BE GLAD YOU’RE NOT AN OCTOPUS!

In celebration of Mother’s Day 2023

Remembering my Mother

It’s been 19 years since my mother died, quite unexpectedly, on her 62nd birthday.  Time has eased the immense sadness and intense grief I experienced at the time of her death and in the months thereafter, although I still miss her very much every single day of my life.  She was my first friend, my best friend, and my most faithful *comforter.

*Webster’s 1828 Dictionary

COMFORTERnoun

One who administers comfort or consolation; one who strengthens and supports the mind in distress or danger.

Given that teenage angst and concomitant mood swings, bad attitude, and rebellious behaviour meant my adolescence was spent in what seemed like a perpetual state of punishment, I swore I would be nothing like my mother.  Strangely, though, the minute I became a mother I made every effort to be exactly like my mother – a mysterious need to be, I realized, as good a mother to my children as mine was to me.

My mother was smart, patient, practical, hard-working, and had a heart with the capacity of a minibus taxi – lots of room for everyone!  She was also the disciplinarian.  I’ve come to realize that it wasn’t her choice but, rather, an inherent maternal instinct – most mothers assume this thankless task because their role is that of protecting their children.  And, how better to protect than to provide the ethics and values that equip them to be awesome humans?

When she became a grandmother, however, the disciplinarian instinct went walk-about and was replaced with a far stronger contrary instinct that defeated my authoritarian efforts and left me shaking my head in disbelief.  The phrases “Ouma said…” and “but Ouma lets us…” were standard responses in our home.  Apparently, feet on the furniture and jumping on beds was (inconceivably) now acceptable.  Leaving the table without finishing the food on your plate was not only (now) acceptable but also gave rise to placing orders for preferred meals – unfathomable to me after years of being told to eat what had been served or go without.

As far as Ouma was concerned, her grandchildren were the best-looking, brightest, darn-near perfect children in existence, and they could do no wrong.  Clearly, Mother Nature’s sense of humour is a little twisted!

Fortunately, so is mine!  The irony with which Mother Nature designed the biological transformation of mother gene to grandmother gene seemed deliberately contrary to what I expected (a no-nonsense grandmother with firm ideas about discipline) and I was mildly amused.

Mother Nature’s designs, whilst seemingly droll, are well-considered.  For example, by the time I realized my mother was right (about everything!), I had a daughter that thought I was wrong.  Were it not for Mother Nature’s genius, I would not have had the inherent courage to say “no” to my children when I knew they would hate me for it.  I understand your design, Mother Nature!

What I don’t understand, however, is what you were thinking when you designed the octopus. 

Mother’s Day for an Octopus Mother

Octopus

“Happy Mother’s Day!” said no octopus larva, ever.

In a grim twist of biological fate, octopuses reproduce once and then die. I can only imagine what Mother Nature was thinking when she hardwired this grim death spiral of copulation, fasting, and starvation – it goes like this:

Mother Nature planned to spend the day creating a beautiful creature.  She woke before dawn to prep healthy packed lunches for the kids, ironed a collared shirt for her husband, and left a continental breakfast on the table for the family to enjoy before they left for work and school.  Before settling down in her studio, and to ensure she was not disturbed, she taped a poster to the door before she firmly shut it.  The poster read,

Lack of preparation on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine.”

This is what happened next:

The door swung open, and Mother Nature’s well-planned day was shot to hell.

In the bedlam that followed, her husband dashed out the front door saying he forgot he had an early meeting and, therefore, wouldn’t have time to do the school run. He did pause, look at his teenage daughter as she walked down the stairs, and shout, “You’re not going out dressed like that!”

Said teenage daughter, wearing little more than a bra and a loincloth, argued “This is the fashion – everyone wears it!” At which time Mother Nature, recovering from the unplanned chaos, raised her eyebrow and without a word conveyed to her teenage daughter that she would not be leaving the house unless she changed.  The delightful adolescent yelled back, “I hate you!  You’re ruining my life!”.

Her tween son quietly wondered around the living area wearing only one shoe, making half-hearted attempts to look under furniture for the other one.  Shoe unfound, he mentioned that he’d lost the permission slip for the class trip, confident that in telling his mother, it was no longer his problem. Mother Nature’s patience was wearing thin, and she snapped at him.

Over an hour later, having found the missing shoe, driven a sullen but appropriately dressed teen and her suitably chastised brother to school, and popped into school to sign a permission form, Mother Nature returned home. She was in a bit of a mood. Understandable.

Reflecting on her life choices, she wondered if her children would be better off without her.  After all, it seems she does nothing more than nag, shout, and discipline.  Even worse, though, is the suspicion that her natural maternal instincts are the very reason her children lack independence, responsibility, and respect.  She wonders if by taking away the unconditional love and support of a mother, the very things that are taken for granted by children, they would be better equipped to develop those traits.

Her thoughts are disturbed by three quick pings, and she reaches for her phone.

Message 1: 

Hey hun.  You’re not going to believe this – I had the wrong day.  The meeting is tomorrow 😊 Just a heads-up so you know you’ll have to do the school run tomorrow.  Wow, I’m under so much pressure, I’m losing my mind.  Wish I could work from home like you.

Message 2:

I fancy spag bol for dinner tonight.  It’s easy, right?  ‘Just don’t want to put you under pressure – you looked a little tense this morning.

And then, (he really shouldn’t have), Message 3:

I’m going out for a couple of beers after work, but I won’t be long… thinking that when I get home some Mummy/Daddy time would be good 😉

It was at that moment, readers, that Mother Nature stripped her moer and created the octopus.

SPEC

1.  Appearance: upper body

    Big-headed

(What Mother Nature was thinking):

In the absence of respect for my career, consideration for my time, appreciation for everything I do, and an invitation to ‘drinks’, does he really think he’s going to get Mummy/Daddy time tonight?

 

2.  Appearance: lower body

     Eight tentacles

(What Mother Nature was thinking):

I’m being creative.

 

3.  Reproduction organs

     No external sexual organs

(What Mother Nature was thinking):

The moron.  I still can’t believe he thinks he’s going to get lucky tonight.  Huge design flaw – remove the external organ that rules his life and, in so doing, provide enough oxygen to the limbic system of his brain to better control emotional behaviour.

 

 4.  Reproductive process / mating ritual

      Manual?

(What Mother Nature was thinking):

Oh shit, I didn’t think that through.  There are no external sexual organs. Oh well, I guess the male can use one of his eight tentacles to hand the female the sperm and she can fertilise her eggs herself.

(Giggling), reminds me of that old joke… “Avoid disappointment, do it yourself.”

 

5.  Sexual maturity

     Link to a sense of commitment.  Senescence, perhaps?

(What Mother Nature was thinking):

Having children is like a tattoo on one’s face – it requires commitment. Think about it: he said, “let’s have children” and then he didn’t give up or balance his career and social activities to co-parent.  I’m exhausted by parenting.  I feel old.  I don’t have the energy to meet friends for drinks. So, perhaps, a mechanism of sorts that induces equal commitment… I know, I’ll link the optic gland that induces the ripening of the reproductive organs to the commitment of senescence – the process of deterioration with age.

In brief, without the commitment, reproduction cannot take place.

 

6.  Parenting roles

     The mother must guard the eggs from predators.

(What Mother Nature was thinking):

I haven’t got the energy to imagine what the father might do.  I guess he can avoid the school run, mention when the mother looks a little tense, and plan what she can cook every night.  Never mind, senescence will take care of him.

 

7.  Mother/child relationship

     Non-existent

(What Mother Nature was thinking):

Octopus larvae are going to be the most independent little critters alive.  The mother will die shortly after they hatch and, in so doing, avoid becoming a nag and a disciplinarian, essentially sacrificing her life for the successful life of her spawn.

 

8. Death

    Senescence

(What Mother Nature was thinking):

Okay, I’ve linked sexual maturity to the commitment of senescence, and the mother will die before she inadvertently turns her children into a bunch of dependent brats that can’t find their shoes and think she’s ruining their life.  She’ll be weak… nay, starving… from lack of food while she tends to the eggs – I’ll genetically program her to cannibalize her tentacles to ensure she lives long enough to guard her eggs, though.

 

9. Name

    Octo…

(What Mother Nature was thinking):

Well, it has eight tentacles, so ‘Octo’ is a good start.  Darn!  I can’t think straight – those WhatsApp messages are stuck in my craw… he’s behaving like such a… oh!  Got it!

 

9. Name

    Octopus!

 

A wild imagining, for sure, but now we all understand what Mother Nature was thinking when she created the octopus.  😊

Enough fantastical nonsense for one day – have a fabulous Mother’s Day (and be thankful you’re not an octopus!).

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