What It’s Like Growing Up with Five Mothers (Hint: It’s Often Hilarious)

Having five moms has made Mark Peyser something of an expert on the species—and he means species in the horticultural sense.

Mother and son at parkPhoto: Shutterstock

My Five Moms, As Explained by Horticulture

When I tell my children stories about my mother, like how she used to share her cocktails with our golden retriever or when I woke up in the middle of the night and caught her making a tooth fairy delivery in the nude, the kids always ask the same thing: which mother are you talking about, Pop? (Here are eight signs you’re raising emotionally intelligent children.)

It’s a fair question. After all, there are five.

Only one of them is my biological mother, of course. (She was the acting tooth fairy, and just for the record, she says she wasn’t wearing any clothes because she remembered her job only after going to bed, which she did naked.) I also have a mother-in-law. And, thanks to my dad’s can-do matrimonial motto—“If at first you don’t succeed, tie, tie the knot again”—I’ve also been the recipient of three stepmothers. Somehow, when they leave my father, they stay attached to me.

I’m not complaining, mind you. With multiple moms, you can expect multiple birthday cards and holiday presents, not to mention a deep bench of low-cost babysitters. On the other hand, you also get a host of opinions on how to raise your kids, what you should and shouldn’t eat, and where to spend your vacations. (The answer to the last one: at her house.)

Having many moms has made me something of an expert on the species, and I mean species in the horticultural sense. (Here are 5 Ways Parental Pressure Can Cause More Harm Than Good.)

For instance, one of my moms is a total gardenia. She brightens any room and smells wonderful, but she also demands precise care. She needs lots of son (me) and requires immediate adjustments if her environment turns hostile. This explains her weekly SOS calls when she fochrgets her Wi-Fi password, as well as her impatience with other drivers and her cable remote. I made the mistake of teaching her how to FaceTime on her phone so I could lend a virtual hand when possible. Bad idea. I am now the frequent victim of the accidental purse dial when she’s rooting around for her wallet, usually when she’s driving with her friends. It sounds like this: “Snarfle rumble grbrrrr terrible facelift? No wonder she rumple frizzle clank sugar daddy. Of course jingle jangle play mah-jong. Can you drive…”

With one very high-maintenance mom/houseplant, it’s a relief to have another who is a cactus. Sure, she pricks if I get too close—no gratuitous hugs there—and she’s been known to forget my birthday. But on the plus side, this mom hardly ever requires a drink and can take any heat I throw at her. When my other mothers get on my nerves, it’s the stoic cactus I turn to.

Helpful in an entirely different way is my maternal dieffenbachia; dieffenbachias literally suck impurities out of the air. True to form, this mom tidies my kitchen and does the laundry without being asked. Like Mary Poppins, she’s practically perfect in every way. In fact, she’s almost too good. What’s the point of having a mother if you can’t carp about her a little?

Without a doubt, my most entertaining mother is my Venus flytrap. She’s an exotic show-off from her head to her toes. She used to go to a special pedicurist who would paint cartoons on her big toenails—X-rated cartoons. She thought they were hilarious; my Grade 5 teacher thought otherwise. My flytrap mother is naturally a diehard carnivore, and the more unhealthy the meat, the better. If the word “nitrate” isn’t on the label, she won’t look at it.

Lastly, there’s my aloe vera mother. She kisses boo-boos and makes them better, just like how aloe gel can soothe a minor sunburn. “Fussy” isn’t in her vocabulary—she’s happy anywhere, indoors or out. She’s the perfect mom to curl up with on the couch to watch an old movie, snug under the afghan she crocheted. She also makes a mean lasagna. Flytrap mom would kill for the recipe, which is why I never divulge one mother’s culinary gifts to the others. (Oops.)

I’m tempted to note that one anagram of “aloe vera” is “love area,” but that wouldn’t be fair to my other mothers. They all create maternal love areas. Some may have unusual preferences in food or nail decor, but they all love me despite my own peccadilloes. So thanks, Dad. You may have dubious taste in wives, but when it comes to moms, you sure know how to pick ’em.

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Reader's Digest Canada
Originally Published in Reader's Digest Canada