Life After Learning to Cut Grapes

Ah, butterfly… you were once a mere caterpillar.

My 11-year-old son’s shoe size: men’s 9 1/2

His weight when he was born: 9 lbs. 4 oz.

Times I have told him no: 8,453,921

Yesterday, the pediatrician asked my son to lie back on the examining table, and when he did, my son’s Sauconys stuck way up off the table.

“Whoa. What size shoe do you wear?” the pediatrician asked.

“Nine and a half.”

I felt proud and recognized it as the silly response it was. I did not make my son’s feet big. I did not grow him tall by peddling a bike at warp speed for several years to increase the inches.

And yet.

My friend’s almost-high-school-aged daughter recently wondered why her parents weren’t so happy with a bad grade. “Why do you care about my grades? They’re my grades.”

Oh, the karma building up for her in that one response. Karma: 1, Child: -14.

Parenting can elicit some weird emotions and change us in ways we never expected. Here is a cursory glance at what has changed for me in the past 11-plus years:

1. I learned how to say no. You might think this is a given. But look around at Target; there are parents who have never gained this gift.

Before kids, people used to ask me to stay late at work, take on their responsibilities, watch their children, and attend functions at ballrooms with white tablecloths and long speeches. I couldn’t say no.

Try one year at home with an infant who likes to play with electrical cords, and you learn “no” pretty darn quickly.

Now, it’s bigger things: “Mom, I want to go out on the main road on my bike; it’s so boring around here.”

Yeah, the main road where people have been known to go 20 miles over the speed limit and off into the grass, killing trees in the process.

Ummmmm… “No.”

“Mom, everyone else is buying ice cream from the ice cream truck, please please please please please…”

Seriously? Our ice cream truck comes through at 5:30 p.m. Right before dinner.


I am officially the mean mom of the neighborhood.

2. I learned how to cut grapes. I never thought I’d be cutting a grape in half. I am quite sure I lost a couple of years of my life cutting grapes when my kids were young. I may never get them back, people.

Before I quit my public relations job to stay home, I worked at a hospital. Other than obvious ongoing issues like asthma and chronic illness, the top reasons for emergency room visits were choking on hot dogs and getting hurt on trampolines. This is an official public service announcement: cut kids’ hot dogs lengthwise and ban trampoline usage. You may hate me for saying this, but: there is no safe trampoline.

Okay. Serious injury averted.

3. I learned how to prioritize in a big picture kind of way. I get stressed. You can ask anyone who knows me and hears my voice going up a register when the kids can’t get their shoes on and get out the door.

But as far as worrying on a daily basis, I’m feeling pretty good if they have clothes on when they leave the house and don’t have any major illnesses. I’ve heard a rumor that nudity is frowned upon in the public schools.

As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, I have a weird tooth thing, so dirty teeth and the fact that they might rot in your mouth really creeps me out. Clean teeth are, like, mandatory. Eating, showering, laughter and homework are also key.

Everything else can go jump in a lake.

4. I learned how to break the rules. Sadly, I am a rule follower. I may have a teesy problem with going a few miles over the speed limit at times, but for the most part, I have navigated life in a mannerly way.

Having kids has made me a renegade. Try to get the image of me on a motorcycle, wearing badass leather out of your mind.

But when my daughter starts worrying that a substitute will get mad at her for tossing a ball during a sanctioned game that ended up hitting something and knocking it over, I tell her to tell the substitute to go jump in a lake.

I also like to run through the halls at their school. Shhh. Don’t tell anyone.

5. I learned that I know how to teach absolutely no skill that I learned as a kid. If you were to drop in, fly-on-the-wall style, on our family one weekend afternoon, you might see weird stuff.

Namely, me trying to explain how to blow a bubble with bubblegum. I know, y’all, there’s YouTube. But I am trying to be a good parent here.

The things I can do (passably well) that I stink at teaching, include but are not limited to: blowing bubbles, whistling, cartwheeling, somersaulting (dang, that hurts), sewing, tying a shoe, probably skipping.*

* I failed skipping in kindergarten.

6. I learned that if there were 600 million people crowded around our city, and I had lost my kids, I would recognize their heads anywhere. They say animal moms can find their babies by smelling them, but my sense of smell isn’t that great.

It is uncanny how, as a parent, you can pick your child out of a million other similarly dressed kids.

7. I learned that no matter how easy a kid you think you were to raise, you weren’t. The cat is out of the bag: you may have been a loving, rule-following, good-grade-getting kid. Your parents likely still agonized over you, if they had any parenting gene worth having. You might have only eaten white foods or wanted to wear only purple or idolized some rocker who bit the heads off of ferrets.

If you’re a parent, you’ve figured this out by now. If you are not yet a parent and in your 20s, you are likely still living under the assumption that your parents had an easy ride. Please give your mom an extra hug for me this Sunday. She may need it.

Don’t forget your moms this weekend and all the shoes she bought you as your feet grew at lightning speed! Happy Mother’s Day in advance!



12 thoughts on “Life After Learning to Cut Grapes

  1. jmmcdowell says:

    What do you mean I wasn’t always perfectly behaved and did everything my parents told me to do?! 😛

    Somehow, children survive all the knocks and bruises and falls and parents survive the worry and frustration and heartbreak….

    Happy Mother’s Day! 🙂

    • annewoodman says:

      I really thought I was easy to raise. Then I started remembering all the authority issues I had and how I was pretty sure I knew better than anyone else. Ooops. Karma.

  2. Daryl says:

    Yes, you do bend the rules–I see your speedometer.
    I think that Ben has at least 2 sizes over me at the same age–he will hit 6ft 2.

  3. crubin says:

    I am with you on the trampoline thing. And nice to meet another parent who doesn’t have trouble saying “no.” If I couldn’t say “no,” we’d have a horrid little ferret running around our house right about now. 🙂

  4. Trampolines are a N-O, NO, here, too! I’ve already heard the words, “Mom, we never get to do anything fun” and that was from my 9-year-old, but of course his definition of fun involves climbing on something over 20 feet tall, investigating ditches after a hard rain or wanting to drive the car…No, No and definitely NO! Great post!

    • annewoodman says:

      From one mean mommy to another: Happy Mother’s Day! I do not know why my kids are not impressed by my explanation that I’m merely trying to keep them alive until adulthood.

  5. erica says:

    I hope I learn how to say “No” soon!

  6. Melissa says:

    The boys both wear twelves….but big fee run in my family…the scary part is they haven’t stopped growing…this just gives you a glance at how tall he may get. Your not a mean mom. We had no trampoline. They couldn’t ride their bikes off our street until they were middle school…they HAD to stay in the neighborhood. I have become the queen of “no” – Just ask the boys. I recognize my children’s heads as well, but I’m kind of cheating since one is a red head and they both tower over most of the heads around them. By the way….no child is easy. They all break their mama’s hearts.

    • annewoodman says:

      That’s scary that yours haven’t stopped growing… but I’m pretty sure I grew at least an inch at college, so I guess it can happen to anyone! That makes me feel better about the bikes. It’s always a balancing act to decide how much independence to give and what just isn’t safe.

      BTW, I would like a plaque made for my kitchen: Queen of No.

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