I never talked back to my parents. Yet my own kids talk back to me, a lot.
My children also raise their voices to me when they’re angry. Think back: Would you ever?
Worse still, I often have to tell my spawn to do something multiple times—multiple times—because my continuous requests are repeatedly ignored. Can you even imagine?
As another Mother’s Day approaches, I can’t help but reflect on how remarkably different I parent than my mother did. When I dig deep, I have to admit that there are times I feel completely overrun by the people in my home who are less than half my age. I don’t think my own mother ever felt that way one day of her life. In fact, she wouldn’t put up with one minute of what I tolerate from my children.
Does that make me a worse mom than her?
In all fairness, I should throw it out there that my kids are not rotten—not in the least. And they never have been. They were never the tantrum-throwing toddlers in the restaurant, or the give-a-pinch-when-a-grown-up’s-not-looking schoolyard brat or the current topic of conversation in the teachers’ lunchroom (didn’t know about that? Oops, spillin’ secrets here). They happen to be the epitome of respectful individuals when out in the real world and are quite well-liked. Actually, if I’m being completely honest, I’d have to say they are, in fact, fairly boast-worthy children.
So why do they shit on me?
Usually after a particularly bad display of disrespect from one (or two, or three, or all four) of our kids, my husband and I will have conversations about this, scratching our heads (OK, maybe while downing beers). We question how in the world we got to be parents of children who easily display behavior that would’ve resulted in a swift backhand from any (and all) of our own parents.
We think back and remember the fear in our homes and the physical repercussions of any type of conduct unbecoming. It certainly wasn’t unusual back then. Actually, it was very, very typical. We all did what we were told, the first time, because it far surpassed the alternative of not doing so.
But there is no fear in my own home today. There is no apprehension for questioning or stating opinion or disagreeing. It gets loud, sure, and at times inappropriate, but no one’s ever hesitant about speaking up. There are other blatant differences in my home that speak volumes about how very different my parenting style is from my mom’s approach.
For instance, my kids talk to me way more than I ever talked to my mother at their ages—about cringeworthy topics that would zap the frost straight out of my mom’s bouffant. Eighth-grade girls doing decidedly un-eighth-grade things in the way back of a bus on a school trip? Sixth-grade classmates experimenting with drugs? You name it. Details are anted up without pause, over nightly bowls of pasta or during car rides to practice, like nothing. No big deal.
Also, my kids tell me they love me all the time and for no particular reason. My first distinct memory of saying “I love you” out loud to my mom was from a payphone in the middle of a dormitory hallway during my freshman year in college. As I am forced to go through my third Mother’s Day without her, my heart still gets heavy when I think of this, and my regret pains me. It was way, way too late in life to have started that.
No doubt about it, my kids are being raised in a different world entirely. My mother didn’t socialize with my friends’ parents. I would venture she didn’t know most of their names at all. She didn’t come to many school events and never checked to see if I was doing homework. If I had to make a list, I’m pretty sure I’m involved in a gazillion more things with my four than my mom ever was for me.
Yet the loves of my loins—all of them—have moments of intolerable selfishness, insufferable self-absorption, whininess, rudeness, and petulance. And why hold back now, they occasionally swear.
So I do wonder: Who’s done a better job at this mothering thing, me or mine?
What do you think?
With all her failings, my mother’s love for me was ferocious, and I knew that every day of my life. She raised kind, smart, and capable children.
With my own failings, my love for my children is ferocious, and they, too, know it every day of their lives. I am raising kind, smart, and capable children.
I’d say we both win this one.
Happy Mother’s Day to all of us—the successful ones, the failing ones, and the holding-on-for-dear-life ones. We got this.