It turns out that, according to some, I’m a bit of an army general whereas according to others, I’m a bit of a pansy ass. It baffles the mind.
My in-laws were here for a few days at Easter and they kept remarking on how “good” the children were and how they do things that “other children don’t have to do” and I’m such a “good mother”, the subtext of which was clearly how the children are poor, over-burdened, little soldiers, and I’m a slave driver. (And when I say subtext I mean my father-in-law literally saying the words under his breath). All this because my kids help “set the table” (I put that in quotes because while the five-year old kind of knows where the utensils and stuff go on the table the three-year old dumps everything in the middle and just spreads stuff around randomly), and unset the table (what’s the opposite of “set the table”? we used to jokingly say dress and undress the table when we were kids, which regularly prompted my brother’s catch phrase “but mom we haven’t been properly introduced” to which much hilarity ensued… or not, anyway…), and vacuum under the table with the dust-buster, and clear up their toys, and change their own clothes, and generally try to help out around the house. All stuff we did when growing up (despite the fact that my mom generally had between one and three maids in the house at any given time). I don’t feel like a slave driver, it’s just stuff they should learn how to do (also, if they don’t do it, I have to). I realize I’m the opposite of the typical Italian mother, who still irons her kids clothes when their twenty-five and in graduate school and living away from home, but I think that if though they may not consider these things normal they should at the very least be proud of their grandkids for being able and willing to do this stuff. Whereas, I’m sure, there are conversations going on in Milan between my MIL and her friends that go somewhere along the lines of “can you believe she makes her children set the table? What kind of lazy ass mother is she?!” Ah, the joys of cultural differences.
Speaking of cultural differences, on the other side of the Atlantic, in the sweltering heat of Houston, my Mother thinks I have forgotten the meaning of the word discipline, because my kids want my attention right now even when I’m speaking to another adult, because they jump on the couch, because I, *gasp*, allow them to take all the living room throw pillows and blankets, dump them on the floor, and then keep score to see who can jump farther from the couch to the pillow pile. My children whine and complain when I send them to brush their teeth, they dare protest when it’s time for bed, they have (occasionally) thrown a tantrum in a public place… Her favorite refrain is “your children’s behavior is a reflection of you as a mother, you have to take pride in them”, like I should only be proud of them when they’re well-behaved, or rather, I should take pride in myself when they’re well-behaved. Or something along those lines.
I try to walk the middle of the road… I do that a lot, lately. We had plenty of help around the house, but my mom made sure we learned how to do everything for ourselves, we learned to cook, and clean the house, and do laundry, and iron, and sew buttons… but our house wasn’t a lot of fun, there was a lot of tip-toeing around and not bothering the adults. Whereas my in-laws, as well as most Italians, like to complain (or pride themselves on) how many sacrifices they make for their children, how they’re still at home when they’re thirty-five, how no one wants to get married, because, let’s be honest, why should they? They live rent free in their parents house, with a free maid (their mother) and all the freedom in the world. How today’s youth is so entitled… but who made them that way?
And how on earth did I become the bad guy in this in the eyes of two completely opposing camps?? Walking the middle ground is hard, neither camp is happy, and I get a lot of crap from both of them. But I’m sticking to my guns, because I strongly believe in discipline, but I also very much believe in fun, and the two aren’t mutually exclusive. My kids need to learn how to do practical things, it’s part of my job to teach them, they need to be well-mannered, and learn patience (gradually), they need to be respectful, and independent, and responsible, but they also need to have fun and make messes, and do stupid things, because how else will they learn? I didn’t have a bad childhood by any stretch of the imagination, but I also didn’t have a lot of fun, or rather, there was always a limit to the fun we could have, we couldn’t make too much noise, too much mess, and when we did scoldings and guilt would ensue. There was lots of guilt and a fair amount of fear and I don’t think fear equals respect. I want my kids to respect me, to know when and where there are limits but also when and where it’s ok to cut loose, and I absolutely, positively, don’t want them to fear me or my reactions. So to some I am too strict, and to others I am too lenient, I just hope I manage to straddle the “just right” position at least half the time.
Do you have family members judging/questioning your parenting, and if so, how do you deal??