What's with Kobe Bryant's mom?

ILLUSTRATION: RICHARD HARRINGTON
ILLUSTRATION: RICHARD HARRINGTON
Posted: May 15, 2013

WHEN I heard that Kobe Bryant's mom had received a $450,000 advance for a planned auction of his high-school basketball memorabilia, I was shocked, saddened and appalled. The way I figure it, she could've gotten at least $1 million up front.

OK, maybe it wasn't the pricing that shocked me. Nor was it the fact that Kobe sued his mother to keep her from selling some old basketball junk she had in her basement. The thing that really got me was that all of this happened around Mother's Day.

I don't know about Kobe's world, but in the Jones household, Mother's Day is sacred. It doesn't involve lawyers, court documents or auctions.

Mother's Day is all about payback.

You see, now that I'm a parent, I realize exactly how crazy I was as a teenager. I would do things knowing I would get caught. I'd take the punishment. Then I would do those things again. That craziness extended well into my 20s, causing my mother many sleepless nights. Fortunately, my mom and the other women in my family prayed a lot, and by doing so, they helped to drag me kicking and screaming into manhood.

Not only do I owe my mother for that, I also owe her for suffering the horrors of childbirth. That's right, crunchy granola eaters. Childbirth is horrible. No matter how many times you try to tell me it's miraculous and beautiful, I know better.

Having watched each of my three children come into this world, I can tell you without fear of contradiction that childbirth is like a zombie movie on steroids. It's bloodier than a butcher shop, and it involves more screaming than "Saw," "Saw II" and "Saw III" combined.

I think every mother should videotape her childbirth experience and play it back when the kids are adolescents. Why? Because it would serve as the best birth control ever, and it would do more to produce guilt than anything a mother could utter.

That's saying something, because guilt is a mother's primary weapon. I know this because I've seen two masters - my mom and my wife - wield guilt like a Samurai sword.

When I got my first job at 14, my mother didn't ask me to give her money. She used guilt. "Wow," she said. "You get a check and you don't even offer me anything. After all I've done for you . . ."

LaVeta is a guilt master, too. I've seen my wife guilt our kids into everything from cleaning their rooms to inviting her to go on class trips. "So you want to hang out with your friends on your little trip, huh? Do your friends make your lunch every day? Do they wash your clothes? Cook your meals? Do they?"

Guilt in the hands of a veteran mom is a thing of beauty. It's like Jacques Pepin with a paring knife, or Carlos Santana with a guitar, or Kim Kardashian with a reality show. All right, maybe not Kim, but you get the point. An experienced mom is masterful with guilt, and she can use it to make a kid do just about anything. Even after the kid grows up.

Fortunately, my mom uses guilt only in emergencies these days. That's good, because I've got enough guilt from 20 years ago to keep me going until I'm at least 60. Anything I do for my mom comes from the heart, and from the fact that I understand parenting a lot better now.

That's why I take all the moms in my family to a nice meal on Mother's Day. They deserve that much, based on childbirth alone. When you add in all the extras they've given me over the years, they deserve even more.

From my mom to my wife, from my grandmother to my aunt, from my mother-in-law to my Jewish mother and longtime family friend, Sue, every mom in my life is special, and I love them.

I can only hope that when I slip up and leave my writing memorabilia in their basements, they'll be wise enough to do the right thing. Don't give it back, don't just leave it there and don't be ashamed to sell it.

But when you take it to the auction house and they offer you the $25 advance that my stuff is sure to fetch, don't be like Kobe's mom and settle for their lowball offer. Hold out for $30, and have one more meal on me.


Solomon Jones is the author of 10 books, including his latest novel, The Dead Man's Wife (Minotaur Books), and the humor collection Daddy's Home: A Memoir of Fatherhood and Laughter. The married father of three has been featured on NPR and CNN, and has written on parenting for Essence and other publications. He created the literacy program Words on the Street. His column appears Tuesdays. More at Solomonjones.com.

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