Mother’s Day isn’t this weekend, but it’s not far away. I know this, because my inbox is already getting a barrage of emails about it. And because I’m not brave enough to put “Tell Us About Your Mother” as a headline on a website with gamers, for this week’s Off Topic let’s talk about parents in general.
I’ve written about my parents on Kotaku from time to time. Not long after I started here, I discovered that my dad – during PAX, in fact – was actually declared clinically dead as the result of arrhythmia. They never wanted to tell me at the time – they know how hard I’ve worked to get where I am, and they’re always super cautious about disturbing me.
That was a difficult conversation to have: your parents trying to explain why they didn’t want to bother you during work, even for a literal emergency. I understand some of the logic – different state, what can you actually do and not wanting to worry – but that’s a painful prospect to face: the thought that your parents think you think your job is more important than they are.
Anyway, I don’t mean to start things off on a sour note. But with things like these, it’s always best to go with what resonates the strongest.
Because it’s Mother’s Day, I’ll share a little story that happened in high school.
It was towards the end of Year 7. I’d been suspended for a week, for throwing a small rock near a student (my aim wasn’t very good). It was coming up to the end of the yearly exams, and there was a small problem: my locker had been kicked in, containing all my necessary textbooks.
Being suspended wasn’t great, but not being able to study wasn’t a serviceable option either. I’d asked if something could be done about it, and unsurprisingly, the teachers weren’t too thrilled about the prospect of manual labour. So they ignored it for about two or three days.
Unsurprisingly, my mother (as the sole parent in the country at the time, owing to my dad’s work) was unimpressed with that response.
She’d already gained a reputation around schools and parent meetings as the person that you do not fuck with, under any circumstances. Through a combination of her own upbringing and professional experience, she’d spent a lot of time dealing with the misuse of power, and had little time or patience for people who failed to look after those underneath them.
Teachers, in particular, never failed to cop the sharp end of the stick. “Never forget: they’re just teachers, and that’s all they are,” I remember being told once.
It wasn’t a line to diminish teachers at people, but a reminder that people in positions of authority are just ordinary people. Sometimes they’re good people. And plenty of times they’re not. But either way, they’re just people, not to be revered and certainly not feared.
The way the story was originally told, my mother rocked up to the front office and demanded that something be done. Her son wasn’t able to study for school exams, and if they weren’t going to offer an extension or act in any way, she would.
Her solution: a sledgehammer from the boot of the car. If they wouldn’t open the locker, she would.
That wasn’t an acceptable decision, but the ploy did literally force the school’s hand. The compromise ended up with my science teacher, a giant of a man, physically pulling the locker door open with her help. I still remember the scene: around 25 or 30 students, maybe more, were gathered around watching this remarkable scene, with me standing in the background, laughing.
I couldn’t help but laugh. It was such an absurd scenario, and such an unnecessary one. But Christ, I woudln’t have blamed anyone if they thought I was an arsehole that day.
The two of them eventually wedged the locker open, and I grabbed my textbooks and carried on with my suspension for the rest of the week. Everyone continued with their lives, and from memory, nobody mentioned the incident ever since.
Earlier, I mentioned that this was “the way the story was originally told”. When Mum rocked up to the school office, she brought a sledgehammer. That’s what she jokingly told me at the time, and I’ve included that in retellings of the story since, but bother her and I know that wasn’t the case.
Because the truth is: she was the sledgehammer.
So to round off this week’s Off Topic, tell us: what memories do you have of your parents?