There is no telling how many times my mother uttered the phrase “I’m so glad I had two children so I’d always know what the other is doing.”
It was her way of telling us she was sick of hearing our constant tattling.
You could have placed our family of four in any of those scenes from movies and TV where the kids are bickering in the back seat during a road trip. “Mom, Michelle is licking me.” “Mom, Misty is staring at me.”
It didn’t stop when we got out of the car.
Since my parents have a two-bedroom house, Michelle (Allen is her married name) and I shared a room until I got married at 23 (other than when I was away at college). We shared a bed until our teen years. The fights never ceased during our childhood. We even woke up fighting in our sleep.
We’d scream across the house at 2 a.m., “MO-OOOOM!! Misty is kicking me.” “MO-OOOM!!! Chelle is on my side of the bed.”
My mom, Jennie Watson, grew more and more frustrated with the constant fighting and tattling. She tried reasoning with us. Being an only child, she tried to tell us the importance of having each other and what a blessing it truly is. (It is, but what 10-year-old thinks in those terms?)
She once took us out in the yard and told us to fight it out.
“Just hit each other,” I remember her saying.
Don’t worry. Before you think she should have been reported for running some kind of children’s Fight Club, all we did was sit on the ground and cry “I don’t want to hit her. I love her.” Her plan worked. Well, for that day anyway.
The next morning, I’m sure I arrived at the breakfast table with my usual morning scowl. It’s kind of become a joke in my family, my half awake look, with one eye barely open and the other closed. My sister hated it. I was the only non-morning person in a family of “Happy Happy Joy Joy” singers before the sun even had a chance to wake up.
While we sat across from each other at the breakfast table eating our cereal, Michelle would start whining, “Mom, Misty is looking at me again.”
“Where else am I supposed to look?” I’d snarl. “You’re sitting right in front of me.”
My mother is a pretty patient person. But even her patience had begun to wear thin over the years.
Then the idea came to her — tattletale books.
She bought us notebooks and handed us a pen. She told us unless it could result in blood, serious injury or death, she didn’t want to know about it. She wanted us to write it down in the book for her to read later. (You’re asking what could two girls growing up in Murray County possibly do to result in those things? Well, we played with BB guns, climbed trees, had a trampoline, roamed over 15 acres of woods.)
Mom said she would read our tattletale books at the end of each day and decide on proper punishment for each offense. I realized later she probably did read our books, but I’m sure all she did was laugh hysterically. What had been annoying became funny to her. If we ever started to tattle, she’d stop us and say “Write it in your tattletale book.”
I’m sure these books saved our relationship with Mom and her sanity.
We carried those books with us everywhere we went.
I’m sure no injustice went by without me writing it down. I am sure I wrote in great detail every thing leading up to the offense as well, highlighting all the things I had done right. My sister probably rarely wrote anything down other than the occasional “Misty is looking at me” or “Misty is writing in her book about me.”
I laugh at it all now. I know what kind of child I was, the over-the-top perfectionist whose mission was to please authority figures (my parents and teachers). I wasn’t perfect, of course. I wasn’t the go-with-the-flow person my sister has always been, either.
I hate that my mom didn’t keep our tattletale books for us to read and laugh at now, as adults with children of our own. My niece and my daughter are only a few months apart, and I have a feeling we’ll be glad my mom came up with the idea of tattletale books one day.
Murray County native Misty Watson is a photographer and staff writer for The Daily Citizen. You can follow her on Twitter, @mistydwatson.