Whether it be Chinese-Are-Superior Mothers or French-Are-Superior Mothers, these foreign parenting-commentators point out that American mothers are afraid to be in charge, and that’s why they raise hellions. That is a particular side of the ditch, but it is not my temptation. My husband and I are both rather authoritarian parents, and happy and comfortable being so. My mom was a “mean mom,” not afraid to make unpopular decisions or enforce them. She told me (and I needed to be told), “I am the mom; I am in charge. When you are the mom, then you will be in charge.” And now here I am.
So I don’t play Legos or build with blocks on the floor with my kids, and I don’t feel guilty about it. That’s what I gave them siblings for, after all. I don’t run around at the parks with them. I let them loose and sit and read or chat with a friend. When it is play-time, it is free-play. They must learn to be self-directed and independent rather than requiring entertainment or direction or organization. I do wipe noses, arbitrate squabbles (sometimes), retrieve stuck toys (well, sometimes), and of course change diapers. I guess I’m just not so much a “spend quality time alongside each child” mom. We are always around each other and the quality time happens in unexpected places amidst the quantity time. We all just do life, and we do it together.
At least, that’s what I tell myself.
But the reality is that that those potential quality moments are easily ignored. I’m here all the time, after all, so isn’t it then too much to interrupt my own plans and projects and thoughts if I get a chance of them? I have lived all my life alongside small children, and I am quite accomplished at ignoring them and feeling too often like they are nuisances who really should just leave me alone already.
Because of my own temptations and weaknesses, I need to focus not on my authority, but on my children’s individuality, personality, humanity. I need to find ways to build in pauses and conversations, taking the time to see and hear each one of my children. They are not little extensions of myself. They are each their own persons, each needing to be known and loved in their own right, individually.
I spent about a year mentally arguing and fighting with myself over the strategies I am only beginning to implement. I finally caved, knowing they were the right things for us to do, whether or not I wanted to. Giving up your own rights and expectations is, after all, the beginning and the end of love. And it is loving my children that I need to do more and do better.