If we’re completely honest with each other I think it would be safe to assume that some of you think you’re a better parent than me. You look down your nose at my choices and hold up your child as more accomplished, better disciplined and properly sheltered from the evils of society today due to your swift and consistent parenting style (as opposed to my ready-fire-aim approach). You’ve attempted to pass yourself off as non-judgmental, but the fact is it’s written all over your face. You don’t ever need to utter a word…I can feel your superiority.
As you may have deduced from the blog entries, my parenting is style is pretty easygoing and casual. I give my kids a lot of latitude. This is not a planned strategy – I’m just too lazy to run around after them and clean up all of their (figurative and literal) messes. Once they hit middle school my thought is – figure it out. Parents need to be there for the big stuff and they need to supply copious amounts of love and encouragement, but beyond that I’m really just too tired to care if they forgot their math book (that’s on them, not me). Then there’s you – you know their homework assignments and when their big projects are due. You know what aspects of their soccer game need improvement and whether they have a broad enough friend base to satisfy the need for variety and stimulation in their budding social lives. You compare your tight ship to my tug boat and put a tick in your ‘win’ column. You simply think you’re a better parent.
How do I know? Let me count the ways:
You make subtle comments. These are too innocuous for me to call you on (it is your finely honed craft of being a mean mommy), but I catch them in our casual chit-chat. Things like, ‘You let her trick-or-treat alone? That’s brave’ and ‘I do not allow my child to shop at Abercrombie’ (well, OK…you’re probably right about Abercrombie). The point is, your little comments are noted, recognized for what they are and filed away permanently in my subconscious mind.
You insert pregnant pauses into our conversations. I may suddenly toss out a non sequitur while we’re chatting at your doorstep – as I’m known to sometimes do. It’s a vaguely Turret’s kind of behavior that I’ve displayed in the past, usually when I’m in an uncomfortable social situation. The statement is meant to be semi-controversial and semi-funny and sometimes just thrown out at random to fill an awkward silence (I really don’t like those gaps in conversation – I feel obligated to fill them with something, even if it’s utter nonsense). I’m honestly trying to engage, but I was not blessed with a female chit-chat chip. Small talk is work for me, so unfortunately sometimes I stick my foot in it. Most friends (no, I don’t really consider you a friend but I’ll go along with it for my kid’s sake) would cover for me and follow-up with a giggle or short retort, but not you. Instead, you stare blankly at me for longer than I can hold your gaze. It makes me even more uncomfortable and you know it.
You presume that I want your advice and counsel. I may bring up a daily annoyance in my household during our ‘chat’. This could be something about the kids’ rooms being messy or the challenge of getting them out the door on time in the mornings. Instead of simply relating to me (can I get a ‘girlfriend I know what that’s like’) you launch into a 3-step discipline plan that worked great for you, and if followed properly (emphasis on properly) will ease the problem. Well, thanks. I’ll (not) give that a try.
I’m divorced and you’re not. It is a simple matter of you being able to hold out longer. I have never met a couple that doesn’t have some issues. Whatever goes on inside these big suburban homes is seriously messed up in many cases, and the thread that keeps you together is sometimes extremely tenuous. I’m not guessing here. I have had enough talks with enough sad and frustrated moms to know that marriage is hard across the board. The dysfunction doesn’t skip over your house. Believe me, if the cameras were on and your days were laid out there for all to scrutinize, it wouldn’t be pretty. Unfortunately since I’ve gone through divorce, much of my private life has become grist for the mill. This is a normal side-effect of divorce, and even if there was no gossip surrounding my former marriage (or current one), that I’m divorced at all reveals a lot about me. Your advantage is that you can still contain your drama within the privacy of your own home. All I can say is, good luck and YAY for you that you’re still together. I’ll always be here if that ever changes because I know what it’s like to go through that process, and the main difference between you and me? I will never judge you for it.
It used to really bother me when I felt like you were exercising your superiority as a parent. Lately…not so much. I view your attitude as a shortcoming of yours, not mine. The fact that you have to walk around with this air about you is all the evidence I need to reinforce this new me – the mom that goes with the flow, follows her gut and tries to be authentic. Maybe when we add up the scorecards at the end of this game we will indeed find that your approach worked better (what does that look like anyway – if your kid goes to Brown and mine goes to State, do you win?), but at least I’ll be warm with the knowledge that I will own my choices as my choices, and that my kids were raised by a mom that knew enough to be herself despite not fitting in with everyone else.
Can I get a ‘girlfriend I know what that’s like’?