My Mommy Mantra: What Were You Thinking?


Lately I feel as if not a single day goes by that I don’t say to at least one of my children, “What were you thinking?” I swear it feels as if it is my mantra – in a one week period I found myself saying it at least once to each of my children.

Example 1: Thirty minutes before bedtime, just as I am starting to relax and pat myself on the back for another day when everyone got where they needed to be, Finn remembers something.

“Mom, I have to do a diorama and take it to school tomorrow.  I need a shoe box and we have to show how black bears hibernate.”

My response to him as I dug into closets and drawers looking for an empty shoe box and some sort of are supplies that aren’t dried out,  I found myself saying,  “Finn, what were you thinking, waiting until the last minute to do this?”

Example 2: While riding in the passenger seat with my 16-year-old daughter who is learning to drive, I noticed that the rearview mirror was turned at an angle so she could look at her face.  When I asked her why it was turned that way, she said, “So I can see myself and make sure I look okay.”

My response to my soon-to-be driver was, “Seriously?  It is called a rearview mirror so you can see objects behind you. It is NOT for looking at you.  What were you thinking, turning it so you could look at yourself?”

Example 3: My oldest daughter is getting ready for her senior prom.  While I am so excited for her and am treasuring every moment of her senior year, I think she got carried away with how much I was enjoying it.  She was doing some prom shopping and found the perfect dress.  I said, “Great!  Let me see it on you and then let’s go ahead and buy it.”  It was beautiful and elegant but it was $378.00.

My response when I saw the price tag was, “$378 for a dress you are going to wear for one night, you must be joking.  What on earth are you thinking, looking at a dress that cost that much?”

Example 4: My son is a basketball player and plays in a summer travel league.  The night before his big tournament and just moments after he returned home from spending some time with his dad, he tells me he needs new basketball shoes by tomorrow because his are too small.

I quickly became a frustrated mom and said, “You have been practicing with the team for three weeks and you just now realize they don’t fit? Why couldn’t you have thought of this while you were with your dad and had him get you a pair?  Seriously baby, what were you thinking?”

Example 5: My daughter is studying different countries and cultures in school.  Each child was assigned a country and asked to bring a dish from that country.  My daughter’s country was Greece.  Unfortunately she didn’t remember to tell me until 5:30 in the morning on the day of the “potluck.” Luckily I did some quick thinking and heated up some turkey meatball that I had in the freezer, mixed up some sour cream with a little bit of fresh dill and sent it to told her it was  a Greek dish of “Lamb meat balls with a Greek dipping sauce.”

But I couldn’t let it go without saying at least once, “What were you thinking, waiting this long to tell me?”

Example 6: I pull up from work to see the children outside playing together.  It warmed my heart and made me smile to see them having so much fun together.  That was until I noticed that one of my girls was riding her bike over a very rough and bumpy part of the yard with one arm on the handle bars and the other tucked into her shirt.  If she fell, there would be no way she could catch herself.

I got out of the car and said, “Mo, what one earth are you doing?  You are going to get hurt doing that.  I don’t understand what you are thinking?”

Being my child who really puts thought into everything she does, she said, “Mom, I am learning to ride a bike with one arm so if a shark bites off my arm, I will still be able to do all the things I enjoy.”

Okay, I am glad that I have a child that wants to be prepared for the unexpected.  But a shark?  This is my child who hates the ocean and never goes into it above her knees.  Unless there is such a thing as a “Landshark”, I think it is safe for her to focus on keeping both hands on the handlebars.

After a week of repeating my new mantra of “What were you thinking” every single day, I was frustrated.  “Will they ever learn?” I thought as I drove home from work the next evening. I kicked off my high heels as I made the long drive home and tried to take some deep breaths and think positive thoughts that perhaps tonight I would not have to say those words to anyone.

I hopped out of my car as soon as I pulled into the driveway, noting that I had exactly 10 minutes to load everyone up and get to Finn’s first baseball game.  I raced in the door shouting orders to everyone.  In no time we were all out the door with cleats, gloves and hats in hand.  At the last minute we decided to take a different car so we loaded up, I counted heads, told Finn to start putting his shoes on so he could hop out of the car as soon as we got there and smiled thinking I had done all of that in less than 9 minutes. 

As soon as we got to the game, the kids piled out of the car.   I took a moment to take a deep breath before I got out of the car to head to say hello to all of the parents who were there for the game.  After 13 years of having children play baseball, these games are like a social hour to catch up with half of Tallahassee.

I looked in the mirror (yes, the rearview mirror, but I was parked and the minute I was done I put it right back in the correct position.) and reapplied and little lipstick and was ready to step out of the car.  That was when I realized that I had forgotten my shoes.  I was stunned.  How could I forget my shoes? I really am losing it.  I tiptoed out of the car and thought if I could just get to the bleachers without anyone noticing I could tuck my feet under the bench and keep them hidden.  It took all of two seconds before Moira asked me where were my shoes were and happily shared the news with all of her siblings.  I didn’t see the humor that they saw in the moment.  Suddenly I got a brilliant idea.  I could borrow my daughter’s shoes because we are the same size.  Certainly she won’t mind going barefoot.

I looked at Moira and asked her if I could please borrow her shoes. 

She thought for a moment and said, “Mom, you tell us all the time before we walk out to the door to grab our shoes.  I do not know what you were thinking.” 

I heard giggling that sounds in stereo because I had kids on all sides of me.

The words I had found myself using on every single one of my children were now coming back to haunt me. I decided to offer her $1 if I could wear her shoes. Being a smart business woman, she upped the ante to $5.  I got her down to $2.  Finally, I  was able to stand amongst the parents at the first baseball game of the year wearing a pair of shoes and acting like a mother who had it all together.

I have yet to say “What were you thinking?” to any of the children since that moment.  I realize that they are young and those childlike impulses are still going to override the rational thoughts I want them to have to show me they are responsible.  But who am I kidding?   Even as an adult I am going to have those moments when the craziness of life will override my own basic rational thoughts leaving me asking myself “What was I thinking?”



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