A few weeks ago I was sitting with some mom friends enjoying a late summer afternoon while our kids played nearby. One of the moms said, "I need some mom advice." An opening like that is crack for a mom blogger. Stone cold mom blogger currency. The stuff wet mom blogger dreams are made of. You get my point -- my mental recorder was on and ready to go.
Long story short, the mom's five year old had begun to ask about homosexual relationships. You know, boy on boy, girl on girl action. Boom chicka bow bow. But not really. Cause the child was five and sex doesn't really enter into a question about men with men and women with women, or men with women for that matter. I immediately felt a wee bit puffed up, cause I knew exactly what I would do if the question came from my kid.
I jumped in, all self-satisfied and shit, and offered my solicited advice: "I would talk to the kid in an age appropriate way. Explain that sometimes men fall in love with men and women fall in love with women and that is the way of the world. Only answer the question the kid asked and don't for a second stress about anything else."
Mom hesitated and talked about her discomfort in explaining that some boys kiss boys and some girls kiss girls. She didn't want to give her daughter the impression that it was okay to start kissing her playmates -- boys or girls. A few other moms at the table chimed in and then so did I. "Your girl will only think it's odd if you give the impression it is odd. She will pick up on that. It doesn't have to be a big deal. Just answer the question she asked and try not to come off as the deer in headlights."
Yeah, I had all the answers.
A few minutes later, the ice broken in awkward subjects, another mom at the table asked for some advice for her own mom issue. Ping! Mommy blogger manna from heaven! This mom wanted to know how the rest of us handled aggressive behavior towards our kids from other kids on the playground, etc.
Oh, dammit. Suddenly I had no answers. None. Deer in headlights heal thyself.
You see, confronting other parents about their kid's behavior is one of my personal no-nos. I can't do it. I suck at it. I sort of freeze up and clam up and my instinct is to simply grab my kid and run for cover. But the mom who had just asked about how to address gay curiosity with her kid? Well, she had this one covered. Mhhh hmmmm, no problems there.
Her solution was a "nip it in the bud" kind of approach. All of our kids are five and under, so mom's approach was to tell the aggressive kid to stop and address it with said kid's mom. No judgment, no awkwardness, no fear of offending the other mom. Just a kind of, "Hey, keep your eyes on your kid, cause what he's doing isn't cool and is hurting other kids."
For a moment I thought I had whiplash. Here this mom who was struggling with how to explain gay love was a master at confronting bullying behavior, something that made me suddenly lose all the answers. That self-satisfaction I had felt just a few minutes before poured out of me like sangria from a pitcher. I could not do what my friend could do. And she could not do what I could do.
It got me thinking about the things moms don't talk about -- with their kids and with one another. And why we couldn't address certain issues. And how personal those proverbial lines in the sand are.
As always, when faced with personal and parenting revelation, I took it to Facebook. I posed the question to my Mary Tyler Mom Facebook followers (Dude! You should totally and completely join us.) and asked what was off limits for them. The answers were revealing, and as expected, some I totally got and others I did not. Here is a sampling of issues us moms refrain from addressing with our kids and with one another:
- masturbation and sexuality in ourselves and our kids
- parental frustration
- parental depression
- grades, school performance
- only children v. multiples
- puberty, hormonal changes
- food preferences, special diets
- special needs in kids, illness in kids
- our own past
- TV and screen time
- sugar consumption
- motherhood in general
- faith, lack of faith
Wow. That is quite the list, and it is by no means exhaustive. I didn't even include the age old trifecta of mothering taboos: breastfeeding, circumcision, and vaccines (OH MY!), let alone the tired and overdone SAHM v. WAHM v. full-time worker v. part-time worker. Been there and done that too many times.
More than anything, I guess I just have come to embrace that the gravest of sins one can experience in modern life is being judged. As if judging is one of the worst things evolved humans can endure. Sheesh. I am tired of it. I am not religious (judge away!), but there is a saying that goes something like this, "Judge not, lest ye be judged," and clearly, many of us take it to heart, at least superficially.
Those of you who read me regularly know that I am a gal that is chock full of opinions. I have lots of them and love to share those opinions much of the time. I have demonstrated that in this here post (refer to my smug opinion above regarding discussing gay love with kids). What better place than a blog to share opinions, right? But, damn, our fear of being judged is seriously, in my opinion, cramping our style.
I think it is okay to have opinions. I think it is natural to judge. There, I said it. We judge. All of us do. You do it, I do it, the Internet sure as hell does it. What I fear, though, is that in trying to seem as if we don't judge, or in fear of being judged, we have stopped talking to one another. Judging is part of the human condition, but the thing that elevates us from other species is our ability to contain it, recognize it, understand its impact on those around us. Judge away, but practice empathy in tandem. You can do it!
One of the things that struck me most in the Facebook thread were the comments about how very lonely mothering and motherhood can be. And now, I think, we know why. We keep to ourselves too damn much on those issues nearest and dearest to us.
What a shame.
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