How to Go From Hero to Zero

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I was riding an emotional high after the flip-flop incident. I was the Hero. My self-esteem had moved up a few points, my chest was a smudge puffed up. I’m not going to lie, I probably would have patted myself on the back a few times if I could have reached it. Having my daughter like me again felt good. It’s no fun being “the meanest mom in the world”.

But sometimes, that is just what we are supposed to be.

Thursday night, after a light conversation about school, The Tortoise slipped this little question into the mix.

“Can I cut off my jeans to make shorts?”


“But I really need an extra pair of shorts.”

“Then I will buy you an extra pair of shorts. But we’re not cutting perfectly good jeans. No cut-offs, period.”


Conversation over. I felt the earth shift again.

Friday morning I found The Tortoise already sitting at the kitchen counter eating breakfast. She was unusually punctual. We chatted a little, she nervously looked at her watch, shifted her eyes to our front windows.

“Well, I gotta catch the bus now,” she said hopping off her stool, grabbing her book-bag.

I watched her hurriedly scuttle to the back door. Something looked amiss.

“Wait a minute, ” I said sharply, “Are those cut-offs?”

In fact, not only were they cut-offs, but they closely resembled Daisy Dukes, denim fringe already beginning to unravel.

“You said I couldn’t cut my jeans, ” she said defensively, “These were not jeans.”

That was correct, they were not jeans. They were a pair of really nice denim walking shorts. The Tortoise had cut shorts, to make shorter shorts.

“First of all, ” I snapped, “You knew darn well I said no cut-offs period, jeans or otherwise. Right?”


“Show me how short they are…”

The Tortoise lay her arms to her side, placing her palms flat on her leg. The district policy states that all shorts and skirts can not be shorter than their fingertips, and these were clearly well above her fingertip line. But before I could make her go change, she bolted for the back door again.

“Gotta go!” she said rushing out the door, “Or I’ll miss the bus and you’ll have to drive me to school.”

I stewed about this new development all day, waited for the school to call me to bring her more appropriate shorts. By 3:20 The Tortoise came waltzing back in the mudroom door.

“No one sent me home for the shorts, ” she said smugly. “I’m really sorry about this morning too.”

The Tortoise swung her arms around me, a hug for a peace-offering. I took a deep breath, counted to ten, then responded.

“I accept your apology but you need to take those off and put them in the trash.”

“WHAT?” she said surprised, “I said I was sorry. Besides, then I’ll be down to only ONE pair of shorts!”

“No you won’t, ” I said flatly, “because you are going to use your own money to buy a pair of replacement shorts that I will approve.”

We went shopping yesterday. She didn’t talk to me the whole afternoon. I guess now, I’m a Zero again.

6 thoughts on “How to Go From Hero to Zero

  1. I can picture her as a 20 or 30 something remembering this incident and realizing what a great mom you are/were and kicking herself for giving you such a hard time and acting like you were so mean.

    I have these revelations regularly about my mom as I dread my future of the mother of a teenage daughter.

  2. Oh, the cycle continues. Hero-zero-hero-zero. We have all been there! Parenting is tough work. You handled it perfectly. Such a good mom.

  3. Wow, I know these times are tough, but you are capturing some memories for me. She really does sound like an amazing young lady, and you keep being that mom you are. She will be thankful. You are showing her love in ways she will one day get.

  4. Every once in awhile, I read a post that makes me think, “Thank GOD someone else has shown me the way!”

    This is one of those.

    Mama, you handled this with such grace and maturity. I can only hope that when my turn comes I remember your example instead of my usual screeching like a banshee and “because I SAID so,” controlling ways.

    Great post. Thank you for it!

  5. I totally agree with the way you handled it. She will “get it” someday when she has a daughter. I still remember my step-dad throwing away a very, tight, short dress I wore clubbing. I was in my 20’s!! But I still lived at home (commuted to college). I was angry but I never felt more loved by him.
    I have a funny story. Mel got to go shopping at Justice with her Grandma for her 7th birthday. She came home with a short dress. I said, I like it but you need something under it.” She said, “I KNOW! I was thinking cowboy boots” Aaaaahhhhhh the circle of life!

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