Before Motherhood, Mom was a Wild Woman

Girl, Woman, Mom, Woman

My son and I were talking about the kinds of things me and my kid sister did in the old days. What kinds of things I did. You know back before color television, he added before snickering. Of course knowing nothing about his mother other than I’m a mom, the one always there, the one who cooks, cleans, makes everything auto-magically happen, and about my ability to solve problems without breaking a sweat, he is clueless about my life before him.

As far as he knows, I am just a mom. He’s come to assume moms’ come genetically wired with super powers. He takes it for granted I will keep his world spinning, ‘round and round, the wheels greased, the cogs turning smoothly, and the sun shining. He knows all this but he doesn’t know I was born long after color television and I have lived a colorful life.

It’s not as if I have shared the nitty gritty details of my wild days before saying I do and giving birth, with him. My history is mine. Not everything about me is for his ears or any of his business. Before donning the persona of mom, I had a life, which we gals always seem to forget for a while somewhere in our Stepford existence, but that’s another story all together. The truth is there are some things I don’t share with my kids—yes I have secrets, what woman doesn’t–because I don’t want them to engage in the sorts of death defying things my kid sister and I got up to. I don’t want to fuel their imagination.

As he sat smiling as only a thirteen year old does, arrogantly and all knowing, I knew it was time to give him a glimpse into the other me, the girl I was and always will be. I smiled back at took a moment to consider my opening line, ever the writer.

“Max,” I said, “How do you think I learned to drive a stick-shift?”

“Granddad taught you.”

“Nope. Well, I did learn in his car.”

“I knew it, Granddad taught you.”

“No he didn’t. I’d wait until he got home from work, fell asleep, and then I liberate the car keys from his pocket. When I knew he was sound asleep, I tossed Judy (my sister) and Stephanie, our buddy, into the back of the car and drive around the block. Sometimes I couldn’t always get the car into reverse so I’d have the girls get out of the car and push me until I was pointing forward. It was a sticky clutch.” He considered my comment before speaking.

“Did you have your license?”

“Nope, I was fourteen.” I smiled. He knows I don’t lie so there was no cross-examination. I continued.

“I had a smoking hot stingray bike, it’s old fashioned BMX kind of bike.”

“You know how to ride a bike?”

I ignored his slight. “Judy would climb onto the handlebars, rest her legs on the front rim, we ride down dirt hills—BIG HILLS—and I lift my hands to the sky, letting the speed down the hill control the bike. As we flew down the hill at lightening fast speeds we’d both scream at the top of our lungs. It was such a rush. Stopping at the bottom of the hill was always a challenge. We had a several close calls.”




“One time, when we were a older, Judy and I were hiking in Big Sur.” He didn’t bother asking me if I knew how to hike. I could see in his eyes that my confessions were rocking his little world. “Judy slipped over the edge and was hanging onto the branch, actually clinging. The entire time she was hanging there, the two of us were laughing hysterically.”

I poured myself a glass of wine and went on for another fifteen minutes. I told him about diving tag—a swimming game I invented—playing poker with the boys, all night monopoly fests, shooting hoops for quarters, singing and dancing to Steve Wonder, playing dodge ball in the dark, watermelon seed spitting contests, all-night long hide and seek, diving off the high dive, walking across the top of an A-Frame swing set blind folded. You know, all those incredibly fun, stupid, things we did, back before color televisions.

I finished with a story about a night in Singapore. He arched his eyebrow, the unasked question. I took a sip of my wine and continued to tell him about the half dozen Singaporean police banging their M-16s on the glass doors. The glass was all that stood between those guns and me. Being an avid XBOX player he knows what an M16 is.

I took another sip of my wine. Smiled and said, “there’s more, but you are too young to hear the rest,” and then walked into my room to write

“What about the M16s?” He called after me.

It was my turn to snicker.


If your a mom now, have you shared your personal histories with your kids?  If your not, would you?


I’m a writer and hoarder of one-size-fits-all panty hose. Until the hose fits over my bum, I write to provide an alternative view on writing and perfection.

49 thoughts on “Before Motherhood, Mom was a Wild Woman

  1. last Mother’s Day, my son surprised me by digging up and old picture of me – my high school yearbook picture – and posting it as his profile on FaceBook. He’s gotten to be this cool person I actually would like as a friend even if he wasn’t my kid.

    Some things I’ve shared with him, some things… not yet. Maybe not ever. Does he really need to know about the time at 13 I stripped down to my pretty patterned bra and undies and, on a dare from my best friend, walked to the corner and back. (Yes, it could have passed for a bathing suit, but it *wasn’t.*) Or the reason I will never, ever, drink peppermint schnapps again, or… oh my.

    • Bev – I feel the same way about my daughter – now that she is older. She still surprises me, and I still fight not to react like my own mom, but I know what you mean. Some stuff – yes, I have and will share, other things, NOPE!! Peppermint schnapps sounds dreadful, I’m sure too much was consumed.

  2. Jo

    Um…well, I have shared some, but not much. But to be fair, they have never really asked what kind of stuff I did. I believe they think I was just as boring then as I am now! Maybe not…

    • Hi Jo.. It’s come up a few times over the years. It generally comes up when they listen to conversations between my sister and I, and then my mom chimes in. You won’t know until you share.

  3. My daughter is amazed by stories of me as a kid. I found that as teacher, my students thought of me as a teacher only, not a person and definitely not as someone who had once been in school myself. 😉

    Hey, I just emailed you. LOVED that non-fiction piece.

    • Thanks, Kelly. It’s a new one for me, now to figure out where to send. I am glad you share your stories with your daughter. We should teach them through our lives. I do think children see the adults in their ‘roles’ and have a hard time seeing them as humans.

  4. Jen

    I’ve shared some with my adult son. He’s only 19 so I don’t want to give him a reason to do stupid things …. like his mom.

    I have, in fits of frustration, shouted that I used to be fun. That it was only since becoming a mother that I became such a bore and a dud. And apparently lost any ability to dress to myself in style according to my nine year old daughter (which, sadly, is true).

    I’m hoping my old self shows up again (possibly with a bottle of Tequila) so that I can return to those carefree days before I had kids. I’m pretty sure that because having more kids is no longer a concern, the second time around will be even better.

    • Hey Jen, thanks much for stopping by. Just so you know, that woman you are talking about is inside of you now, and need no Tequila. Take her out shopping, have a mani/pedi, and then take her to lunch. You’ll see, she’ll slowly emerge.

  5. My kids were surprised to find out that I used to… gosh… skateboard and roller-skate!! I’ll admit I’m scared to even try now; a fall would hurt! My son’s heard my husband and I talk about a few of our drinking days of yore, with great interest. He seemed to realize we were human then, I think. Just a few stories, though. No need to frighten the child (even at 20, our stories might just do that!) :)

    BTW, I just LOVE your Song of the Week… Patsy is some good writing music!!!

    • Tonya – I would live to skate now, but like you have that abnomral fear of falling and breaking my neck. I dislike this feeling since I was never like this before. I supposed that is one of the downsides to becoming aware of our selves. And yes, a few stories are good. Just enough to keep them in awe and wondering. I am currently hooked on Patsy, she’s my muse for a story I am working on.

  6. Nice, Brenda…you definitely caught your son’s attention with the “M-16.” :)
    All I can say is thank God I made it out alive through my “wild years.”

  7. Oh yes, I’ve shared a few things with my babygirl. We wouldn’t have our kids think of us as prudes, now would we?

    When I was 16, I hitched a ride to the Raleigh-Durham airport and fly 3,000 miles, all the way from NC to CA. By myself. Those were the groupie days.

    Brenda, I’ve always known (well, as long as I’ve known you) that you had a wild side 😉

  8. Like most mothers, my children have put me through great torture as well as tremendous joy, so one of the paybacks I truly enjoy is shocking them, as you did your son above. Especially when they’re in ‘know it all’ mode, there’s nothing like very calmly saying something that blows them out of the water! You’ve always got to keep them guessing Brenda, that’s my motto! Great post.

    • Elizabeth – I LOVED your comment. My mom tells me all the time her greatest joy is watching me suffer through motherhood. I couldn’t agree more, we must keep them on their toes and hopping, I know my mom did that to me.

  9. Oh man, Brenda. What a pertinent question. I spent my daughter’s entire high school career with her telling us (whenever we were doing our job as parents) that we don’t know anything about being a kid. We were just two losers in high school (translation: we weren’t voted most popular). We pretty much held our tongue, although we wanted to point out that while we live a pretty tame existence now (steady work does that to you) we must not be too loser-y if we can travel to Russia to adopt her and her brother, take her to vacation in Europe, send her to basketball camp in the Netherlands, give her freedom of choice for her college, get her into the best schools in town where she meets all these other parents who are sooo much cooler than we are (read: let kids drink at their house and buy their kids a cool car). And . . . well, you get it. One day she will.

    • Julie – they do eventually understand us, but it sometimes takes such a long time. I don’t know if I will ever understand my own mother but I accept her for who she is. We’re not wired the same way. As for your kids and friend’s parents, it seems cool what they are seeing, but that story is only a small piece. My girl told me once — even though I was a pain and always on her butt and checking in on where she was– she wouldn’t change me because she as friends whose parents don’t care. It’s fine line being a parent and being a friend. You can’t always be both.

  10. This was beautiful. I was right there in the kitchen with you hanging on to every word! If I had an M-16 story in my life I would share it! I loved how you left him hanging. I wonder now if my two boys are perfectly happy not knowing about my former self… it makes them uncomfortable I think. I’m starting to share mistakes and bad decisions more openly (rather than the ‘wild’ or unwild side) so they know it’s a part of life. I really should share more, you know, before I forget it all :)

    • Thanks, Astra. I promise you I didn’t do anything wrong other than being in the wrong place… It is a good story but one I’ve not yet tackled. It’s a long story, not a blog post. I do think some an adult life is necessary to share.. how else will they know who we are..?

  11. I love it! I’ve shared many-a-story during the 45 minute carpool drive to my daughter’s middle school. She doesn’t seem terribly interested in me when we’re alone together, but when I’m driving her and her friends she is always pestering me to tell them stories. I think her favorite (although she’ll never admit it) is when I shocked everyone by telling them I used to volunteer for the local AIDS network and spent my Friday evenings riding around in a van looking for gay men to hand out rainbow condoms to as I taught them how to put them on using a banana as a prop. The girls were doing a unit on sex ed in school and were delightfully embarrassed.

    • Kario – they do like for bragging purposes, and you’d be surprised what they say to their friends about us when we’re not around. They’ll never say the ‘good’ stuff in front of us. No way… You’re probably a shero to your daughter for your bravery.

  12. As a stepmom, I think this is one area where I can get away with a little more. Hubby’s kids ask me plenty of frank questions, some of which I answer :). They also sometimes tell me more than I want to know about their lives — why can’t they lie to me like other kids do? What’s interesting now, though, as they are grown, is that they don’t quite understand why their dad and I aren’t sitting at home pining away for them. Instead, we’re on adventures and reclaiming our wildness!

    • Nadine – you may say that, but truly, be honored they trust you enough to talk to you. My kids have friends that never talk to their parents. It’s tough sometimes, but I like knowing mine feel they can come to me as needed. And ..there is not rulebook that says you and your hubby have to pine for them. Life is meant to be lived. I see and hear of women all the time who are lost when their children leave home. It makes me sad. Live!

  13. I was a college student in the 60’s. Nope, I haven’t shared a large part of my “before kids” life with my now adult children. They think I led a Father Knows Best kind of life. I have told them all the crazy stories of my childhood, although they’re not quite as fascinated by it as my grandchildren are.

    Great story!

    • Glenda – not even one story? One of my regrets now that I have deemed myself a writer is not asking my Grandmothers more questions. Of course, their generation protected their secrets for all the wrong reasons. Mine would never tell the same story the same way, which is why I write fiction – I weave their stories into mine. I can never write their stories because Oprah will call me out for telling half tales.

  14. My daughter is still in elementary school, but I share a lot with her–both adventures and misadventures (face planting on my skateboard, for example, or throwing a rock through our giant livingroom window when I was a kid). So far I haven’t felt the need to edit. Of course, we haven’t talked about my college years yet! : -)

    BTW I’m nominating you for the Candle Lighter Award. It will be mentioned in my blog post tomorrow. Congratulations!

    • Thanks, Becky! I’ll swing by tomorrow. I’ve been on the road all day, sorry for the delay. Your girl is a little longer than mine. It goes fast so enjoy these wonderful days.

  15. “Being an avid XBOX player he knows what an M16 is.” Ha, I love that! You were a badass back in the olden days! ;p For me, the trick is to remember how it was for me when my children get into messes. It helps to have perspective.

    • Adriene- I don’t think my kids think I was all that bad, but they are always surprised when I tell them stories. I like to keep them on their toes. Keeps the in touch with reality. You make a good point on teaching. I had one such experience last week with my daughter.

  16. Same here…shared some. What I feel is appropriate :-) Other things they will NEVER know! Luckily they know I’m a pretty fun, goofy kind of lady. But yea…still their mom.

    • Michael Ann.. Me, too. I don’t think everything is necessary, but some stuff they need to know. I know for certain, I am more fearless than my kids. I want them to be a tad more brave, thus the stories.

    • Linda, really?! I’ve always thought of myself as tame. Funny how our perception of our self is different from what others see. I might need to post another story like is one. I’ve only listed the ‘good-bad’ things.

  17. —Fabulous.

    Our kids assume we did not have a past and that our entire lives revolve around them

    I Love Love Love your stories, B.

    I could hear you perfectly ….and visulized you smiling & sipping your wine 😉 Xxx

    • Hey there Kim, I do think you are correct about our kids thinking we just ‘appeared’ for their benefit. At your recommendation, I tried cupcake.. Yumms…

  18. nikky44

    The y ask a lot, but I didn’t start yet to tell them. Unfortunately it’s all bad war memories, and since the situation is really unstable, I feel it’s better for them not to know these things.<3

    • Nikky – each of us has to follow our hearts on the subject of motherhood and what it is best for them, and us. I wish for you to find yours.

  19. Oh, your stories, Brenda … I could hear the laughter of you and your sister as you girls flew down the hill on your bike! (And what about the M16s?) If I do have children, I don’t think I’d tell them everything. Some particular stories that are fun, sure. But not all. It’s better to remain a little mysterious …

    • Claudine – I think we all have stories inside of us, but it’s not until we write that we remember. My Singapore story is a one I haven’t told yet. It’s a big story but a hard one to tell. I agree, NOT everything needs to be share.

  20. Another great post! Recently I told my daughter about a few of my escapades. Not sure when or if I’ll ever be able to talk to my son in the same way. I admire you for your honesty. I’m sure you taught him a thing or two re making assumptions about our parents. 😉

    • Monica, thanks for the good word. Since posting this, I’ve wondered why we hold back. I am not ashamed of anything I’ve done, but I didn’t want to give my kids any ideas. As much as I hate saying this, times are different. There are more abductions these days .. when I was younger, there were less.

  21. Hi, Brenda! ~

    I can’t believe you waited till he was 13 — haha! I think you know I believe in transparency so I don’t really have secrets from my kids, or anybody else. If they don’t know about it, it’s because it never came up, not because I kept it from them. Although, I wasn’t really a ‘naughty’ girl growing up, so there wasn’t really anything to hide 😉

    • Even though we have not yet met in person, Linda, I know this about you. You are open and honest. I wasn’t what I would call bad, I was of I am going to challenge my boundaries kind of girl.

  22. Ooh, I lovity-love-love this post! My hubby did a number of things that we didn’t want our kids doing–even though to this day, I still think it was all pretty cool. My brother-in-law was just itching to share the stories with the kids and we made him vow to wait until they were grown-ups before blabbing.

    As far as me, there are things my kids know and things they don’t–and that’s the way I like it. They know enough to really know me–not just who I’ve been since they came along, but who I was before that, too. Some details have never been shared and likely may never be, but I think they have a pretty good picture, all in all.

    • I’m with you, Beth. I share just not every little detail. Not everything is relevant, but some stories must be shared. I am part of their legacy, as is my mom and her mom. I wish I knew more of my grandmother’s past. Now that’s a racy story.

  23. k~

    My son will be 30 tomorrow, and he knows me pretty well… before… and after him. I answered the questions he had as he asked them with age appropriate responses. When the answer pushed the question aside, I knew he heard enough. Enough to satiate his curiosity, and not enough to give him any grand ideas. He’s a reasonable person though, a thinker, and really just wanted to know the answers.

    (whispers… and what he didn’t ask… I kept to myself 😉

    • K- Some stuff they do not need to know, but it’s a hard one. I so want to share tidbits with my kids but I know in my heart they might not understand, so I hold back. Other stuff, they have to know.

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