Mothering Meltdowns, Keep Them to Yourself
You are not the boss of me! a small, cross armed child shouts in my direction.
Uh, actually, I really AM the boss of you. It’s in my job title.
The child storms off. There is much stomping and eventually a door slams shut.
It doesn’t hurt my feelings. I don’t feel bad for laying down the rules. I don’t feel bad for dishing out consequences when some are deserved. That’s what parents have to do.
My kids are not my friends. Not in real life and not on Facebook either. Honestly I have no desire to see one of them post School is Boring on their wall and then have 372 of their closest friends like it. (In the interest of full disclosure I will tell you that I have the passwords to all their accounts and have told them I will check whenever I want. Anyone who changes their password to thwart this will be sorry. Very sorry. (I don’t know yet what I would do. I haven’t been tested yet! Thankfully!))
I know that some people take issue with me when I say that I am not my kid’s friend, because they desire nothing more than to be friends with their kid. I want to be a parent to my kids. Yes, I am friendly. I am respectful. I listen to them, laugh with them, share stories with them. But friendship implies that we are operating on a level playing field, that we are equals. We are not. I am still in charge. My house is not a democracy. I like to think of myself as a benevolent dictator.
My bigger hope is that by parenting them with loving firmness that when they are adults we will be friends. That they will see the rationale behind my parenting. That they will know beyond all doubt that every thing I did was out of love.
Everything single thing.
I began writing online way back in the dark ages when you felt like you could still be anonymous. Or if not anonymous you knew that it was highly unlikely your neighbors, family, or children would easily find what you wrote. It was freeing, being able to discuss parenting–mothering–in a way that hadn’t been done before. It isn’t that way anymore. Anyone who thinks they can be anonymous online is fooling themselves.
I frequently cringe when I read some posts that people write about their lives. I read them with my hands up over my face, peering through my fingers. But recently I have noticed a disturbing trend, mothers trying to one up each other with their “bad” mother stories. Or mothers who write about their mothering experience as if it is complete drudgery. It is my hope that they don’t realize how it is coming across rather than that being their actual experience.
First one mother might admit that she is a “bad” mother because she doesn’t change the sheets on her children’s beds as often as she thinks they should be done. And slowly it spirals into someone saying that their children don’t even have beds. They sleep in the corner of the room on a carpet square. I am making this up, obviously, but it isn’t far from what I have witnessed online. Bloggers trying to write the next catchy headline, and shocking revelation about motherhood. It has gotten to the point where I sometimes think, you know what? You actually are being a bad parent, take those ironic quotation marks off from around the bad.
It used to be that bad parent stories were funny. They were constructive because they made the rest of us feel better about our parenting because we related. Hahaha you forgot to feed your toddler lunch one day and then wondered why he was batshit crazy at 4pm! We felt not so alone.
The sticky sweet veneer was ripped off the face of motherhood. And it was good.
Until it was taken too far.
I think sometimes people don’t look at the bigger picture. We all have moments, days even, where one of your children is driving you up the wall. And if someone came by and offered you a set of steak knives in exchange for said child, you’d swap in a heartbeat. You might even throw in some cash. But if all you write about are those days, those bad days, that is all that is left behind as a marker of their childhood.
Gone are the days where I relish in the bad mother stories. I want to read more of the good stories. I want to read about the simple joys of being a parent. Maybe people think those are too cheesy, I don’t know. I want to read people who inspire me to be a better parent. To be more joyful. People who can make me laugh in the face of their bad days.
I remember when my children were mostly small and older, grandmotherly women would approach me in the store or park and tell me how much they missed the days with their small children. How they were the best years of their lives. At the time I would laugh, thinking they were surely on the path to senility. But now I understand. The hard days fall away, slip through the cracks of our memory.
In the wake of posts where things are written about loving one child best and not being able to imagine losing that child. But the other one? Eh. And whether or not the author meant it the way that it was read by everyone doesn’t matter. It is out there on the Internet for all time. Forever. And one day that eh child will find it and read it. Yes, they will. I can’t imagine that any protests of the message being misconstrued will ease the hurt of feeling like you were the child loved less. And more importantly why take that chance.
So, in the wake of posts like that I want to challenge everyone to write something good about mothering. It is tough, we all already know that. But write a poem, a song, a post, a story or even a photograph that tells what is awesome about having kids. If 15 years from now this is the one and only surviving thing that your children get to read about this time in their lives, what you want it to say? What would you want them to know? I know that I would want my children to read my blog as a whole and feel that I delighted in each and every one of them beyond measure, even when things were challenging. That is the legacy I hope to leave them.
I want to be one of those old, grandmotherly ladies who says that these were the best years of my life. I don’t want an entire blog filled with essays that say otherwise.
I challenge you to do that. Yes, you! Now! Go! Leave a link to your post in the comments so we can all go read what you have written. Fill me with your joyful stories. Let’s all take a moment to delight in motherhood. Those of you who don’t have a blog, feel free to tell us in the comment section what is making you happy right now about motherhood.Published March 25, 2011. Last updated June 25, 2018.