just like mommy

girlsShe took the room by surprise. Or maybe it was just me. I noticed her as soon as I walked in.

She had on hot pink shorts two sizes too small, and a bikini top over breasts two sizes too big. Across her back and on her arms and legs were tattoos; her ample girth jiggled as she walked. Even more interesting was her hair. Pixie length and bleach-blonde, her “locks” were pulled into pigtails that looked like sprouts coming out of the sides of her head. Earrings glistened from her ears.

Most noticeable, though, were her eyes. They were dark and masked by makeup and . . . bruises?

She was toting a three-year-old.

“Mommy, look! I’m watching TV!” the child called from a couch on the side of the room. Her voice was high-pitched and sweet. She was licking a lollipop. She too was wearing a swimsuit, with flip-flops and a floppy hat.

“Good, honey.” Her mother wasn’t listening.

“Mommy, I don’t like this lollipop,” the little girl said. She hopped off the couch and held it out towards her mother who was perusing a clothing rack nearby.

“You picked it.”

“I don’t want it. I want another one.”

“Too bad.” Her voice was gravelly. I was surprised by its harshness.

“But . . .”

“Go sit down. Mommy’s busy.”

Mother and Daughter on phoneThe child whimpered but did as she was told. There was nothing on TV. She was bored. She licked her lollipop and waved it through the air like a wand.

“Look, Mommy! I’m Harry Potter!”

Her mommy said nothing. A moment passed.

“Mommy, can we go outside?”

No response. The woman was pawing at a pile of tank tops on a table.

“Mommy?”

“What?!” the woman suddenly exploded. She whirled around to face the child, her breasts and stomach flopping freely as she did. “What? Yes, fine. Go outside and sit on that picnic table.” She pointed to a bench through the window. “Mommy will be there in a minute.”

The little girl’s lip quivered; I thought for sure she would start to cry. But she was brave. “Okay,” she said in a small voice, but she stood at the door and waited while her mommy paid for a t-shirt. She wasn’t big enough to open the door by herself.

Outside, the mother and child sat down at the table. The woman lit a cigarette. The little girl began rolling her lollipop across the table and then stuck it between two fingers and popped it into her mouth. When she pulled it out, she blew out—just like mommy.

I waited for the woman to say something.

She never did.

Images: Google

33 thoughts

  1. You must have been at Walmart. That story happens here all the time… just add a couple hundred pounds to the mom and it’s Ohio for ya.

    As always… great write. You got my attention on the first sentence.

    • Haha. I wasn’t at Walmart, but I know what you mean. I probably wouldn’t have been as surprised if I had been.

      And I’m glad I got your attention. The description in this post proved challenging for me. I definitely have work to do. ;)

  2. Makes me sick, especially considering how difficult it was for me to get pregnant. Children should be cherished, loved, educated, amongst a long list of other things, but never be left to the wayside.

    • I completely agree. The number of situations out there like this is sad. I can’t help but wonder how the child’s mother was raised, too. These things tend to be cyclical.

      It’s too bad there’s not some magic wand to allow parents who want to be parents to become parents easily, and for the opposite to be true for those who aren’t really ready for that responsibility.

  3. Parenting shouldn’t really be a “hot” topic or controversial, but unfortunately it is for various reasons and cultures. This hits a deep personal nerve with me Jessica; though our divorce didn’t involve a bitter, verbally abusive, expensive custody battle, and our parenting styles were similar and quite compatible…still, I never ever wanted to be nor forced into being a part-time Dad. Weeks later my two kids had a step-dad. Eighteen months later they all moved 300 miles away. Your description here of that mom and child doesn’t even hint of the possible issues the mother was or had been dealing with the father! We could presume it wasn’t encouraging, but that is very presumptuous on my part.

    Nevertheless, I could easily go on and on about parenting, healthy marriage, and the folly of divorce (when kids are involved) justified simply on ‘temporary unhappiness’ and quitting after a few bumps and hard times (and other issues I won’t air out here). Grrrrrrrrrrrr.

    You really got my blood pumping now Jessica, this freakin’ early in the morning! I’m going to nickname you “Jessica: my Morning Thorn!” LOL

    • Uh oh! Didn’t mean to do that! Hope you’ve calmed down a bit since you posted this comment.

      Yeah, I really have no idea what this woman and child’s home life was like, or what involvement the woman had with the child’s father. I commented on bruises, but, really, I couldn’t have been sure that that was the case.

      Divorce is never fun. My parents divorced three years ago. Thankfully, my brother and I were old enough that there weren’t any custody battles, etc., but children face a whole different set of challenges when their parents divorce when they are older. The whole deal is pretty rotten. I’m sorry for what you and your family have gone through.

      Mostly, though, it’s interesting to me how much the way in which we are raised impacts the people we become. What was the mother’s life like as a child? How will her daughter turn out, when such attire and expression is considered the “norm.” Children are so malleable. That’s one thing that scares me about the idea of becoming a parent!

      • All great and daunting questions Jessica. I wish I had all the perfect answers, but alas, I’m merely a loving, caring, encouraging father who takes the bad, good, and hilarious in stride. :)

  4. Sorry story. Just the other day, I saw a child whose parents were poor construction site laborers. She was lying on the sand meant for construction in the sultry heat of Hyderabad, and crying for her parents, but her folks were busy working. Completely different set of circumstances, different backgrounds, but somewhere there is a common thread.

    • Aww, yes, a common thread, though it is thin. Those parents were busy, not negligent. This mother… She was living a nontraditional lifestyle (to outside appearances, anyway) and subjecting her daughter to it. There is much to be said on how the way we are raised impacts the people we become.

      Good to hear from you, Subh. :)

  5. Now where do I meet this woman…kidding…the neighbor lady (27) ran off with another hillbilly (62) and left behind 4 beautiful children by two other men…I saw so much of the mom in the girls when she left. Now that is dying out and they act more conservative and ladylike. So while an angel takes wing – remember we need all kinds of parents to fuel our country. We need the waitress and the writer.

    • I agree that we need all kinds. But (and maybe I’m just dense, but…) I’m struggling to see the connection between that statement and the story about the girls?

  6. I am saying that children can change –
    But fate – like in your story about the bus driver – can intervene
    and so no matter what – we need rich – poor, left and right, well educated and laborer…
    fate is a cruel master – and karma evens everything out

    • I see, I see. And I agree that children can change. But mom and dad certainly make a big impact on who we become. Is that fate? I guess… it depends on your definition of “fate.” ;)

  7. I really enjoyed this short story. There’s something bothering the parent; the child’s happy and then suddenly not so happy anymore. So much mystery about it all :)

    • Thank you, Mabel. I’m glad you liked it. Yes, it’s an interesting look at where people come from and how they present themselves to the world, not to mention how parents and our environment shape the people we become. It *is* mysterious!

  8. A lesson for all of us! Children absorb so much from parents. It’s important for all of us to be conscious of our behaviour and the message we are giving them.

    What a sad story… Especially since that little girl was merely trying to ‘connect’ with her mum. I suspect she will stop trying one day. Will the mother even notice?

    • Thank you so much for this, and sorry for my delayed response!

      Yeah, kids *do* absorb so much from their parents. They are little imitators. And you are very right about the way the little girl was trying to connect with her mom. I was impressed by her sweetness; it was obvious she was just trying to please.

      The most poignant thing that stuck out to me, though, and which I am planning to expound on in future posts (such as with “meanwhile . . .”) is just how much environment influences the people we become. Some of who we are is up to us, but just how much is that? Do we really even know?

    • Thank you. Coming from an excellent writer such as yourself, that means so much.

      And thanks for taking the time to read the connecting article! It really is important to the meaning of the whole…

      Yes, the situation with this mother and daughter seemed sad. But how much of it was really the mother’s fault? In what kind of environment was *she* raised? And how will this affect the little girl in the long run?… These are the kinds of questions stories like this raise—at least for me.

  9. I know I’m the odd one out, but I just wasn’t moved with any feelings against this mother. First, the image is just that, an image. Tattoos, floppy breasts, bikini, eccentric jewelry… it simply conveys a bit of a background story. Nothing about character. And, of course, the cigarette doesn’t change anything either.
    So, the lady smoked, so it didn’t bother her that much that her daughter pretended to. I remember eating and smoking candy cigarettes when I was a kid. And we knew, back then, of the health risks of tobacco. My parents cared for me deeply, but they also didn’t allow society to dictate their image of perfect parenting.

    As for the harshness of tone, or shortness, hey it happens. Now I know parents who deal with their kids that way on a regular basis, and that gets on me a bit. But as for a day when they get on your nerves a little more than other days, well, I think all parents are guilty of being short with their kids a time or two.
    What I’m saying is that I didn’t see anything in this story that seemed remarkably out of line.
    I wish everybody could be a perfect parent all the time. I wish that McDonalds and cigarettes didn’t have to happen, but if not those it would be some other unhealthy something.
    I know that I’m oversimplifying my response, and I know that you didn’t convey judgement on this mother. But the comments section has done the judging for you.
    I tend to lay off and let people do their best, unless I see something that is causing imminent and immediate danger, I’m not gonna pass judgement. Floppy tits or no. ;)

    • Thank you for this comment, Nate. And I’m glad you didn’t feel I was passing judgment. I was merely trying to paint a picture…

      My personal reaction to this scenario was to simply wonder from what kind of background the mother came, and how the environment in which the little girl was being raised would affect her in the long run. I know it’s easy to get “short” with kids. I’ve been there with my students in the past. And clothing choice doesn’t reflect character. It *does*, however, say something about who we are…

      Thanks again for bringing a different viewpoint to the table. ;)

  10. Very emotional writing, and it is heartbreaking to see (via your writing) a child searching for some kind of connection with the parents but failing due to total indifference. You have a great way with words.

    • Thanks so much. Yes, this incident certainly left me thinking. I am fascinated by how the environment in which we are raised—parenting styles, social status, cultural environment, etc.—affects the people we become. I recognize that this is somewhat dependent on the individual, but not even the most independent person grows up in a vacuum, totally indifferent to their surroundings…

An angel earns a pair of wings every time you comment.

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