I have lately heard numerous parents discussing how their children think they’re “mean” parents. I’ve heard this from parents located in multiple states who have very different experiences but they all have one thing in common: they have good kids. I believe that they have good kids because they set boundaries and limits, and they say no.
Their plight made me think of humor writer Erma Bombeck, an author whom I consider to be the original mom blogger although she was writing before there were blogs. I first heard of Erma from my mom who would occasionally quote her. Bombeck’s syndicated column, “At Wit’s End,” appeared in more than 900 newspapers. She wrote 12 books, nine of which made The New York Times’ Bestsellers List. She passed away in 1996.
My mom always admired Bombeck’s writing, and a piece called “A Mother’s Love” that she’s mentioned to me in the past seems particular appropriate now, as my fellow tween parents and I steel ourselves for what will be years and years of saying “no” and ensuring our sweet children learn the hard life lessons they need to know. It appears in Bombeck’s book “If Life Is a Bowl of Cherries, What Am I Doing in the Pits?” which was published in 1985.
“Someday, when my children are old enough to understand the logic that motivates a mother, I’ll tell them…
I loved you enough to bug you about where you were going, with whom and what time you would get home.
I loved you enough to insist you buy a bike with your own money, which we could afford, and you couldn’t.
I loved you enough to be silent and let you discover your hand picked friend was a creep.
I loved you enough to stand over you for two hours while you cleaned your bedroom, a job that would have taken me 15 minutes.
I loved you enough to say, “Yes, you can go to Disney World on Mother’s Day.”
I loved you enough to let you see anger, disappointment, disgust, and tears in my eyes.
I loved you enough not to make excuses for your lack of respect or your bad manners.
I loved you enough to admit that I was wrong and ask for your forgiveness.
I loved you enough to ignore “what every other mother” did or said.
I loved you enough to let you stumble, fall, hurt, and fail.
I loved you enough to let you assume the responsibility for your own actions, at 6, 10, or 16.
I loved you enough to figure you would lie about the party being chaperoned, but forgave you for it…after discovering I was right.
I loved you enough to shove you off my lap, let go of your hand, be mute to your pleas and insensitive to your demands…so that you had to stand alone.
I loved you enough to accept you for what you are, and not what I wanted you to be.
But most of all, I loved you enough to say no when you hated me for it. That was the hardest part of all.”
I don’t know about you, but I’m going to hang on to these wonderful words for dear life for at least the next eight years, and probably long past that.
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