Sunday, September 23, 2007

Where Did All The Mothers Go?

People often piss me off. (And no, this isn't a post about school!)

I've been wondering for some time now... where did all the mothers go? I'm talking about the "come sit on my lap and tell me what's wrong" kind of mothers. The "mama will kiss it" mothers. The ones who hurt when their children hurt, empathize when their children are upset, go soft on them when others go hard. I'm looking for the mamas who model empathy and extreme tolerance and softness and love. I'm looking for the mothers who put their children before principles, who offer a "there there" and "I'm here" and a dozen I Love Yous a day, who, yes, will indeed read that one last story before bedtime again even though she's already read it six times.

The mothering I see more and more these days makes me shudder. I don't know when they got so "hard." I always thought it a good thing for mamas to offer the nurturing balm while the rough knocks of life came from elsewhere. I believe life offers enough wallops across the backside without mother following them up with a few of her own, and enough obstacles will present themselves without mothers creating some where none need exist.

I know mothers who will be having a delightfully pleasant conversation with me, turn their head and rip their children to shreds, then turn back to me and resume the syrup. It always leaves me shocked and usually speechless, not to mention cringing for the children.

Not always though. Sometimes I find my voice.

Just the other day I came in late upon a conversation and overheard only the part where the mother bragged about making her child - who is TWO, mind you - sell his favorite toy in their garage sale. As a punishment.

(Sorry for the excessive bolding, but I've got my undies in a twist. This story calls for some serious emphasis.)

Um, excuse me, what?!

I was not the only person in the room, and wasn't part of the original conversation, but my ears perked right up.

Oh yes, she went on, noticing she had a captive audience but mistaking the interest for support. I gave him the quarter for it, she laughed.

You gave him the quarter?! I asked? This only encouraged her, because her utter lack of intuition (in this conversation and, obviously, mothering altogether) urged her to carry on.

And the neighbor kid bought it!

By now I'm wondering just who in the h*ll this woman is and could I possibly find a way to adopt her children and should I be rude because I'm a guest in an old college friend's house and I don't know any of the people well, even the old college friend, and ohmygoshsurelythere'ssteamcomingoutofmyears... when a man named Eric - whom I now love and adore forever - said harshly, "You better take that quarter and put it toward his therapy fund, because after that he's definitely going to need it."

And that was my cue to unleash "No kidding! Forget the college fund, that kid will be in therapy instead!" To which Eric replied, "I can't believe you made him sell his favorite toy!" to which I replied, "And to the neighbor kid! So he not only had to give up his favorite toy, he has to watch the neighbor boy play with it!"

This was gonna get ugly. But by then the mother had caught up and realized we were not supporting her disciplinary method and our laughter was shock and gall and not of the "I hear ya" sort. She slipped away. We carried on with our bike ride preparation, our reason for gathering.

And so again, I ask where have all the mothers gone? I don't see why the mothers have gone to the dark side, why they worry more about what the other parents will think than about how they should navigate each situation gently and with love. And why it doesn't hurt them deep down to shout commands at their kids or make them toe the line like army cadets or sell their most favorite toys in the whole wide world.

You know what she said in a last ditch defense? It was just a stupid little cheap toy.

Excuse me, but that is most decidedly not the point. *sigh*

When I was teaching, I'd meet all sorts of parents, some wonderful of course, some not-so-wonderful. And some of the not-so-wonderful, in my opinion, were creating their own reality - by assuming the worst in their kids at all times and employing a zero-tolerance approach to control and therefore offering their children no options but to fulfill that expectation. I wanted to grab them by the shoulders and shake them and say "But don't you realize you have a great kid here right now? And you're forcing him to become a 'bad' kid just to get a little say in his own life?" Why can't people see it?

The other day I took some pictures of Jonathan and his pal at the park. I asked if I could take some photos of them and Jonathan's pal asked, "Can we be obnoxious in them?" As obnoxious as possible, I replied. And the photo shoot began.

These days, the boys aren't always interested in posing for pictures, so getting goofy is a different incentive.

Why be ugly and controlling when we can be like this?

Or this?

And this is the "pretend we're stuck in this tree" silly shot.

And then there's always the "let's pretend we're stuck in this plane" shot.

I'll take "we just wanna be silly!" photos over no photos any ol' day. And I'll offer a hug and a chat over big-stick-discipline any day too.


sharon said...

Bravo Mama! Let's celebrate and remember that we chose to be parents and that means our children come first and it is time to enjoy them before they are gone, which comes way too soon!

-To my children and all those others around the world, may you each be blessed and appreciated!!!

Stephanie said...

I don't even know what to say, yet.
Trev wants me to read a story - gladly!!
I'll be back....

whimsigal said...

Wow, remind me to watch my P's and Q's around you girlfriend! LOL Only teasing. Good for you that you were able to be strong in that moment and speak your mind. I'm sure you've given her something to think about.

Embarrassingly enough, I used to be just. like. that. woman. Before Enlightenment. It was Guerilla Parenting and I was so proud of it. Now I'm horrified that I ever treated my kids that way. Maybe you have sent her unknowingly down the road to change.

I actually think many people have kids for status purposes. It sounds crazy I know but there are so many people out there who just aren't interested in raising their kids or spending time with them. They have them so when they're at the Country Club they can say, "Oh yes, Randall scored a bazillion on his SAT while playing goalie for his soccer team. And did I mention that he's working on discovering a cure for obesity and cancer? He's perfect." Seriously, I know this lady.... When these kids talk back or show any spark of individualism they freak out and make every attempt to stifle it.

Anyway, sorry to hop up on my soapbox here in the comment section but I really enjoyed your post!


Laura said...

Ah, don't need to be afraid of me. If that man Eric hadn't piped up, I'm not sure I'd have gone there. As it was, with his cue it just started pouring out!

I know I've struggled at times with being too authoritative, but my husband will attest that more often than not I err on the side of so much diplomacy it takes 3 times longer than necessary. :)

What I respect is effort - people trying to be better. As the unschoolers like to say, work on this moment. Then work on the next one. With time it'll get easier.

Thx for stopping by! Soapbox away anytime. :)

Laura said...

Stephanie speechless? Why I never.... ;-)

Roxanne said...

Once, years ago, I went to a garage sale. There was a mother and her little boy selling all kinds of cool toys. Every time I picked up a toy to check it out , the little boy would whimper. Finally the mother told him "Be quiet, I told you if you didn't pick them up I would sell them." Well, I just put down the toys, turned and left. I'm still ashamed of myself that I didn't stand up for that child and I think about it to this day.
Good for you for saying something.

Stephanie said...

It's true!
I still don't know what to say!
I gave Trev a rundown of the story, and at first he said "I don't think that lady exists", and then after I said "My friend Laura, yadda yadda yadda" he said "Well, that lady is a criminal! She's a bad guy!"
I've been thinking about it alot, and I think the lady can't help but reflect on the situation, and hopefully that will be what it takes for change.
Which is why I don't feel bad about demonstrating alternative parenting... skills/opinions, someone might see it/hear it at a time that they are looking for a different way.
Not to be showy, just to offer an alternative.

Guess I had come to a conclusion that I hadn't realized....