Saturday, May 29, 2010

Mother Guilt

The other night, Tom and I went out to dinner at The Acapulco in Fresno. We used to eat there quite regularly, as back in the day we were able to feed our kids for a mere pittance. We love Mexican food, and the selections at the eatery aren’t half bad.

The restaurant is broken into sections—almost individual rooms. We were seated in a section where there were no other costumers. After receiving our complimentary chips and placing our order, a young family was seated at the table next to us. The couple had beautiful twin boys who were about two years old. Tom and I immediately smiled.

We recalled when our kids were that young. Those days seemed so difficult at the time, but looking back now we see how really simple they were.

We watched the two blond toddlers wiggle in their high chairs and throw french-fries on the floor. Tom and I remember how we used to worry about the other restaurant patrons when our kids were that age. We hoped the young family didn’t feel that same anxiety as we were enjoying having a front row seat to the boys’ energetic play.

About mid-way through our meal, the young mom looked at me and said, “I feel like I know you. Do you know Kathy Jones?”

Kathy was a childhood friend with whom I still have occasional contact. I knew right away that these were the grandsons I’d heard about. I said, “This must be River and Rain!” Everyone smiled and the boys’ daddy said, “Oh, I feel so much better now, knowing that my kids aren’t disturbing total strangers.”

They weren’t disturbing us! We love watching young families!

When my kids were young, I was very uptight about their public behavior. I wish I hadn’t been. I’m not saying I would have let them run crazy and drive other people nuts. But, I wish I hadn’t let the expectations of others affect me as much as they did.

I remember once, when Drew was maybe 5 or 6, the phone rang. I recognized the voice as that of one of the pastors from our church. “Liz”, he said after some polite chitchat, “you know I love your kids. I feel that you are not teaching them proper respect, however.” Oh dear. What happened? He went on, “Yesterday Drew stuck his tongue out at me.”

The statement hung in the air for a moment, and then my head started to swim. Tongue. Respect. Teach my kids. Did the pastor honestly think I encouraged that kind of behavior?

I think I clumsily apologized and told the pastor I’d deal with Drew—and I’m sure I did.

A few days later I went to a choir rehearsal at the church and when I walked in the door a group of kids went running past me. I said, “You kids slow down before someone falls and gets hurt.” One of the little girls—she was around 4 years old—stopped, put her hands on her hips, and stuck her tongue out at me! Oh, by the way, she was a pastor’s child!

I just smiled and walked away. Hmmmm…I guess my kid isn’t the only one who needs to learn respect. I certainly did NOT pick up the phone and call the child’s mother to tell her how naughty her daughter was.

I absolutely do not advocate the sticking out of tongues by kids (or grown-ups for that matter). I am saying that us moms naturally carry the burden of our children’s behavior heavily on our hearts. We feel guilt over the choices our little ones (and big ones) make.

Moms chastise their children all the time. It’s natural for a kid to tune mom out now and again. It’s a good thing to have the rules reinforced by another adult once in a while. You don’t need to call the mom and tell her every little flaw you see in her child. She knows.

I’m just sayin’.

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