It happened again. One of my boys did something that compelled a teacher to tell me about it. After T’s gymnastics class, a boy was sitting down and putting on his shoes when T came up from behind and pushed him over. The teacher made it a point to let me know that she didn’t see if anything happened before hand (which I took to mean that she didn’t know if the boy had done something to encourage or provoke T), but that she saw T push the boy.
My first thought was something like: Fuuuuuuuuuuuuck. This woman probably thinks my kid is an ass and I suck as a mom. You know, because every other mom has such puppet-master-like control over their kids that the mere thought of misbehaving causes such psychic pain that they immediately think otherwise. Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight.
Now, intellectually I know T made a bad choice. And intellectually I also know he’s not a bad kid, but your typical five-year-old boy. He’s at an age where he’s very tactile, very touchy – he is constantly touching me, his brothers, his friends. It’s not malicious; often it’s the exact opposite, but he doesn’t quite get that others might not appreciate his invasion of their personal space despite his desire to hug them. But there’s still that voice in my head that says it’s my fault.
And then the Thursday before school vacation, I got a call from J’s teacher. On the playground during recess, he was wrestling (!!!) with some classmates – boys and girls. One of the girls fell and hit her head, and J accidentally kicked her. The teacher said that J acknowledged that he was doing something he shouldn’t, and that he was remorseful that the girl was hurt, but she called me because the girl left school early due to her injury. (They have recess at the end of their day, just before dismissal.)
Again, my first thought? Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck. I thought we were past this. Will J ever get over this attraction to mischief, or am I going to spend the rest of his academic career as That Mom? I don’t want to be That Mom. I want to be That Mom of Those Really Great Boys.
In both cases, I know the boys made bad choices, and made them independent of me. And yet I feel like those choices are a direct reflection on my performance as a mother, and on me as a human being. And that these reflections are, for the most part, ugly and negative. Like there’s this huge, gilt-framed portrait of me (and it’s totally unflattering because the angle makes my already large nose look absolutely humongous) with “Epic Fail” stamped on it in big red letters somewhere in the Halls of Personhood. In the Motherhood wing. In the Room of Failure.
I don’t doubt that this obsession with my parental effectiveness is exacerbated by the fact that I am a stay-at-home mom. I know, I know, just being a mom is a Full Time Job (seriously, working moms, I tip my hat to you; I don’t know how you work a full day and then come home and do what I do), but when you don’t leave the house to go and interact with other adults on a regular basis, you spend a tremendous amount of time thinking about things. Like the layout of your house (where should we put the piano?), its state of general cleanliness (don’t ask), and how to create a perpetually organized homework station in your kitchen (if you know how to do that, please let me know because I’m desperate). But mostly you think about your kids. And whether you’re doing a good enough job raising them. And what your kid’s teacher thinks, and what your kid’s friends’ moms think, and what your mom friends think, about you as a mother. You think about how you’re being judged. Always about how you’re being judged. I don’t know, maybe it’s just me. (Please tell me it’s not just me.)
And maybe this is just me, but I feel like there’s a connection between the perceived negative judgments and the fact that I’m raising three boys. That people tend to think that boy moms whose boys are active (you know, just like typical boys who – gulp – run in the library and touch everything within reach and constantly use their outside voices inside) are somehow not doing as good a job raising their kids as other moms. Sure, the boys are reflections of me; and since they spend the vast majority of their time with me, it stands to reason that more of my influence rubs off on them than that of Hubster’s. But I feel that people tend to ascribe the boys’ negative behaviors directly to me and my influence, and that every failure on their part is completely my fault.
It’s a challenge not to let my boys define who I am as a person. Right now, I don’t have a career other than Mother. Sure, I have skills and experiences that were gained prior to, but I put those aside to dedicate my time and my self to raising my children. They have been gathering dust for ten years, and I’m not sure exactly how or when they will be taken out and put back in use.
In the meantime, I need to keep reminding myself that I am doing my best to teach the boys right from wrong, to treat others with respect, and to make good choices. And as hard as it is to let my boys go and let them learn from their choices, it’s equally difficult to remember that while they came from me and reflect different facets of my personality (and some of those facets might not be among my finest), my boys do not define who I am.
You know, except when they do awesome stuff like behave impeccably in public (how I cherish those oh so rare occasions), use good manners around adults, and win Nobel Prizes. Then, they can define me. But pretty much only then.