It was back to school night for many this week. My husband attended Wee Baby Child’s kindergarten bragfest/drugery with my daughter. He’s never had the opportunity to participate in this rite of passage for all families. We are also filing the application for a nursing home for my father this week. I’ve been juggling both ends of the spectrum for months, so I took the opportunity to sit back and read Winnie the Pooh with the little man instead of dealing with yet another year of PTA/PTO/BYOB/YOLO/STFU parental schmoozing. I’m not the most social of creatures. I like to watch from the corners of the room as the players reveal themselves. Plus I did all twelve years (hard time) of my daughter’s primary schooling of which EVERY SINGLE YEAR I got to hear the joke I never tire of……
What were you when you had your daughter? Ten? You look like a baby yourself!
Yeah! I was. Feel better about yourself yet? Well thanks for the ass backwards compliment that somehow always seems to imply that I’m less than moral. In point of fact I was twenty and in some ways too young and idealistic to realize how toxic and abusive her father was; and while some could make the argument that I was still a baby, I was able to drive, vote, and work three jobs. I wasn’t old enough to drink legally, nor did I really give a damn. It was a hard road but it was the right road for me. And I tried to plant seeds of greatness along that road every chance I had. Any other astute observations you’d like to make? No? Mmmmkay.
So here we are twenty something years later. I’m middle-aged and have a full head of silver hair and once again I am presented with the pithy observation that I’m too young to have a child/grandchild so old. Who is the authority on this? I’d really like to know. Is it the same authority who wrote an article in Time magazine featuring a woman breast-feeding a four year old child on the cover while in big bold letters which managed to appear snide and accusing asking, “Are You Mom Enough?” Well hell tootsie. I never breast-fed my child so I guess not. My daughter wouldn’t take to it and the women in my family have always had trouble producing enough milk and I had to make the decision of whether it was worth her suffering so I could say I breast fed. The answer was no, so onto formula she went. So what would be the proper measure of punishment for me? Self loathing? Handcuffs? Social ostracization? Finger pointing? Oh wait…call me a bad mom. Tell me how I don’t measure up to some elusive yard stick that most of us women can’t see or hear or touch or taste. Should we cling to that archaic notion the same way we do that red hair or a dominant left hand is the sign of the devil?
No matter what, all mothers feel guilt. We all subscribe to the notion that somehow, no matter how much we give, that we’re doing it wrong. That we should only fed them organic food. That gluten, fat and carbs are the devil when in reality for developments sake, most times that is exactly what our children need depending on their age. That we should make their baby food from food we grew and picked ourselves or only wash their laundry in detergent made exclusively by nuns in the Scottish countryside who use filtered water and angel tears to get their whites really white and their sheets really soft.
If we work we feel like we should be at home to help with all the homework and make gourmet dinners that rival that of Martha Stewart’s. If we’re at home we feel like we should be contributing more to the household or using that degree we worked so hard for. We read blogs and articles and studies to improve on our mothering skills, and all the while loving our children more than we could possibly love ourselves. And having said all that, at some point in their lives most of us have fed them McDonald’s…….
And they lived to tell the tale.
I’m tired of the divisiveness of the world we live in. I’m tired of feeling like I was a bad mother or a bad grandmother or a bad daughter or a bad wife. You know who can tell me if I was or am? My daughter. My grandson. My parents. My husband. Anyone else can suppose whatever they need to. If it helps them through the night then God speed. I believe that if you are doing the best you can, then who the hell am I to judge? Wee Baby Child got into his first fight yesterday. With his best friend. Over a hat. There was yelling and hair pulling and the whole nine. And you know what I told my daughter? Don’t worry about it, they’ll be fine by tomorrow. Bring him over to bestie’s house and have them both apologize and they’ll be fine. I promise. Guess what? They’re fine. It’s a lesson they both needed to learn. Now they’ll start to realize that was not the most effective way of resolving a difference and that is basically the main objective in life; learning how to navigate the world with dignity.
I’m here to tell the moms out there that there’s little certainty in this world. We do what we can. There’s no more or less to it than that. So no matter what you choose in rearing your child; the rest of us don’t know the in’s and out’s of your choices. It’s not up to me to rip someone a new one because I don’t agree; as long as you’re not endangering yourself or your children or those who could suffer in direct correlation with your actions. I can respectfully disengage from you if I don’t like you or I can respectfully learn something from you that I may not have known/thought about before. But at the end of the day the only one who knows why we make the choices we do…is us. Some things, most things are just not worth the “social outrage mafia” getting it’s knickers in a twist over.
Sending them to school in pajama pants because you didn’t have time to do laundry since you’ve been battling the flu for a week
Feeding them ice cream for breakfast because they made honor roll
Ending grace before dinner with “Yay God”
Not showering on Saturday because you forgot to buy soap at the store so you figure you’ll get it all done on Sunday and you didn’t want to take your sweatpants off anyway
Putting your dress on inside out only to realize it while you’re driving your kid to school
Saying “fuck” in front of your kid…..six times because you dropped the vacuum on your foot
Explaining the birds and the bees as delicately and gently as possible only to be told that Johnny is being raised by two lesbians…so how do they get babies since they don’t have penises
Teaching a soccer team to learn team coordination and anticipation by driving your car onto the soccer field and blaring Harry Belafonte from your speakers because it’s the only way they get it. By dancing a little and laughing a little and learning to move up, back, side, other side..a little
Getting an irate phone call from your ex explaining that as he threw up his hand as he was cut off by someone in traffic, your seven year old asked “That’s an asshole right Daddy?”
Hiding behind your car to smoke a cigarette because you told your sweet angel that you quit
Hosting a Rocky Horror Picture party and introducing wayward hormonal teenagers to it in a controlled environment because you know the other option was a farming party two blocks away. Your kid didn’t. But you did.
Wondering at six AM if Jack Daniels is an acceptable accoutrement to coffee because you heard “MOM” for the 46th time THAT minute. Yes minute. Not hour…
If you’re wondering who has done these things? It’s me. I’ve done every one of these things and my daughter is a fine person. I don’t mean she’s fine in a “oh she’s fine thanks” kind of way. I mean she’s a fine human being. Everything decent and good and fine and noble and beautiful that I’ve ever been poured through from my soul to my womb and on to her and she’s carried with her since. She inherited very little of my darkness or as Wee Baby Child puts it…my spiciness. I couldn’t have messed it all up.
So I ask again? Who is the utmost expert on gauging our abilities in child rearing? Our children. If they have character, you did it right.
I’ve managed to live 46 years in this world. I’ve doubted myself. I’ve questioned my sanity a few times. I’ve laughed and I’ve loved. I’ve failed. I’ve picked myself up. I’ve survived a few wars. I’ve regretted little. And when I see the people who insist on tearing down instead of building up I simply reject the notion that I should participate in that activity.