Keeping it real - FamilyEducation

Keeping it real

June 11,2009
Professor Mom
Aliki McElreath

Aliki is a writer and college English teacher. She lives in North Carolina with her husband, two children (ages seven and ten), a dog, a cat, a rabbit, and too many fish.

One day last week I was sitting in the waiting room of T.'s speech therapy place, indulging in a rare few moments of magazine-reading. The magazine I was reading had a huge, splashy picture of Kate of Jon & Kate fame (infamy?) on the front cover, and some provocative headline about their crumbling marriage, or something of that sort. One of the "regulars" there--another mom (there are about five of us regulars who are there, same time, same day, every week. We have come to know more about each other, let me tell you, in snippets of overheard conversations and shared exchanges over these past eight months than I think I would find out a few hours spent with a good friend) leaned in when she saw me reading the magazine. "Are you reading about them?" She asked. I wasn't, actually. But I did know who she was referring too (I think I was reading the latest on Brangelina at the time). We got to talking about reality shows--shows like this one, and of course the Jon and Kate one, and this one, and the fact that she thought this woman would become the center of the next such show. Then the woman, who has four kids and is married to a firefighter, seemed to make up her mind very suddenly about something. "You know what?" She said, just at the moment when another mom walked into the waiting room--a mom we all happen to know is single, loves peach ice cream, makes beaded jewelry for a living, has a black-haired dog and a black-haired cat that shed too much, and a sister who she hasn't spoken with in three years, and has a completely non-verbal, non potty-trained four-year old. "I would like to see them do a reality show about real 'real' people for a change." "Oh, yes," several of us chorused, nodding in agreement. "People who are just living their lives, and trying to make it work. People who work hard for a living for not enough money, and live in a house that's too small, and drive a crappy van, and have a child--heck, maybe two or three of them--with issues, and who can't get insurance to cover medical treatment for their kids, but they keep on forking out the money anyway because what are you going to do? People who spend way too much time in waiting rooms like this one. People who love their kids more than anything in the world, people who may not be perfectly, wonderfully, I'm-in-heaven married, but they love each other and they make it work....Because THAT'S the reality I'm interested in." And with that off her chest, she folded her arms and sat back, with a humph. The rest of us moms in the waiting room looked at her for a few seconds. We could have broken out into applause, but we didn't. Instead one mom leaned into the room and said, loudly and firmly and with more passion than you would ever hear in any church: "AMEN to that."