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?
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.