Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Make LOVE, NOT War

I swear I'm not a hippy.  I was born way too late for that and besides I am functionally middle aged.  But during the last week I've been having to work extra hard at keeping my inner-hippy at bay because it seems that I am surrounded by wars, which I am, in general, against. 

In case you haven’t heard, there’s lots of warring amongst us: culture wars, political wars, wars against terror, religious wars, etc. I read about these wars and listen to people talking about them on NPR, but there’s only one war that I readily participate in everyday, and it’s commonly referred to as “The Mommy War.” There are various battles going on simultaneously in this war: staying home vs. working, breast vs. bottle, co-sleeping vs. cry-it-out, spanking vs. time-out, home vs. regular school, etc. There are lots of et ceteras when one is discussing war.

Unlike a barrage of people on talk shows and social media sites, I define my mommy war in a different way. My mommy war is not about choosing a side on the issues of staying home vs. working, breast vs. bottle, or spanking vs. time-out. I'm actually for all of the above, whatever works, anything that allows you to sleep and have sanity enough such that you do not find yourself daydreaming about the isolation of a mental institution.  The war I’m fighting is with myself. My enemies are many and all unseen (unless you’re in the foxhole of my head).  Am I fighting with the children?  Yes, but they are not the enemy.  Am I fighting with my husband?  Sometimes, but we are still on the same team.  Am I fighting against the voice in my head telling me to grab the dark chocolate almonds and hightail it to the beach?  Almost more than anything.

I started thinking about this several weeks ago, when I began reading the memoir Making Babies by Anne Enright. And then Time Magazine fanned the flames of the breastfeeding discussion amongst Americans of all types (mothers, of course, but also – according to my Facebook research – there are men and women who are not mothers involved in this particular battle of The Mommy Wars). I’m not one to lay down a whole lot of rules about things, but I believe that some entity somewhere (The Geneva Convention?) should at least have this one rule about fighting in the Mommy War:

YOU CANNOT FIGHT ON THE FRONT LINES IF YOU ARE A MALE OR A NON-MOTHER FEMALE (and by front lines, I mean, you are not entitled to SHARE your opinion publicly unless directly asked by a parent). This is the problem with Facebook, it allows for all sorts of uninvited public opining on everything from the most personal (e.g., breastfeeding) to the most banal of topics (e.g., appropriate attire for going to Wal-Mart).

Besides that one rule, I also think that some entity (Department of Homeland Security?) should define what it means to WIN the war. Below is my #1 suggestion, followed by some indications of what honorable mention might look like:

(1) Winners of the Mommy War make decisions every day based on what is best for the long-term, not the short.

(2) Winners do not condemn other parenting practices or decisions.

(3) Winners think before swatting little legs and criticizing small mistakes (remember that children’s church song, “Oh be careful little hands what you do … Oh be careful little mouth what you say … for the father up above is looking down with love …”). Winners are careful.

(4) Winners try to attentively listen to everything a child says even if it’s painful … because the inane conversation topics of today (e.g., “Look! An ant! I see that ant! Mom, see that ant? Watch mom! Watch me squish that ant!”) are just as important to them as the very serious future ones (e.g., “I can explain why I snuck out of the house.”) that are sure to come. To them, all of it is important.

(5) Winners take to heart the poem “If” by Rudyard Kipling:

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all others doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream---and not make dreams your master;
If you can think---and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same:.
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build'em up with worn-out tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings,
And never breathe a word about your loss:
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings---nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much:
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And---which is more---you'll be a Man, my son!

(I’m English major enough to claim that in his final line, the poet is likely using “a Man” to mean something like “dead” or, if you’re lucky, “a good parent.”)

So please, if we’re going to fight in something called a “Mommy War,” let it be a war against our own thoughtless parenting and not other parents.

And please Lord let me win my own Mommy War … because right now it feels like the off-season in Brigadoon. There is spaghetti sauce on the shoulder of my only good shirt, half the lawn is mowed, and the children aren’t old enough to understand sarcasm. Tonight, however, there was a little light at the end of a long John-John against Mom tunnel: He has decided to write &illustrate a book: It is called The Diary of a Dramadic [sic] Kid. While he was writing it tonight, I put away the laundry, mowed (half) the grass, made, and served dinner. Yes, he sat in one chair for that long. As I brought over his plate of food, he said, “No thanks. Tonight I think I’ll see what it feels like to be one of those kids you are always talking about … you know, the ones who don’t have food to eat sometimes. I want to know what that feels like.”

There was a good bit of silence, and then I noticed that Sam had successfully moved all of his spiral noodles into his milk. I said something profound in response, like, “Oh that’s really noble and makes me proud WHY DID YOU WASTE ALL THOSE NOODLES THIS IS NOT A CURIOSITY EXPERIMENT STATION.”

Not sure who won that battle, but I’d rather be fighting that kind of Mommy War than the stuff of Time Magazine any day.

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Jenni said...

I *LOVE* this sentiment: "if we’re going to fight in something called a “Mommy War,” let it be a war against our own thoughtless parenting and not other parents." YES!

Jenni said...

I *LOVE* this sentiment: "if we’re going to fight in something called a “Mommy War,” let it be a war against our own thoughtless parenting and not other parents." YES!!