Caillou’s Mommy, I am not

Aug 7, 2008Archive

This is a re-working of a story in Ordinary Mom, Extraordinary God. I pray it brings a chuckle today.


As a child I’d utter platitudes like, “I’m going give my children freedom.” As a teen I decided I’d never say “because I said so” when my children whined down the hallowed aisle of Captain Crunch. When my friends started marrying and birthing, I added, “and I won’t lick their drippy ice cream cones either.”

If Caillou had been around in my pre-children era, I would’ve smugly modeled myself after the PBS character’s perfect parents who gently scold their bald-headed toddler. “Caillou, it’s not nice to scribble all over Mommy’s alabaster shag carpet with Sharpie pens. Here, draw on mommy’s inkjet paper. What? You don’t want to? How about a nice carrot stick?” Every time Caillou whines, his parents skillfully redirect him, negotiate with him and offer fun alternatives to painting his sister with pancake batter.

Now, that’s parenting.

After all the pithy vows, I birthed some children—children who asserted their freedom with mismatched shoes, whined decibels down the Captain Crunch aisle, smeared their t-shirts with bubblegum ice cream, and colored themselves with Sharpie markers (or in the case of my son, smeared his entire head with Vaseline.)

Still clinging to my freedom vow, I let my preschool daughter choose library books. Delighted by independence, she piled several volumes into her bag. That night, hubby Patrick nestled next to her and retrieved a hardback entitled Daddy’s in the Big House about a child visiting his father in prison. So much for freedom!

“Because I said so” is now an integral part of my parental vocabulary; I have determined to use it as much as possible. There’s a certain privilege in being an adult—I had to endure that comment, so, by golly, my children will have to. When they grow up, they can irritate their own children. It’s a generational thing.

Although I vowed to be one of those mothers who shunned sugar in lieu of carrot sticks (Thanks, Caillou’s mom), I’ve since learned the wisdom of using sweets for pacification. Wal-Mart has cookies. The bank, bless its financial heart, has Dum-Dums. The deli has free ice cream. (I make Patrick lick the dripping cones.) I now view these sweets as a blessed life raft in a sea of irrational children.

In an act of parental solidarity, Patrick and I have banned Caillou. Those parents make us feel guilty for our impatience. We’ve come to the universal conclusion that there is no magic vow that creates perfect children—or parents, for that matter. All we can do is love them desperately . . . and hand them a sucker when they whine.

It’ll keep us all from voluntarily incarcerating ourselves in The Big House.