What is the likelihood your kids will tell the truth when they know you are going to blow your top or spank them when they do? Next time you ask “Who broke…?” “Who spilled…?” “Who took…?” ask yourself a question: “Could any self-preserving person dare to answer me honestly?” Pain versus honesty is a hard choice for little kiddos to reason through. But…it they know that you will be calm, rational, and reasonable, I really think that children WANT to be honest and come clean when they’ve done something wrong. When we don’t constantly freak out when they misbehave, we help kids learn to deal with mistakes, accept consequences, and move on. Is childhood lying more complicated than this? Of course. But the first thing to try is to manage our own reactions, so they can dare to be honest.
I have finally figured out why I don’t like you. Really. I’ve also realized why you don’t like me. I’ve even figured out why stay-at-home moms can’t abide moms with jobs, why hippie moms don’t dig organized moms, why tofu moms can’t stomach Cheetos moms, and why mommy wars exist at all when we should all be cheering, “You made a little person, too!? You’re trying to help it grow up to be a nice big person, too!? Wow! I am so proud of you. Can I get a hug, Sista?”
I don’t like you because I HAVE to get this right…and that means I can’t be wrong. I am investing everything I can scrounge together into mothering these little people. It is the most important thing in the world to me. I am usually worn out, frequently guilt-prone, and abnormally anxious as I do this mother gig. I can’t handle the idea that I might be doing it wrong because I love my littles so much. So when you mother differently than me, a dark worm crawls through my brain saying, “What if she is right? If you are wrong, your children will become thugs.” Because I can’t do it wrong and still hang on to the few marbles I have, it is far easier for me to stick out a mental tongue at you and call you a bad mom. Then I am still the good mom and my kids will stay out of the penitentiary. Whew. That. Was. Close.
But what if there is another way? What if we trusted each other just a tiny bit and realized that even if you are another kind of mother, we could possibly both end up with law-abiding, somewhat normal kids? Even if you stay home and I have a part-time job, even if you write in your kids’ journals every day from birth on and I barely remember to take a birthday picture, even if you give them Tylenol and I rub them with lavender oil, even if I cook a dinner from scratch and you stop by Panda Express, can’t we all just get along? Different kids need different moms. Your kids need you. As moms, we need to make major decisions carefully, analyze our time-taking activities, constantly replenish our parenting tool kit, and do our very best and then some. But then we need to “chillax” (as my 11-year-old says) and wave our white flags. You won’t glare at me for giving my kids an artificial color red 40 popsicle, and I won’t raise my eyebrows when your 4-year-old tells me about the PG-13 movie he just watched. I’ll look at you as a fellow-traveler instead, put my own sizeable insecurities on the shelf, and let you mother in your own way. I’ll give you a mental knuckle-bump for daring to raise a child. And maybe, even with my faults, you’ll give me a silent shake of your imaginary pompoms and cheer me on, too.