After my last post, I should clarify that we are working very hard to curb any language abuses, lest Maggie become the Classroom Cusser in a few years. I had an interesting discussion with another mom about life on the internet, and how annoying I think it is when bloggers become angry that their readers assume that they are the person in their posts instead of realizing that it’s just the “voice of the writer” at work. It’s true, blogging does present a microcosm, but when the writing is all that people know of a person, one cannot expect the reader to not take liberties with their interpretation of the writer’s true self. That said, just because I’ve dropped a few curse words in front of my kid doesn’t mean that I want to be thought of as That Horrid Woman Who Spawned A Bad-Word Baby.
The thing is, though I’m not That Horrid Woman, I’m probably That Horrid Woman in my real life too. I’m already the mother that lets her kid go too close to the road, watches with interest as she’s wandering several hundred feet away instead of fetching her, and encouraged her to go down the “big slide” in front of a ton of mothers who then witnessed Maggie’s screaming fit of terror as she decided halfway down that it WAS NOT FOR HER, OH NO.
So…I am a bit like that person I painted in the previous post. But only a little, and my child is only marginally corrupt. (Joke. She’s VERY warped. No, no, I kid…maybe.)
To paraphrase, if I am nominated for Mother Of The Year, I will not run; if elected, I will not serve.
Generally, I think I’m doing a good job as a mom. We’re active, out of the house and in the company of other kids every morning. Afternoons are spent reading or coloring; I’ve read Brown Bear Brown Bear, What Do You See? so many times that if asked for my name, rank, and serial number I would say that I saw a purple cat looking at me. We’ve managed to discipline well without yelling or overreaction so far. Maggie is curious, enthusiastic, and just a nice person to spend time with.
But man, sometimes I paint quite the picture out in public. Like with the wandering…oh, the wandering. I think it’s a good thing to let her assert some independence and let her roam (while keeping an eye on her proximity to paths and roads, of course) to a place where she thinks I can’t see her. It’s good for her to feel like she’s exploring without Mama, even though in the back of her brain she knows I’m just a call away. But I’ve had a lot of people go running after her and return her to me, thinking I’m not paying attention or who are genuinely worried she’ll run into the path of a cyclist. Never mind that the cyclist is about 100 feet off and Maggie has–so far–responded positively to all my calls to come a bit closer.
Or take mud, for example. Don’t worry about your kid being the dirty grubby kid on the playground. Maggie is ALWAYS the dirtiest kid. She arrives looking stylish and immediately finds a swath of dust to coat herself, one assumes in order to attain a level of Ninja Baby Camouflage, and then I get the pitying looks from the parents of the pristine children playing quietly on the top of the slide. But…it’s just mud. It washes out. (Mostly.) If she tries rolling around in it and rubbing it on her legs in public in 15 years, people will try to have her committed. For now, while it’s still socially acceptable, why not let her rub it around? Mud feels nice. She only has this little window to enjoy being muddy before she notices the people around her making the Judgy Face, and at that point I’ll just have to hope she has the self-confidence to say “What? I like mud.” When that time comes, power over the situation will have already left my hands. It seems happier, more genuine and respectful of her innocent baby spirit, to just let her roll and worry about social norms and mores later; to let her be a child. For that matter, to just let her be.
Staying on your path as a parent is difficult. In trying to remain true to your beliefs and honoring your child’s personality, what else is there to do except laugh off the looks? I’ll offer an explanation, maybe, but not an apology for allowing her to roam. Sometimes I feel bad, like I might be making it harder for parents who DO want to enforce the “no rolling in mud” rule, but the world is full of people with different views. Gotta learn to live with them sometime, right?
Maggie says “Please” and rarely snatches toys away; she returns to me without complaint when I call. That’s about all I realistically expect from an 18 month old. Thus far, Maggie seems to trust us to set boundaries and she usually minds them as well as she can. And she loves us. She really really loves us. So despite the odd “twaffle” or other parenting missteps, and though we are definitely not going to win any awards for parenting perfection, I think we’re doing just fine.