Thursday, January 6, 2011

Bewilderment from a Non-Parent

I will be the first to admit that I don't know everything about parenting. This is primarily because I am not actually a parent. I don't have children and I probably won't for the forseeable future. This does not mean, however, that I don't understand children and that I do not love some children as much as I would love my own. I am actually trained to understand children, since that's part of the whole "being a teacher" thing. So no, I'm not a parent, but I'm not fully unaware or incapable of understanding what goes into raising a kid. I start with this statement because whenever I talk to parents and say things like "Have you thought about using a sticker sytem for potty training so she can work up to a goal and get a reward for using the potty?" while in conversation I'm immediately met with "You don't understand, you don't have kids". So, apparently not having kids means I'm totally unaware of anything having to do with kids. Or perhaps, because I'm outside of the situation I am able to look at it objectively and offer suggestions based on what my other friends who have kids have seen success with.

This brings me to the subject of this blog which, believe it or not, is not actually about how I don't have kids. I could go on and on about why I don't have kids and all of that, but if I wanted guilt for not having children I'd call my dozens of relatives who are constantly asking when we're going to have kids. No, the subject of this blog is mommies. Not mothers of children. There is a distinct difference. There are moms, mothers etc. and then there are mommies. Normally when I tell this story there is vocal inflection on that word, but alas we are on a printed blog and you'll just have to deal with the italics. I coined this term years ago after attending a birthday party a friend of mine was throwing for her son's first birthday. Nearly every guest there was toting an infant or a toddler and I stood there observing patterns like I was some sort of part time sociologist. There were 3 groups. There were the parents, who mingled between people with children and the people who didn't have children while their kids played nearby on the lawn or in the sandbox. There were the people without kids, who kept to themselves as a group but occasionally mingled with the parents. Then there were the mommies. A group of women who clucked like hens and put their children at the center of their circle where they proceeded to spend all of their time talking about their children and if anyone who did not have children attempted to have a conversation with any of them, they were immediately shut out because apparently these women were incapable of discussing anything outside the realm of diapers. In fact, when I asked one of these women how old her daughter was she replied "14 months. How old is yours?" and I said "Oh, I don't have kids" and she gave me this odd look, then turned away from me and started a conversation with the nearest mommy. It was a bit insulting. And throughout the rest of the day the mommies isolated themselves and their children (children of mommies can only play with other children of mommies apparently) and continued to show no interest in anything beyond the circle of babies. I later learned that these women were part of the play group my friend joined while she wasn't working, in the hopes that she would be able to get out of the house and get some adult conversation that didn't revolve around her kid. She quickly learned that play group was the wrong place to expect that, but felt obligated to invite the women to the party anyway since they had all invited her to theirs.

So began the use of the phrase mommies to describe women whose lives revolve around nothing beyond their children. Now, I'm not saying it's wrong to want to be devoted to your children and give them as much attention as you can, but this idea of your entire world revolving around nothing but your children tends to breed kids who actually believe the world revolves around them and well.....that's not good. And I've noticed a trend among mommies. They don't want their children to grow up. I get that whole parenting thing where it's hard to watch your child, who was just a baby, grow up and need you less. But I've noticed that mommies actually try to prevent their kids from growing away from them. Some of them do it by breastfeeding for 3 years, some of them do it by letting the kid have their pacifier until they're 5, some of them to it in strange ways like refusing to cut their child's hair because it would be admitting that the kid is growing up. This is something I seriously don't understand, and at its heart I think it's selfish. I've heard a lot of mommies say that they're not ready for their kid to make their next milestone and I just think "So what? The kid is ready!" I can't fathom trying to somehow hold a child back in something or not push them forward toward a milestone simply because you aren't ready to see it happen. That seems so unfair to the child. And I have to wonder if the reason so many mommies aren't ready is because they lose their sense of purpose when the kid becomes more independent. Because their world revolves around the child, the child growing up is probably not exactly welcome because it means having to change part of your world view. I can't imagine what these mommies are like when their kids go to school. Of course, most of them probably home school so they don't have to give up the center of the universe for any portion of the day.

I guess at the end of the day, I just don't understand mommies. I want people to love their children and be devoted to them, and I want them to spend time with their children, but for their sake I also want them to have other interests and other things they enjoy outside of the home and outside of the circle of their children so that some day when those children grow up, these women don't have a freakin' meltdown. That's all I'm saying...

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