I came across getupgrrl’s Chez Miscarriage blog through TNH’s Making Light entry The mother drive-by.
Whoo boy. The uproar over at Chez Miscarriage that led to the mention in Making Light is an um. discussion of Judith Warner’s Newsweek article, Mommy Madness. Warner, in case you’ve been hiding out from the 24/7 news feeds, is the author of a recently-published book, Perfect Madness: Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety.
The uproar at Chez Miscarriage, which spilt over into Making Light — which has its own mini-uproar on the subject — has morphed into the subject of mother drive-bys AKA the Bad Mommy Brigade: helpful souls who are willing to tell perfect strangers that their baby should be wearing booties because they (the babies, that is) will catch cold otherwise.
Some folks who have never had children are appalled at the stories. Can they really be true? Do total strangers, PTA parents, close friends and family actually come up to parents and tell them how to parent?
There has not, as far as I’ve seen, been one mother-type who claims to never have experienced a drive-by, put-down, you’re-doing-it-all-wrong piece of “friendly” advice. Father-types, however, do claim to never have been so graced. The father-types go on to say that perhaps that lack is because father-types seem more intimidating to the Bad Mommy Brigade and more likely to tell the helpful soul to poke their parker elsewhere.
Criticisms from the Bad Mommy Brigade would have no effect if it weren’t for our inherent worries that perhaps we are doing something wrong. As I’ve mentioned before, the guys are in their twenties now and reassure us that we did just fine. They like who they are. They tell us they’ve heard some very weird tales from friends about other families’ dysfunctions.
I still wish I’d baked more chocolate chip cookies, though, and could undo some of the choices I made. But they’re happy with their childhoods and themselves so maybe I should just let go of the if-onlys.
My favorite drive-by happened at a PTA luncheon. I’ll be generous and say that perhaps Mrs. B had had one too many glasses of Chardonnay before lunch and overconsumption had freed her from her usual social inhibitions. Perhaps.
On hearing that his nibs and I have different last names, she went into a tirade about people with different last names and how if people have different last names she assumes they aren’t married and if they aren’t married, that means their children were born out of wedlock and how it is absolutely terrible for people to have children out of wedlock, unfair to the children, failing society, and on and on.
The look on my face must’ve been the one I use when I poke at a stink bug or millipede. You know the one, the oh-what-have-we-got-here look, or maybe the look was just stupified and “are you for real?”
She finished her blitz and asked, “Well, what do you think of that?”
I answered, “It’s your problem, Nancy, not mine.”
She spluttered and didn’t talk to me for the rest of the meal. In fact, I don’t think she’s ever talked to me since.
When people told me that my children would catch cold because they weren’t wearing booties, I shrugged it off. I knew that booties had nothing to do with it. When people told me that I should be doing this or that, I’d explain that my parenting style was benign neglect and that my guys had to really (really, really) want something before I’d even consider it. I was not going to rent a trombone only to find that they’d lost interest in the school band two weeks later. I was not signing them up for a season of T-ball unless I had a pretty good feel that they really wanted to play T-ball and they weren’t just clamoring because Devin was playing T-ball and they wanted to be all things Devin.
Sure, there were times when the “helpful” advice caused a twinge of doubt. My shrink mother, for example, told me that our plan to have no TV in the house until the younger niblet knew how to read was just wrong-wrong-wrong. I stayed with the plan, though, and the niblets use the lack-of-TV stories when twenty-something conversations turn to just how weird parents and childhood can be.
As adults, both guys read voraciously for pleasure, and that’s what I’d been aiming for. Would they read as voraciously if they’d been watching TV from Day One and the first words out of their mouths were TV commercial taglines? I don’t know. Too late to unring that bell though.
But, back to getupgrrl’s Chez Miscarriage and why it’s the Friday Blog Pick. getupgrrl is Literate, Funny, Thought-provoking.
Go thee hither and see what you think.