I’m not a big fan of chewing gum.
When I was a kid, the only time I ever served detention was in eighth grade. Standing in the cafeteria, right next to the assistant principal, I cracked my gum…several times. It was a bad habit.
I stopped chewing gum after that and I’ve tried to avoid buying it for my kids. I blame it on the aspartame. “Oh, sorry, can’t buy that. Has aspartame.” Then my kids found this great gum at Trader Joe’s called Glee Gum.
The gum pieces are small squares, so it’s much better than chewing those huge clumps of bubble gum and it’s not filled with all kinds of weird chemicals. I’m not crazy about Tic Tacs (the flavors seem a little…off to me and I always feel like I need to eat a handful to really satisfy the mint craving), so I thought this would be a good way to deal with coffee breath. I grab the little box whenever I need a little breath freshening. Harmless so far, right?
Well, the other night, the kids and I were driving back from my daughter’s chorus practice. The car was filled with music, chatter, and laughter when suddenly “Crack, pop, crack!” everyone froze. My daughter looked at me and softly asked, “What was that?” We don’t chew much gum in our house. I looked over at her like I was a teenager caught with a beer in her hand. “Uh…well…that? Yeah, well…it must have been part of the song.” She kept looking at me then slowly started grinning — you know, that slow “gotcha” grin. “Noooo, I don’t think so.” Grinning a little more. Then, “Are you chewing gum?” Brief pause. “No, wait, did you just crack your gum?”
They know all about the eighth grade experience. That’s partly why they were surprised I was even chewing it, but cracking it? That was the dirty deed. The black mark. The cause of my detention.
My daughter’s right at that age when she watches everything I do, analyzes it and records it in her “notes of mom” mental diary. I felt as if I could see the little teeny pencil in her head furiously scribbling an addendum.
“Isn’t that what you got detention for? Back in eighth grade?” My daughter is in middle school right now. She can relate.
“Um, well, yes.” It’s funny how memories take us back so much that we almost feel like that little kid all over again. Embarrassed. Humiliated.
Somebody somewhere (I hope!) is probably saying, “What the heck? You just popped chewing gum? What’s the big deal?” It’s all relative, I guess, so just insert your own transgression.
Anyway, so there I am, trapped in a car, in a very awkward moment with the kids wondering what I would say next. Would I spit out the gum and say, “Yeah, boy, I should have learned my lesson back then. It’s just plain rude to the people around me to pop gum. Sorry. Bad example.” and move on? Would I say, “That’s right, kiddo. Never mind! I’m the mom so I can! But you…don’t even think about doing it…ever!”
Nah, I took the middle road.
“Why, yes, I did,” I calmly replied.
Then my son chimes in, “How did you do that??”
So that’s all this is about. They’re fascinated at a new trick they want to learn. Hmm…okay. Different dilemma now. Do I say, “Never mind. You shouldn’t do that, so you don’t need to know.” Or should I teach them how?
I took a deep breath and told myself, “This is where you need to let go. I mean, you work for years and years with your kids to try and instill a sense of good judgment so that one day, when they’re chewing gum, standing next to their assistant principal, they’ll know what to do. They’ll make the right choice. They will have learned from you. Er, well, from your mistake. Even if they’re chewing the forbidden gum and they know how to crack it.”
So, I said, “It’s simple. It’s like blowing a bubble, just backwards. Flatten out the gum with your tongue and your teeth…”