It was enough to make any kid fearful for his life.
It was that look your mama gave you – the one you got when you were acting up, the one that made you want to join the Witness Protection Program. That look could freeze a kid on the spot forever like a statue and, though it was deadly, it rarely came with sound – except, says Ylonda Gault Caviness, a heavy sigh and “Child, Please.”
Growing up, there were many things you learned by observation – one of them being a sharp knowledge of when you were approaching your mother’s last nerve.
Like most kids, Ylonda Gault Caviness tried to avoid that mess; instead, she craved her Mama’s approval, though it wasn’t earned easily. And that was the way things just were.
Until Caviness had her first child.
Chloe was born on a hot August day, and Mama was enormously pleased, though she’d never admit it. In the first days, she was helpful and indulgent with the new baby, but, never one to filter what she said, she was constantly critical and eagerly pounced on that which she perceived was wrong.
That grated on Caviness. Still, mere weeks into new-mommyhood, Caviness was shocked when Mama announced that she was going home. Caviness felt abandoned.
There were grounds for that, Caviness reasoned. Mama had never had much of a mother herself: when she was just four years old, her mother died, and her father quickly gave her a stepmother who was almost straight out of a bad fairy tale.
Consequently, Mama didn’t put her own children in the center of her life. She gave them the love they needed, but not that which they wanted.
Some months later, Caviness had her second daughter, Trinity, an easy baby who made motherhood particularly good for Caviness and made Mama quite amused at the way children are raised today.
Bemusement, however, didn’t change her forwardness: to Caviness’ chagrin, Mama remained frustrating. By the time baby Cole came along five years after Trinity, everything – the help-no-help, the unwanted advice, and Caviness’ exhaustion– had all come to a crash.
So you say there are times when you consider asking your mother for a DNA test? And though you love your kids, you might include them, too?
Before you grab the swabs, read “Child, Please.”
The first thing you need to know is that author Ylonda Gault Caviness is funny. I mean, LOL funny, in a way that will make you feel like she’s been your friend since junior high.
You can practically picture the conversations you’d have with her. But this book isn’t all comedy: Caviness dispenses advice and sass, yes, but she also displays a sweet amount of gratitude, understanding, and the kind of love only shared between mothers and the daughters they drive crazy.
I think this is a perfect book for everyone who’s ever had a mom or been one. It’s also great for any mother-to-be. If you love laugh-out-loud, cry-a-little memoirs, then “Child, Please” is worth a Look.
“Child, Please” by Ylonda Gault Caviness, c. 2015, Tarcher / Penguin, $25.95, 320 pages.