“Parents are sometimes a disappointment to their children. They don’t fulfill the promise of their early years.” (Anthony Powell)

I wish that I could pinpoint the exact moment in time when, in the eyes of my children at least, I went from being brilliant to barely being competent enough to be allowed out in public on my own. With my daughter, Clementine, it happened very early on: in fact, she was the only child in her kindergarten class who did not want her mother to stay with her the first day. (“You can go now,” she said to me at the door.) And it’s gotten worse from there: just the other week she wanted me to sit out in the car and wait for her during a three hour school function. (“Ok, you can come in if you promise to stand in the corner and not talk to anyone.” she finally allowed.)

I keep waiting for the same thing to happen with my son, Clyde–for the knob on his “parental mortification” sensor to be turned up to “eleven,” but so far, nothing. (Although, kind soul that he is, he might just be hiding his disdain for my imbecility better than Clementine ever did). Maybe, but I doubt it: by the time she was her brother’s age Clementine’s doubts as to my competence were too numerous to be hidden. Not only would she blink at me in disbelief at my explanation of the natural world (true, my reasoning that the sky is blue because the sky got first pick was particularly specious), but she would even challenge me on things that I could be expected to understand. Like writing. (“Look,” I’d say, “this word really is spelled with a “g”–it says so in the dictionary.” “In your dictionary, maybe.”)

Still, even though I may never know the answer to where it all began, at least I know the answer to when it will end: sometime after she has her first child. Oh, the mysteries that were solved for me after I had children! Like, “Why was my mother so mean?” became “How did I ever make it to adulthood without her killing me?” and “Why are my parents so cheap?” became “Did I really once use my mother’s credit card to buy a $60 pair of leg warmers, and live to tell the tale?”

Of course, it is entirely possible that Clementine will never have children (in fact, she currently insists upon it), which means that–in her eyes at least–my stupidity will continue on unabated until the day I die. If that is the case, then I will have no choice but to milk it for all it’s worth; after all, if I’m going to be treated like an idiot, I should at least have the option of behaving like one.

That means that when the day comes when I have to move in with Clementine (in her ultra-chic, child-free downtown loft) because I’ve spent all of my own money on the Home Shopping Network and Dial-A-Prayer, she can’t act surprised. Or when she has to drive me everywhere because I got so many tickets that I lost my license, she can’t complain. After all: what else would she expect with an idiot for a mother?

Come to think of it, I might start playing the idiot card now. Why should I get her that oh-so-expensive “twilight” hoodie she wants for Christmas, when all the “High School Musical 3″ ones will soon be 70% off? (After all, how can an idiot tell the difference between a vampire and a cheerleader?)

In fact, I might become so stupid that I forget to shop–or clean, or cook, or drive people to their friends’ houses–entirely. In fact, I might get so dumb that eventually the Republicans will ask me to run for Vice President. Now that would be mortifying.

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