My mother was always “the boss.” Though only four foot, seven and a half inches tall, Mom packed a lot of authority into her diminutive frame. “Because I said so” was her unapologetic reasoning behind any given directive.
If that wasn’t enough, she had an arsenal of back-up material. She’d threaten to tell Dad, who she allowed us to believe was “the boss,” just because it served her purposes. There was the spanking, or the threat of it. If necessary, that threat would expand to include the belt or the willow switch. There was guilt, and Mom was a master at it.
Mom was in control. If she wanted to go shopping, out to dinner, or to Bingo, she just said the word. If she was ready to go home, whether anyone else wanted to leave or not, it was time to say good-bye.
When Mom was on her deathbed, heavily medicated and barely aware of her surroundings, my sister Sheila died. The doctor advised us to not even tell her. “Spare her that pain,” was the suggestion, and we tentatively agreed. Yet, as soon as Mom asked where Sheila was, and said, “I want the truth,” Robin and Amy spilled the beans. That’s okay. Any one of us would have done the same. We had spelled it out in the agreement: “We will spare her…unless she demands to know.” Because Mom was the boss.
I’ve never held that much authority. I’ve tended always to cajole, request or beg more than “order.” When I gave my daughters a directive, it was accompanied by a long explanation and a list of reasons. I never wanted to be a “because I said so” Mom. My youngest, losing patience with my wordiness, would clap her hands over her ears and say, “Okay, okay, I’ll do it…just stop talking!” The only time I ever felt like I was “the boss” was the few months before my oldest daughter was due to get her driver’s license. Any misbehavior, and that license was at stake. I felt guilty, but incredibly powerful, whenever I wielded that threat.
Mostly, though, I’ve always tried to be more diplomatic. I don’t like taking orders, and I’m not comfortable giving them. I don’t like the idea that someone needs to be the leader. It would be nice if we could all just talk our way through. However, when a time comes when it’s necessary to be assertive, I have to say, I envy Mom’s style!