Let She Who is Without Sin Never Raise a Child
I recently read a story about a mother who had Child Protective Services come to her house because of some sarcastic comments she made about her kid on her blog. I read the actual entry, and it all seemed pretty innocuous to me. Her subsequent treatment reminded me of Arthur Miller's The Crucible. It took just one overly-righteous reader crying Sinner! and suddenly her whole family was subjected to interrogation and cast under a shroud of suspicion. Very Salem witch trial-esque if you ask me.
It also left me quite paranoid.
I started reading through all of my entries and realized that some might consider my use of faith and even Santa Claus as "mentally abusive" in child-rearing. And what about all that instant oatmeal I feed my boys? Surely the healthy mommy brigade would be knocking down my door at any moment with broccoli stalks aimed at my head. I also mention an affinity for the occasional Mike's Hard Lemonade. Could I be forced into some kind of program involving steps? And let's not even get into the excessive piano practice I inflict or the fact that until last week, not one of my kids owned a single matching pair of pajamas.
For some mothers, this kind of behavior is grounds for my immediate burning at the stake:
Mismatched pajamas? What kind of monster is she? She's obviously in league with the devil.
She doesn't buy Innisbrook? I bet you she doesn't participate in Market Day either. Heathen.
Look at those plain, simple names she gave her boys. It's apparent she doesn't love them enough to put much thought into worthy and important names like my precious little Star Dust and Pickle Lily.
For me, Mom Blogs are all about humor, satire, and the telling of a good tale. Being eccentric shouldn't be considered a crime. Nobody has this whole mom thing figured out.
Jack was helping me sound out a word here. I think it was "neurosis."
Did you know that Franklin Roosevelt's mom used to dress him as a girl? Kennedy children were forbidden to cry. Albert Einstein's mother made him practice the violin until he begged to stop and she sent him to Catholic School (despite his being Jewish). Some of the nuttiest moms out there have produced the world's greatest minds. These women are my heroes. Yet why must we throw each other under the bus just because we look at things differently?
I disagree with most moms. I personally believe that women who let their kids win at Chutes & Ladders are making a monumental mistake. Do I call Child Protective Services? No. It's because I'm open to being wrong and I figure my kids will one day gripe about how I never threw a single round of Candy Land to help improve their self-esteem.
But who can say for sure which way is really better? And who gets to determine what actually defines "better?"
We need to make mistakes as mothers. A lot of them. It's how our kids learn to cope in a world of flawed humanity. It's how they realize you can screw up and move on. All those competing stories over who has the crazier mother actually unifies us. Across cultures. Across the ages. Across the Candy Land board.
When Joe and I bought our house from a family who had recently lost their mother, I remember the adult children all sitting in the kitchen the night before our closing. There were 10 of them. I still can't believe they survived with one kitchen drawer. With ten children. For hours and hours, these wonderful people sat around and recounted tales of their mother. The funny stuff. The crazy stuff. The touching stuff. The stuff that made their mother memorable, unique, and legendary. The stuff that made their mom theirs.
That's exactly the kind of mom I want to be. I want my boys to laugh at the fact that I bought used girl bikes at garage sales to build character. I want them to remember how I invented ominous figures like the "Toy Taker" so they never left their junk on the floor at night. I want them to complain to their own children about how I made them listen to Rent and Les Miserables in the car for hours and hours on end. I want them to chuckle over my chronic lectures on the importance of family. I want them to remember how even as they grew into adult men, my final cry of departure as we left any place was always the same:
Come along, my babies. Come along.
I'm not sure where my methods will lead. This stuff I do. Yet if my children one day sit around in this very same kitchen telling the same kinds of stories with the same measure of love I witnessed not so long ago, I will know the sins of this mother are forgiven.
It's all I can hope for. It's all I really want.