW NOT.  

Perhaps I would have spent more time with her, and been more patient.  It was difficult because I felt so let down by her during my childhood and adolescent years. I felt I never had the proper mentoring.  However,  if I had her here today, I would say, “Thank you for making me depend on myself, learn to be stronger, and take responsibility — even when I don’t want to.”

What is your advice to new mothers?

Do the best you can. Don’t be bullied by trends and other people’s opinions.   Read books but use your own judgement.  You probably know what is best for your baby and for you. Have a very very good baby doctor!!!!  Remember your husband!  Keep him close.  Keep him happy. Keep him important. He is very necessary to everyone’s well being.  Don’t sideline him.  Have some quiet time together, a glass of wine, a cuddle and a giggle.

What was your biggest challenge as a mother?

Biggest challenge?  Other parents. School Authorities. My personal challenge was to keep my daughters from getting hurt in ways that cannot be righted, even when you know that it is inevitable that they will experience pain.  So I tried to give you survival skills.

What was the most important lesson about parenting that you learned along the way?

That you don’t always get thanked for the good things that you do.  As a parent you learn to give and give and give again, and that is what inevitably makes you happy.   Seeing your children grow up successfully  is one of life’s greatest pleasures.  Biggest lesson:  That you must not seek popularity with your children, you must seek what is right for them.

What can women do for themselves to help themselves be better mothers?

Everyone learns from others.  You watch your friends.  You listen to their view of things.  Try new methods.  Get help when you need it.   When your patience wears thin, try a time out from your children.  There is nothing wrong with some so called “me time” and a bit of space.  You will be a better mother if you refresh yourself now and again, doing things that are creative and interesting with adults.

How do you think being a mother changed you?

I am not sure motherhood changes a woman’s character.  But I think it made me a fuller person with a broader perspective.  Motherhood made me less self absorbed, and more receptive to new ideas and challenges.

I remember an older woman telling me that all you needed was Love.  I have pondered that for many decades.  What kind of love?  Motherhood makes many demands on our emotional resources that we had never previously imagined.  It forces you to think about things in a different way.  But Love has always been, at the end, the root of solutions to parenting challenges.  Motherhood makes you aware ever more of that old Christian adage, “Love the sinner, hate the sin.”

What is one of your first memories of becoming a mother?

My first memory was seeing my daughter (you!), fresh out of the oven, empurpled from a long labour, her head elongated, but with the most perfect little face, the most beautiful brown eyes, and the most elegant long arms and legs and thinking, “This is mine, and I am responsible for her.”  I was engulfed in a huge wave of enduring love.  This was the basis of the strength of my commitment to make the best possible world for you.

What’s the most important lesson you learned about life, in being a mother?

I am still learning about being  a mother by being the mother of two mothers.  Important lesson: Never give up! Certainly being a mother is the most challenging profession of all.  Everyone is different. As my old friend Justine who had three daughters once said to me when I asked her how she managed to keep them from getting into trouble, doing their homework, and being reasonable citizens –she said, and I quote, “A lot of it is luck!!!”

I believe in luck to some extent — who your children meet in school, the types of parents, the culture of the times and most importantly the children themselves, that they are healthy.  A parent can make their own good luck by educating themselves and being able to make informed choices for their children and not being passive when they need to be active.