Sunday, July 29, 2018

My mom's guide to making your kids behave

FOR THE LOVE OF PETE:  The guy I was named after was a
hard act to follow.
This might sound weird, but there was a time when I thought that nothing would make my late mom Huena happier than if I died a martyr.

I might have been, like, five, when I had those feelings, but for a time, I was dead certain that if some malevolent non-believer gouged my eyes out and stripped me of my skin like a banana in his failed efforts to make me renounce Catholicism, my mom's day would be made.

Better yet, maybe they would  crucify me upside down, like they did to St. Peter, who I was sort of named after.

The evil doers could stab me with a big sword, there'd be blood everywhere, and before I died, my face would suddenly lighten up with glee. My  head would  be encircled by a halo of light; and Huena would be on her knees nearby, her hands clasped together in delight, knowing that her baby--the youngest of her 10 kids--was a true Catholic hero and safe in the hands of God.

Then again I could be wrong on this. She mightn't have wanted me to die.

But one thing I do know: Growing up as one of Huena Carter's children was the finest childhood a person could have. Even if it meant getting my eyes gouged out.

Here's why.
 MOM'S THE WORD: I'm not saying that my late brother Pat did
anything wrong, but the evidence suggests otherwise.

Huena (and my father Tom, but he was mostly a wing man) had her hands full, with 10 kids, a small house, and a husband who ran his own business which meant working 25 hours a day. So you can't blame her if, in her chest of family management tricks, Huena kept many tools.

Chief among those tools, and this might surprise the so-called parenting experts of the world, was unparalleled generosity.

In Huena's eyes, none of her kids ever did anything remotely wrong. If we got in trouble, it was because of the bad company we ran into. Even with them, mom would be like "they're more to be pitied than censured."

For a religious woman, Huena really sucked at the judgmental thing.


"You'll eat what's on your plate," was something Huena said, never.

True fact. If you didn't like what Huena had on offer, she'd come up with something else. She never forced me to eat anything I didn't like.

A registered nurse, Huena also liked pain-killing medicine. If it made her kids' sadness go away, Huena was all over it. I remember her saying "if God had intended us to fly, He would have given us the brains to build airplanes." And the same applied to medicine.

Another? Her total and utter shunning of corporal punishment.
HE HAD HER AT 'HALO': Gabriel telling Mary that sleeping in
her old room at her folks' house will never be the same.

Huena knew that if  she had God on her side, there was never any reason to raise a hand to any of her kids. One big downside is, she raised a bunch of wusses, but the fact is, she had other, more effective means of keeping us in check.

Here's one. My favourite, in fact.

Huena had a rule: "You can't hit anyone smaller than yourself."  (As the youngest, this definitely worked in my favour.)

And I just remembered this. For some reason, we Carters all knew that no matter how mad you got, if you ever ever struck your mom or dad, when you died your hand would stick out of your grave so passers by would know that "here lies a parent hitter."


Statues. Everywhere.

My mom's house made the Vatican look like an empty warehouse.

My mom had statues where other moms didn't know they had places. In closets. On stairway landings three quarters of the way between the second storey and the first.

In every room; on every wall, and in almost every corner, she had Jesus' on the cross and Jesus as a little kid.

Some statues were of saints--one of my favourites was St. Christopher, who is usually cast holding another statue--presumably the Christ child--on his shoulders, fording a river. I defy you to find where in scripture it says this happened but so what? Chris was the patron saint of travellers.

Among the army of statues were a few of her favourites: the martyrs.

And here's something most people don't have to think about.

Say you get married. And you bring your new wife home. And you and she get to "sleep" in your old room. And it's still decorated with pictures of Jesus surrounded by little children and The Virgin Mary being told by the Angel Gabriel that she's going to be giving birth to God's son and maybe, just in case you didn't get the message the first time, a martyr or two.  Let me put the newly wed husband's reaction thusly: He's very happy knowing he and his new wife have their own apartment to go back to.

I just remembered another of Huena's management tools.
THE CHRIS CROSS:  Nobody has
ever asked 'when did this happen?'


Say one of us Carter kids got in a big argument in the kitchen and,then, frustrated because we didn't get our way, we'd storm upstairs to the second floor, stomping our feet as hard as possible.

We'd hear from downstairs, mom saying,"Don't look down!"

Again, without a syllable of explanation from Huena, we all knew that meant, "look down and you'll see that your feet are transforming into cloven hooves because that's the first step on the road to turning into a devil." (I still won't glance at my feet on a stairwell.)

Then again, maybe I can't speak for all my siblings. Maybe it's just me.

Here's why I think that.

My dad Tom was raised on a farm in a tiny place called Corkery not far from Canada's national capital city of Ottawa, and his conversation was spiced with a broad collection of old Irish-isms (material for another blog). And though he seldom swore, he was very expressive.

Case in point: when some guy did something particularly idiotic, Tom said, "he's a dumb cluck."

Yesterday, something occured to me. I consulted one of my brothers, the older and smart Alex, and the following text exchange ensued:

Me: "Do you think that when dad called me a dumb cluck, he meant you're a dumb 'rhymes with cluck'?

Alex: "Yeah, so does everyone else."

Now that I think about it, Alex would make a far better martyr than me.

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