03 January 2013

Détente in the Mommy Wars

I am very opinionated when it comes to parenting.  

I know this about myself.  I have a blog for it.  It's no big mystery.  My friends and family know me as the Been There Done That Mom for a reason.  I do, however, in my daily life, usually keep my mouth shut, unless my opinion is solicited.  Parenting styles differ, and one can never tell where another parent is coming from, so standard parenting guidance might not apply.  

I am quite happy to offer my assistance whenever I am asked, and while I do sometimes get paid for it, most often, the advice I give is free.

I take umbrage, though, when advice is given to me, unsolicited.  I am particularly put-off when said advice is regarding my youngest.  After all, I have Been There and Done That three times already.  Any mistakes I've made, I am probably going to make again with my fourth.  Fair is fair.

So, last week, in the parent waiting area at my youngest child's preschool, when a well-meaning grandmotherly-type inserted herself into a battle of wills I was having with my nearly 5 year old, Harold, I could barely contain my inner mommy warrior.  She ignited a fire in me and I was ready for battle.

It was Harold's beloved teacher's birthday and all of the kids were signing her card.  Harold is a feisty young lad and despite the fact that he signs his name in his classroom as he enters each day, he decided he didn't want to do it right then.  Like many children his age, Harold can be pretty grumpy when I pick him up from school.  Just two months into the school year, he has yet to adjust to the schedule of having school every morning and since he gets wound up and overtired, he doesn't get as much sleep as he needs.   I know that crabbiness is a natural byproduct of a busy schedule for a four year old.  I have learned to cope with it, though, and have set techniques I use to deal with his mood.

So, when the 60 something woman sitting at the table where Harold held the pen in his hand, refusing to put said pen to paper, inserted herself into the situation, I snapped.  She boldly told me to just let it go and write it for him.  She went on to say that she had raised her kids already and knew that it is just easier to write it for them and pretend they did it themselves.  I think it was her high and mighty tone, accompanied by an eye roll, and her insinuation that she had experience with preschoolers that I did not, was what set me off.

In hindsight, I know that I should have just smiled and kept my mouth shut but, wrong time-wrong place, I guess and I was not to be shut down this time.  I responded quickly, telling her this was my fourth preschooler and that I too had, on occasion, signed my children's names for them.  But, once I tell one of my kids to do something, I don't back down.  It's a basic rule of parenting.  'No means no' and 'do it means do it now'!  I resented her conceited air and was insulted by her rush to judgement and insertion of what I am sure she deemed as words of wisdom.

My words of wisdom when it comes to parenting advice: Keep it to yourself unless you are asked for it or a child is in danger.  Last week's unpleasant experience has driven that philosophy home for me.  If I ever offered unsolicited, unwanted, parenting advice, and I am sure I have, I apologize.  I meant no offense.  I will continue to do it in print, but will keep my thoughts to myself when I am away from my computer.  I do not want to contribute to the oft referenced 'mommy wars,' which are a waste of time and energy. Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines are fighting an actual war right now.  "Mommies" should exert their energy where it is needed, raising their kids to be good citizens of the world, rather than battling each other on the homefront.

In the end, I broke my rule of 'no means no' and 'do it means do it now' because the basic rule my own dear mother taught me, 'if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything,' guided my actions.  I figured it was better to get it done and get out, before I said something I might, or might not regret, but that's another story altogether.

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