A few weeks ago the little oyster and I were at a friend’s house for lunch. While the moms talked over meal prep, the little oyster sat on the floor in the kitchen, mesmerized by the speed with which our friend’s two-year-old moves. As the oyster’s nap time drew near, we still hadn’t eaten. Soon the whirlwind two-year-old, approaching nap time, and new setting were all too much and the oyster burst into tears. I picked her up. There was no reason not to–she was in a new place, tired, overstimulated, and I’m her mom; the only thing she needed was to be held.
“You learned a long time ago that Mommy doesn’t pick you up every time you cry,” my friend said toward her son, around me and the oyster. I bit my tongue.
As we ate lunch and chatted, the oyster sat patiently in the high chair, patting the tray. I handed her a chip to chew on, thinking she would just lick the salt off. When I heard it crunch between her gums, I realized that wasn’t the best idea I’ve had and collected the pieces. It was now an hour past her nap time and I had just robbed her of a fun experiment. Understandably, she burst into tears.
“Ohhh boy,” my friends said, “you can already tell she’s high maintenance. Throwing a tantrum over something like that…”
A few things here. First, I bit my tongue again. Second, I insisted we really needed to get home for her nap. Third, the only reason I didn’t reply to either of these passive-aggressive judgments on my parenting is because it’s not worth arguing with people who think–and then speak–like this and because I’d rather have other people think I’m stupid than raise my daughter thinking I’m rude. Your opinion doesn’t matter. Hers does.
Anyway it’s a lot easier to turn the other cheek when you know that you are right.
Yep, I said it. I’m right. I’m parenting my daughter the right way, I’m raising her the right way, and I’m modeling the right behavior for her. Right for us, that is. All the time? No, of course not, by God’s daily grace I’m parenting right, not parenting perfect. I will never tell you that you need to do things our way but I am saying and will say over and over again that this is the right way, the right way for us. I simply don’t care how you do it.
This week I read this blog post that looks at a different angle of the Mommy Wars, the practice of moms crusading against other moms in an effort to prove that their way is the best way of doing things for their kids–or any kids–and not only is their way the best way, it’s the only way, and your way is at best dumb and at worst irreversibly crippling your child and the world for generations to come. The blog post talks about how moms tend to judge other moms because we aren’t confident about the choices we’re making for our own families. Well-written and no doubt it resonates with a lot of mothers out there.
I may be judging the way you do things if by judging you mean observing your activities and deciding in my head that yes, my way is better for my family. I think it’s lame that we tell kids and teenagers to ignore what everyone else thinks and just be yourself but when it comes to raising another generation, moms crap their pants and curl into balls of insecurity and self-doubt. What an example to set. It’s de rigueur to simply encourage these moms with soft words but sometimes a wake up call goes a long way. Get over yourself, mom! There’s no crying in baseball! Chin up, shoulders back, now get out there and stop being a whiner! (Oh that was fun.)
Raising my own child leaves me no time to intelligently critique–much less comment on–the way you’re raising yours, particularly when I may only see a snapshot of your day, as you see of mine. The thing is, maybe you’re doing things the right way for your family and you feel good about it. Bravo, me too! Coffee sometime? Maybe you don’t. Maybe you’re not comfortable or confident in your decision making and you take it out on other people. You’re welcome to throw your insecure little barbs at me, I can take it. Because I’m right for me and my house and I pity what you’re teaching your kids when you do that.
Unless your child is in danger of life or limb it’s not my place to opine on the job you’re doing so I don’t. (I may have an opinion, but I’m not going to share it with or at you, that’s the key difference.) My wordless little smiles and humorless little chuckles at your kid slamming the door repeatedly or jerking your arm out of its socket while you try to have a conversation with an adult can probably be interpreted as vapid; maybe you think I’m not very smart because I don’t comment on your kid’s every move, and a thinking mom would have a comment. You’re welcome to think that because again, it’s easy to turn the other cheek when I know I’m right. I know I’m smart and I know my daughter will know it, too. In fact, there’s no way she could not know it as she grows up. She’ll be smart too, and not just good-grades smart, but the discerning, conversational, thinking-critically smart that intimidates people. I can’t wait.
In the meantime, I also need to raise this smart girl not to be rude. To take her lessons from me, not from the people who bandy about their ignorant opinions all willy-nilly. I need to teach her the value of turning the other cheek and picking her battles. At the same time, I need to teach her to recognize the times when it’s right to push back, to speak up, to defend yourself or others. But using throw away comments on my parenting style is not the right time. People who share their opinions the way my friend shared hers, denigrating my choices to prove that hers are better, aren’t starting a fair fight. And the fight is not fair in my favor, so engaging would be stupid and rude. And smart girls know how not to be rude.