Savoury Parenting

I particularly loved cjane's post on motherhood today. Mostly the part that linked here.

Firstly her rejection of the label "sweet" for her remarkable mother. Oh how I loved that.

More then once, I have been part of conversations when people will talk about someone who is not there and say (putting on my best sweet Mormon American accent now), "aw...she's so sweeeeeet".

And at times I am compelled to say, "no she's not! She's awesome but she's not sweet". And people will look at me aghast and say, "YES SHE IS" and turn a chilly shoulder to that crazy Kirsty who is clearly just jealous of the absent sweet person, and on my side I'm thinking, "sheesh, don't minimize the awesomeness of this cool person by labeling her as sweet".

There is nothing inherently wrong with "sweet". I guess. So long as it is genuine.

But I think it would not be a bad thing if we banned that word from our vocabularies unless we were referring to something culinary. (It is not nearly as popular an adjective in South Africa, and "cute" is not either. You would never call a grown individual "cute" there. God Bless South Africa.) When describing someone's character, "sweet" is such a bland, vanilla word, much like "nice". It's so one-dimensional. I don't like. (Although in the interest of full disclosure, I am guilty of abusing both of those words which makes me want to hurt myself).

In case you just started reading my blog and it wasn't already painfully obvious, I'm not sweet. Nope. Not at all. At times I am kind. I know that I have great empathy for many people and sometimes that results in being compassionate or thoughtful. But I'm also complicated. I'm a hot-head, I'm irritable, I'm excitable, enthusiastic, passionate, creative and frequently selfish. I don't have a naturally sunny disposition, I am prone to sarcasm and irony, which probably makes me more entertaining then if I tried to be sweet. Because I'm not. I never, ever will be. I don't want to be. I want to be kind, I want to be good, I want to be sensitive and loving and selfless. But I don't ever want to be dismissed as "sweet".

But back to cjane and her mom and this link. I love, love, love that she described her mother as self-centered. But! I would be so bold (wait-is it blasphemous to correct cjane??) as to suggest that maybe a more accurate term for what she is, would be "self-aware". She was aware of her needs, and took care of them so that she could be an excellent mother. She set a wonderful example for her children in this way.

I subscribe fervently to this element of good mothering. Now let's be clear, it is very possible of course to take a good thing too far and to become self centered to a fault. Which cannot coexist with good mothering.

BUT I loathe that somehow this image of the ever-smiling, ever tolerant, long suffering, doormat of a mother has been held up in certain circles to be the paragon of virtue.

In my highly unsought opinion, any mom who allows herself to be abused by her children in any way (and this includes being spoken to disrespectfully, or being taken advantage of' even if your child is acting very sweet while they are doing it) , is doing her child a grave disservice.

I remember telling a group of fellow moms at the library some years ago that I'd read Gracie the riot act that morning while doing her hair. I was doing her hair, and she was snapping at me and being curt in response to my polite questioning. I'd been sucking this up for several days by that point, and suddenly my natural state of intolerance kicked in and I realized how insane this was. I put down the brush (I probably threw it down if I know myself) and told her that I was doing her a favour and that I was her MOTHER not her whipping boy. I told her that I would no longer tolerate her speaking toward me in a way that I would not tolerate from anyone else including peers of my own age. That I deserved courtesy and respect just as much as her teacher at school did (who I know she would never be remotely rude to) and THIS WAS GOING TO END TODAY! LITTLE MISSY!

The group of mothers I had been recounting this to looked at each other and tittered nervously. "Wow" they said. But not in an impressed way. I deduced from their scandalized stolen glances at each other that they thought I just did not "get it". Mothers were supposed to be above all that. You don't take your little darlings' bad moods and outbursts personally dontcha know?! Because if you are a mother, you are a mature adult. And let us not forget that you are there to serve them after all. You are Mother Superior. Nothing our progeny can do toward us should ever be regarded as offensive. So grow up and get over it! Because being abused by our kids is just our job, right? We are there to be the safe haven for them after a hard day and if that means they lash out at us, well that is part of what made us Good Mothers. Smile and nod, smile and nod.

Basically for most modern women, I think that the idea of the quintessential Good 1950's Wife has been rejected but for many, she has been reincarnated as the Good 2000's Mother.

Furthermore, we should wear being a haggard shell of an exhausted under-appreciated woman as a badge of Mothering Honour. The more tired, self neglected, sleep deprived and devoid of time alone to do what interests and replenishes us, the more we can be assured that we are Good Mothers

To which I say.
Oh HELL no.

Do I think moms should be self sacrificing? Well of course. It comes with the territory. In some ways. Moms should be willing to give up sleep to stay up with a sick, scared or anxious child or to feed an infant. Moms should at times feign enthusiasm for something that bores them terribly if it is important to (and good for) their child. Moms should be willing to experience some discomfort for the sake of their kids at times from tired arms from holding a sleeping child or being freezing cold on the sidelines. Moms should be willing to endure psychological trauma by watching their children suffer consequences for their actions. Moms should not air all their anxieties or troubles in front of their children even if their anxiety is all-consuming. That is something kids should be protected from. Moms should be willing to sacrifice a dress that was made for them so that their kids can get the school clothes that they need. Or should they? Still not sure about that one.

Should moms never let their kids see them sad, or worried or angry? No. Kids need to see that their parents have these emotions and that they deal with them. But to constantly confide in our kids or fight with other adults in front of them....that aint cool. Moms do need to reign it in. But one place where they should always feel free to speak their mind is when their child is being a heinous little brat toward them. Or when their kid is acting entitled and seems to forget that you exist for purposes other then to serve their every whim.

I wish I could tell you that my commanding respect that fateful morning all those years ago did the trick and that I have never been crossed by any of my children since then. ( if. I make that particular speech at least once a week I'm sure. Like anything, that message needs consistent reinforcement. ) But I can tell you that although they may try their luck at times, my kids know that I have some very real and distinct boundaries, and that if they cross them, well....I will be cross. And that will not be fun for them.

And my kids aint perfect but they are good kids, and whenever I am complimented for their behaviour or asked my greatest parenting secret, I say something just along the lines of what cjane attributes her mother's success. I am not a slave to my children and they know this. I am a human being in my own right, with needs that are as important as theirs are, and they know this. I am not their buddy and they know that. I am their mom who loves them more then they can ever imagine and they know that. They are respectful because they are given no other choice.

All that and.. I too was sent wonderful spirits.

I'm reading: Savoury ParentingTweet this!


Kallie said...

totally agree -- although tears were shed (by me) just today whilst speaking to my two toddlers in my lap about how i don't like to have to yell at them and fight with them. didn't mean to -- i'm more of a try-to-be-stable-looking-for-the-young'nes -- but the result was actually quite surprising. They turned instantly sweet and sympathetic with promises to try to do better. makes me wonder if i should pull the tears out more often... (not really...) i'm sure my hormones are getting the best of me too.

Chief said...

Exactly! June Cleaver I am not. I don't want to be. It doesn't mean I am any less feminine either. I am a human being first, with my own thoughts, needs and wants.

{april kennedy} said...

Oh how I second the "hell no"!

And I once pulled on a knot in kaia's hair a little harder than I should have when she was acting the same way. I think you handled it better.

I feel the same way about mothering as you do here and I loved this post. I belive in raising respectful children and I really believe in children knowing that I have feelings too. And that sometimes they do hurt my feelings and make me cry. Oh that goes such a long way! Again, that was a great post! No...actually it was sweet!

And for the record....that dress is cute!

Carri said...

I love this post. We dont need to be supe-Moms we are not robots we are people. we have our strengths and weaknesses. I laughed when you said what you did to your daughter. My daughter has short hair I am sure you can imagine why.

Stephanie said...

Kirsty, my girl, I LOVE YOU. I need to print this off and hand it to some dejected, miserable mothers I know. Sometimes I want to scream, "You are dejected and miserable because you let your husband and all your children treat you like you are worthless!" I have one friend who watches hopelessly while her children destroy her house, her self-esteem, and anything precious to her EVERY SINGLE DAY. But she doesn't correct them because she doesn't want to be a "mean mom." To that I say "BS!!!!!" Women of the world, UNITE! Take a stand for respect and courtesy and dignity, especially from your families! You do not have to suffer like a slave in order to be a good mother and wife!

Hapi said...

hello... hapi blogging... have a nice day! just visiting here....

Peg said...

You'll be happy to know 'sweet' is not a term that is (or will be) used to describe yours truly, by friends or family. (In fact, just a couple of days ago, Moriah brought up (yet again) the story of the time I washed her mouth out with soap because she was talking back to me and I'd had enough--it's a story she mentions frequently so it obviously made an impact, but now I wonder if I damaged her for life, as she infers.

Anonymous said...

Where were you when I was overwhelmed with raising my beautiful children? Oh, that's right I wasn't lucky enough to relish in your perspectve until I was blessed with all my granddaughters... missing you on facebook, what happened? You're not on anymore? Sister Deborwie

Aunt LoLo said...

Oh, Mama - YOU GOT IT. Yes, we're self-sacrificing...I mean, come ON - we pooped the little buggers out, right? But they need to understand that we deserve respect. (Still working on how to get that through to the 3 year old with the cotton in her ears. ;-))