I was at Jewel the other day when I saw her. I could spot her from across the produce section. Not anyone I know, but I do indeed know her. In fact, I’ll bet you know her too.
More cloying than Craft Mom, more insidious than Volunteer Mom, Education Mom was there wheeling her cart through the carrots and peppers, and I needed peppers, so I had no choice. I had to get close. Close enough to hear.
“Okay. Breathe,” I told myself. “Be Zen. Be positive. You might even learn something.” I looked at the glazed expression plastered onto the face of the helpless two-year old restrained in Education Mom’s cart. Maybe not.
I swallowed and guided my cart slowly over. It was her all right. All smiles. Talking and talking. And talking. Using that sing-songy voice, educating her little prisoner.
“Look Emily, here’s a cucumber. Cucumbers are green. Can you say green?”
“Emily! Here’s a tomato. Tomatoes are red. Red!”
“Look Emily, a psychotic-eyed blonde woman hitting mommy upside the head with a bag of carrots. Carrots are or—”
Thwump. So much for my Zen-minded shopping experience. I watched Education Mom slump to the floor.
Okay, I behaved badly, but what I want to know is, since when does everything in a child’s life have to be about education? Maybe it happened when Harvard raised its admissions standards, but you can count me out. I want to raise happy children. Children that can entertain themselves. Children comfortable with silence. But mostly just children that won’t turn sixteen and try to kill me in my sleep.
My lackadaisical attitude toward education in the grocery store might have something to do with the fact I have twins. When they were babies, I had to carry one in a backpack and the other in the shopping cart while racing through the store accumulating a week’s worth of groceries and diapers before one of them started crying or my back went out.
The terrible two’s were worse. I had to be faster. It was the only way to prevent an out of control accumulation of unbidden items in my cart. Telling my boys that cucumbers were green and tomatoes were red seemed a lesson best saved for another day. I didn’t have the energy or time to begin grooming them for the Ivy League. I was too busy celebrating each day that went by without a casualty. It was even more cause for celebration if my children escaped unscathed as well.
So I didn’t spend hours waving black and white toys back and forth at my babies, but I do have two well-adjusted boys now. They’re smart. They’re doing well in school. And they don’t need constant entertainment from me.
God gave me twins for a reason. To save me from ever becoming Education Mom. Perhaps if I were alone in the produce section with little Emily, I might be pruning her for Harvard as well as picking the perfect bunch of arugula. And maybe that’s the basis for my irritation with Education Mom; she reminds me that no matter how much I do for my kids, there’s always someone out there who will make me feel like I should be doing more.
It doesn’t change my opinion, however, that childhood should just be childhood—not a constant opportunity for learning or academic advancement. I know all Education Moms must mean well. After all, who doesn’t want the best for their children? For them to excel, to fulfill their dreams, be all they can be. Perhaps my kids’ only way into Harvard will be to buy it with their inheritance—the one they get after turning sixteen and killing me in my sleep—because, instead of being a good Education Mom, I was Lackadaisical Grocery Store Mom, and they couldn’t get into the college of their choice.
Even so, I guess I can find it in my heart to tolerate Education Mom. She’s only trying to do what she thinks is best. But if you’re ever in the produce section and you see a psychotic-eyed blonde woman glaring at you with a bag carrots in her hands, watch out.