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Jewish World Review
March 7, 2006
/ 7 Adar, 5766
Hey, you kids, do as I say, not as I dared
In a way, Emilie Neumann Muse was just a normal mom.
Sure, she spent her youth wrestling alligators, flying planes and leaping out of them.
One time she swam around Manhattan to prove she could. Another time she swam for 24 hours straight — same reason. It was that kind of era: the Roaring Twenties. You wanted to make a splash, you got buried alive. Muse did and lost 11 pounds!
But just like all the other moms (and dieters) I know, the Bronx-born daredevil was terrified of one thing:
Telling her children how she spent her youth.
According to a New York Times obituary of Muse, who died in East Patchogue last month at 98, she didn't want to prove "overly inspirational." So she didn't tell her kids she'd been the toast of New York and, by the way, INSANELY RECKLESS, until they were safe, uninjured, possibly-boring-but-who cares?-they're-alive, grownups.
"That's normal," says a friend I'll call Lucia, for reasons that will become obvious.
Lucia believes you should treat your kids like a job interview: no need to tell them all the times you screwed up. For instance, "I won't tell them that I climbed the Brooklyn Bridge one day when I was 22."
"It was like climbing the Rocky Mountains — so tall and irresistible," Lucia recalls with gusto.
My pal Patty, now a paintings-on-the-fridge mom, is keeping quiet, too.
"I walked across the Long Island Expressway because I didn't want to go all the way around to my friend's house," she says. Then there was the hitchhiking. The drugs. And the 64 days she didn't show up for high school. Why let her kids know you can do all that and still end up running the PTA?
Brenda, yet another pal, has zero intention of telling how she and her friends wandered the sewer system — until the day one of those friends fell into the murky waters below. "We took her home and hid her until she got dry," laughs Brenda.
Sure it's funny in retrospect. In fact, it's those crazy, near-disasters of which memories, and maybe even maturity, are made.
But it's not a mother's job to inspire them. That's why, like mama Muse and all the other mamas I know, I'm clamming up. For the record, my youth was spent in Sunday school. That alligator bite on my back?
Eat your vegetables.
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JWR contributor Lenore Skenazy is a columnist for The New York Daily News. Comment by clicking here.
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