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10.05.08

Didn't I Feed You Yesterday?

The Project Runway star and hands-off mother of six on why she bought her 9-year-old a motorcycle.

Thank God for school. I never understand the mothers who get excited just before breaks, as if getting to sleep for thirty extra minutes in the morning is worth having to take care of your own kids all day. Sure, camp helps, but I have six children ages 20 years to 20 months, so there is no camp that can possibly accommodate them all. Besides, sleep-away camps don't take toddlers. Not for three straight months, anyway.

It was hard work, but as September rolled around, I excitedly got the kids ready for school. I secured the necessary color-coded folders and three-ring binders. I stocked up on reams of loose-leaf paper and dozens of mechanical pencils. I filled out all the necessary forms and artfully forged vaccination records so everything appeared up to date. I dug out backpacks with operating zippers, and rotated summer clothes, providing easy access to back-to-school wardrobes. I lined up nannies and mannies, reading tutors and homework helpers, because God knows New York City private school tuition is not enough to cover the actual cost of education. Now armed with the appropriate pharmaceuticals, I could sit back and watch my plan spring into action.

I have a genetic predisposition to laissez-faire parenting. The fact that I buy my children trampolines, go-carts and motorcycles so they stay out of my way on weekends is not my fault. I have a disease.

One month into school and I have successfully avoided stepping foot on campus. Not an easy feat, but between my husband, the afternoon nanny, and my oldest coming and going on his own, I have been able to rig it so that others have done the drop-offs and pick-ups. The problem is, today the nanny is sick; I have to pick up my first grader and don't know where his classroom is. Or who his teachers are. I spotted a familiar face, the father of one of my son's friends.

“Hi Dan.”

“Hi.”

“If I were to want to pick up a child in first grade, what floor would I be on?” I asked sheepishly.

“You don't know where Pierson's classroom is, do you?”

Busted.

There are mothers who wouldn't dream of missing a moment of their child's educational experience. They would hover around the door of their first grader's classroom and peek through the window at intervals to check for signs of separation anxiety, ready to leap in and assure their child that their unconditional love is lurking nearby. I am not that type. And frankly, my six-year old doesn't need me to be, as evidenced the first time he walked into his classroom, comfortable and confident, looked around and intoned, “Where the hell is my cubby?”

I recently read on the Internet that scientists at Rutgers University have isolated the gene that causes overprotective motherhood. I kid you not. Genetically engineered mice without the gene, known as Oncoprotien 18, were slow to retrieve roaming pups and showed no concern when they interacted with unknown peers. By contrast, mice with the gene, helicopter mice, made sure that their pups ate lunch in a peanut free school and called them on their cell phones three times a day.

I am certain that I was born without this gene. Now I understand why I let my kids ride bikes without helmets and eat snacks plied with preservatives and artificial colors while other mothers are making their teenagers use safety scissors. I have a genetic predisposition to laissez-faire parenting. The fact that I buy my children trampolines, go-carts and motorcycles so they stay out of my way on weekends is not my fault. I have a disease.

I may be outsourcing the raising of my children, but not because I am lazy; I have the biochemical markers of a bad mommy. I know that my mother passed on this genetic propensity to me. She let my brother and me roam the neighborhood unsupervised with a gang of kids until the streetlights came on. She never stopped us when we chased the mosquito man's truck as it blew a cloud of DDT into our smiling faces. We were allowed to ride in the back of a station wagon without seats, much less seat belts. And we watched cartoons! Violent cartoons where coyotes would drop anvils from red stone desert cliffs on innocent passing roadrunners.

And to think for all these years I thought alcoholics were just undisciplined whiners who wouldn't take responsibility for their own actions. I totally get it now. Me being a bad parent is a hereditary trait no different than my eyes being green or my hair being dyed red. It's part of my DNA and has been passed down to me from generations of mothers who let their children get behind in their immunizations, eat frozen dinners, and languish, forgotten to be picked up from play dates.

Of course genetics are risk factors, not destiny. Sometimes you have to hit rock bottom before you realize you need to get help and change your ways. I think I have finally hit parenting rock bottom. I missed my daughter's high school graduation ceremony because I chose instead to be a contestant on a reality show. I need to get help.

Does this mean I need to join Bad Mommies Anonymous?