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Signs Of Life

Columns by Pamela Majteles

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Three-Card Monte

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Posted by pam on January 14, 2011 at 10:47 pm

Originally published May 1, 2009

Reprinted with permission from Bay Area News Group – East Bay

I’m not the perfect mother. If I were perfect, I would hand my clothes over to my teenage daughter whenever she asks to borrow them. But I don’t. Instead I make up fibs, hoping to dissuade her.

“You don’t want to wear my green sweater. It’s really itchy.”

Previously, anything of mine that my daughter wanted, I gladly gave to her. If she desired my last sip of water, I gave it to her, even when I was thirsty. All those times she forgot her umbrella in the drenching rain, I relinquished mine, allowing myself to get wet. Whenever my daughter needed anything in the middle of the night, I was there for her, at the expense of my sleep.

Without any qualms, I’ve given everything I have to her. Until now.

These days, she’s a teenager who wants to borrow my clothes. She’s constantly asking for a scarf, jacket, shirt or sweater of mine. Instead of giving it to her, I waffle: “I think my sweater might be dirty.” Or I hedge: “If my sweater is clean, possibly you could wear it.” Or I just lie: “It’s really itchy.”

These responses come automatically, with no thought or effort, taking me by surprise. I’m discovering a skill that I never knew I had. Perhaps there’s a future for me, setting up a table on the street for a fast game of three-card Monte with people passing by.

I’d really like to respond by shrieking, “No, you can’t have my clothes because they’re mine!” (And I’d stomp my foot at the same time.)

Being a mother, I selflessly give to my kids all the time – it comes with the job and I do it without a second thought. But, every once and awhile, a request comes along that’s just too much.

If I was being honest, I’d tell my daughter, “It will be a snowy day in Oakland before I give my favorite sweater to you.” However, I’m unable to say it, because when I’m not being a selfless mother, I feel like a guilty mother – that comes with the job too.

Until I’m ready to tell it like it is, I’m keeping up the act. So when my daughter asks to wear my peach t-shirt, the one with the perfect fit, I dodge: “I’m not sure where it is.” Or I evade: “I’m unclear which peach shirt you mean.” I even try to distract: “I can’t believe what happened on American Idol last night.”

So far, my behavior hasn’t deterred my daughter from asking. She keeps trying. (I have to believe she’d lose everything at three-card Monte.)

But it could be she knows more than I do. Consider her life time of experience. She has every reason to believe I’d give her the shirt off my back.

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 License.

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