A reprint that is forever relevant…
This week, in circulation on the Internet, was an article called “Mean Moms.” The writer looked nostalgically back at the way childhood used to be, at the days when mothers dominated the universe. We remember how it was, too, when those mean old biddies made it their duty and calling and business to know everything about our business, because nothing was more important than keeping us safe and growing us up right.
Reading the email, however, we forgot, completely, the number of birthday parties and school fetes they made us miss; the hours they kept us indoors teaching us “how to do things,” like cooking, sewing, and making beds properly; the so-called friends they banned us from associating with; and the boys they embarrassed us in front of. What we remembered, clearly, was the love; the protection; the putting us first and, sometimes, second and third before their own needs.
We recall all this today because we were so very saddened to learn of the death of a 13-year-old girl who had barely begun tasting life; because of the grief and pain her mother must feel; and because we hope that by the recollection we can save, for tomorrow, another child’s life and another mother’s heartache.
These are the days that try women’s souls, especially when they are rearing children. But, whereas so much has been improved in health care, in technology, in house-building, and in myriad other areas, still the best place to look when bringing up kids is to our not-so-distant past. Because, as unlettered as mothers might have been then, some never reaching the famous “Seventh Standard,” they knew how to read children; how to write the rules of their conduct; and, most of all, how to figure when one and one didn’t add up to two.
For the future’s sake, we need to get back to the past.
These days, much is made of children’s rights. Well, we believe the first and foremost right of a child is to have parents who are involved in his or her life. But in our general busy-ness, in trying to hold it all together, and, often, in doing it all ourselves, something is bound to give. Too many times, unfortunately, the ball that gets dropped in this grand juggling act is our child or children.
Because we have given them every modern distraction – Internet access, computer games, Ipods, and cable TV – we believe that their days are full and they are being occupied. Even “conscious” parents make the mistake of packing in swimming, soccer, Brownies, and after-school lessons, thinking that these activities will help make their offspring better persons. But there is nothing that beats good old-fashioned attention.
It wasn’t because they had nothing better to do that our mothers wanted to know where we were 24/7, what we were doing, and who we were doing it with. For, having been girls once, they knew that boys tell lies, that they are proponents of “something for something” love, and that they kiss and tell. They knew the dangers of keeping company with fast girls and riding in fast cars. They even knew that, sometimes, the danger was not out there, but in here, and how to keep us safe although inside.
But somehow today, parents have gotten the notion that it is a good thing for children to “experience” life – forgetting, or ignoring, the fact that not every experience is a good one, and that life is better experienced when one is properly prepared for it. Today we feel that the more friends our children have, the better their self-esteem, forgetting to examine the quality of the company. We feel that the more privacy we allow our youngsters the more they will like us, forgetting that they are our children, not our buddies and friends.
Don’t think, because we’ve referred to the death of the young girl, that this message is not aimed at young boys, too. It is! Even moreso, in fact. For our mothers were keenly aware that girl trouble usually meant grandchildren; but boy trouble spelled lawyer and courthouse and, these days, murder and life sentences. Hence, it behooves every mother, every parent, to apply the same careful scrutiny to the activities, the companions, and the attitudes of their young men; to say “no” and to ask “why.”
This is no time to throw up your hands in despair because you “can’t manage” him, or to shrug and say that “who won’t hear will feel.” Because that is only giving licence to the police and courts, whose responsibility he is not, and you may very well end up feeling for him, in your heart and in your pocketbook, and, for his victims, in your conscience.
It’s time for us women to go back to being “mean moms,” to asserting our authority, to reminding them: “my house and my rules.” It might mean a big departure from the way we’re doing things now; a putting aside of our own programme of study or relaxation or even that second job. It might also mean asking for support from the extended family or making things up with your child’s father.
Our mothers used to say, “When your neighbour beard burning, wet yours.” To that we add, “Bring out the water hose.”