A story about how my husband negated the role I had wanted to play as a mother to two boys:
Not too long ago, my husband and two lovely boys cooked up the notion that we should be one of “those” households with a pet snake.
Ahhhh, a snake.
I am not a snake girl. At all. I was not particularly fond of this idea. Plus, we already have a dog and several goldfish. That seemed plenty enough to me.
But, no, we had to have a snake.
“It’ll be good for the boys,” encouraged my husband. “Boys need a reptile. I had a snake. It was AWESOME.”
“Please, mom, please!” begged the boys. “PLEASE?!?!”
This seed was planted a few months ago, and each male in my house took turns with the watering can until I grew fresh green buds of weakness and allowed them to drag me up to PetSmart to look at serpents of various sorts.
Younger son — the child who would share his room with our snake — locked eyes with a small California Corn. This was “the one.”
Admittedly, the snake wasn’t too bad. Almost cute, in a very strange way.
It looked just like this:
I decided I might be able to handle it. Maybe. And I had time to mentally prepare because my husband wanted to be sure that one of the fish tanks we already owned could be properly converted to a snake hotel; he also wanted to be sure this was not just another whim, but something the boys really did want, and were willing to take care of. So, we initiated a period of waiting and (for me) psychological adjustment.
Fast forward two months.
My husband felt the boys were in fact ready to handle a snake. He also insisted the now- empty and thoroughly cleaned fish tank would be perfect for our new pet. I felt appropriately adjusted to the notion, mostly.
So last Saturday the three men went to pick up a snake.
I was home when they came back with their new purchase. I walked downstairs to greet them, feeling quite pleased with myself. I am pretty cool, I thought. I’m the mom who let her boys get a snake!
This was a big deal to me, because I sensed it was the turning point at which I was finally the kind of “mom to two boys” I had always wanted to be, but hadn’t quite mastered:
I hate spiders.
I don’t like camping, or any kind of “roughing it.”
I don’t care much for sports.
I don’t like anything to be dirty or cluttered or unorganized.
(I’m a real barrel of laughs, eh? I am fun, actually, and I will prove it in future posts. No time now. Just trust me here).
So…..the snake was my peace offering. My way to make up for ways I may have fallen short before. I was actually kind of even looking forward to this new pet now.
“GUESS WHAT WE GOT!” shouted older son, barreling through the door, nearly knocking me back with his excitement.
“A snake!” I said, trying to share in his new found joy.
“Not just a SNAKE,” my younger son piped in, grinning from ear to ear.
Huh, I thought. What is “not just a snake?” I wondered.
“Momma,” teased husband as he walked up the yard toward our house, holding a shopping bag in one hand and a cardboard carrying case in the other. “We didn’t get just any old snake…..we got THE snake!”
I suddenly felt uneasy.
“WE GOT A PYTHON!” shouted both boys in unison.
“Wait….what?” I stammered.
All three gentlemen pushed past me, up the stairs and into the younger son’s room, where a fish tank waited, empty, on the dresser.
I stood in the bedroom doorway, trying to make my presence known. No one acknowledged me.
“What did you get?” I demanded, hearing the panic rising in my voice. “Excuse me, hello — what did you get? What happened to the little Corn Snake?”
“This was on sale” was all my older son offered.
“CHECK IT OUT,” demanded the husband.
Let’s all check it out, shall we?
As the snake was slowly removed from the box, and lowered into his new home, I felt my face flush, and my heart begin to race.
I was a little bit scared, but a lot bit mad.
“[Husband’s name]!” I shouted. “I thought we agreed on a California Corn.”
“Lauren — it’s fine. It’s fine,” assured my husband (not very assuringly), as he swatted his big bear paw of a hand back-and-forth, like the motion was going to sweep away whatever pesky little unpleasantness might be coming from my direction.
This was a day for happiness, after all. A day for celebration. They didn’t need me ruining it with my attempts at coming to terms with a majorly unfair bait-and-switch at my expense.
Repeated efforts to better understand what having a python would mean to our household were ignored amidst the business of laying wood chips, arranging plastic hiding spot, and affixing the temperature and humidity monitors.
I asked if this snake “constricted.”
I asked how big it would get, and how soon it would get however big.
I asked if this little fish tank with flimsy lid and HOLES where the air pump motor used to fit was a wise choice for a python.
Each question received a garbled, half-assed non-answer in reply.
“Mad” zipped past “anger” and morphed immediately into “irate” as I absorbed the scene.
Clearly, I don’t count here, I thought.
My feelings don’t count. My opinion doesn’t count. The fact that I was okay with a California Corn — doesn’t count.
I felt taken advantage of. I felt like all I was ready and willing and excited to give to my two boys, as a mom formerly afraid of snakes, was completely crapped on.
Now I wasn’t going to get to be the “cool mom.” I was going to be the mom who ruined this big moment, if I kept it up with the questioning and the hand wringing and the scowling. If I stopped it now — if I corrected course, regained composure, and simply walked away — then maybe, maybe I could at least neutralize whatever damage I might have already done to my reputation.
And that notion made me even more angry.
The wolf pack mentality of a father and his sons is both a blessing and a curse. In a culture that seems ever eager to stifle the natural instincts of young boys seeking to develop a sense of autonomy over themselves and their environment, it is important as ever for fathers to lead the way. Young cubs without their alpha male will get eaten alive. I get that. I really do.
But….as they boys get older, I am finding it an increasingly challenging task to stay relevant. I’m still the cookie baker and the play date hostess and the chauffeur, of course. But sometimes I want in on the other stuff, too. I’m just not sure how to make it happen.
What becomes of the role of mom, especially when she has sons and not daughters?
Marinating in all that I was feeling at the moment, I continued to watch the scene in the bedroom unfold. I slowly came to the realization that maybe my role had become that of a zookeeper — responsible for the care and safety of these wolves.
“Alright boys, bring Daddy that roll of tape,” instructed my husband.
Older son reached for the painter’s tape and tossed it to his father.
“Okay, boys, that oughta do it,” concluded husband, who pressed the last pieces of tape across the large hole in the lid.
Yes, I am indeed the zookeeper, responsible for the wolves. And at times, also responsible for one very large bafoon.*
So, everyone — help. Am I doing this whole mom-to-boys thing right? How am I supposed to navigate these rough waters? Lets feast on that today — the ever evolving — or devolving — role of a mother of sons.
*For the record, my husband has since crafted an appropriate lid for the tank, which was always his intention. I wrote this when I was still angry. He is very smart, actually — he is not really a bafoon.
He is sometimes a gigantic ass, however.