It’s not like I didn’t give my children fair warning. I mean, when they’re little I went with the whole “I’ve got eyes in the back of my head” thing, which is in turns both true and deeply creepy. I once had my younger son pawing at my head while he straddled my shoulders. When I asked him what he was doing, he replied he was looking for the extra set of eyes I claimed to have.
Needless to say he was disappointed when he didn’t find an extra set of baby blues peeping out at him from my scalp.
As they got a little older, I coined the phrase momniscience–the fact that as their mother, I know, see, and understand all–many times before they do themselves.
Momniscience is the certainty they’re about to come down with a cold before they even begin to sniffle, just because there’s a sickly sweet scent to their breath. Sometimes I demand they breath at me so I know if I’m going to have to alter my plans and play Florence Nightingale the next day. Gross, right? But I’m their mom. I’m used to gross.
Momniscience is being able to tell they had a shitty day just by the slight slump of a shoulder as they come out of school, or hearing the fragility of their young souls in a silence.
Lately though I’ve stepped it up a notch. I’ve been freaking them out by causally dropping intel I shouldn’t have, snippets of conversations I know about even though I wasn’t there, minor events that have taken place while they were out of my sight. You know. Spy game stuff.
Most of it’s just dumb luck of course, a tidbit someone shared with someone who shared it with someone who shared it with me. That’s ok, it works to my advantage. It plays into my mythology of motherhood.
As an example: Last year my older son had a sports tournament in another country. Another mother kept me up to date with scores and weather and just general well-being checks. Not only was my son fine, she texted, but he’d stood up for member of the team who was having a hard time.
A few nights after he’d returned I casually brought it up.
I think he may have dropped his fork.
“How did you know that?!” he asked, incredulous.
“I know everything,” I told him, spooning mashed potatoes onto his plate.
Of course the truth is not that I know everything. Don’t be silly. The truth is this: mothers are really a cabal of secret agents.
Under the cover of PTA meetings and food shopping, we’re operating a network of mother spies. Sure, it may look like we’re helping out with the Halloween decorations or chaperoning a field trip, but what we’re really doing is keeping an eye on each other’s children. From the outside it looks like we’re hosting a playdate or a birthday party, but in reality, we’re collecting intel.
Have your kids ever wondered how come they just happened to run into someone else’s mother?
Well now you know.
We’re out there, mother field agents, collecting and trading information, making sure everyone is where they’re supposed to be when they’re supposed to be, doing the things they’re supposed to be doing and not doing the things they’re not supposed to be doing. Stepping in when their own parents can’t be around.
Armed with nothing more than a shrewd look, a narrowed gaze, and a not-so-subtle, I’ve got my eye on you, buster expression, we are the embodiment of those eyes in the back of the head.
I pulled that one out the other day when I caught a kid I know using words his parents don’t want to know he was using. Coupled with a look over the top of my sunglasses, the subtle reminder that I knew his parents was enough to secure a look of terror. Exactly as it was meant to.
So the next time you see a group of mothers huddling together, don’t be fooled. They’re not really talking about math homework. They’re watching over each other’s kids, playing surrogate, helping other mothers by keeping them in the loop.
I’m good, but I can’t really be everywhere all at once.
I’m not superhuman. Just a mother to a couple of kids who will hopefully grow up and talk about the spy who loved me.