Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Do Children's Actions Directly Correlate to Mom Job Performance?

Pictures from last week's play time with friends.

The greeter stood post outside the church doors.  He outstretched his arms and extended his hand when the boys approached.  With great delight, I watched as all four of my boys firmly griped the greeter's hand and pulled him into a firm shake.  As an added bonus, each boy even tossed out a "Good Morning."  My proud mama buttons almost burst.

I trailed after the boys and took the final turn shaking the greeter's hand.  The greeter smiled as he recounted my boys' politeness.  He exclaimed, "You should be so proud of your boys!  They are a tribute to you."

Proud I was.  I waltzed into church on cloud nine, desperately wishing there had been a spotlight or two shining on my boys' stellar actions.  At that moment, if I knew how to do the moonwalk, I would have performed it right then and there in the church lobby.

Later, I thought about the greeter's comments.  Were the boys' polite actions truly a tribute to me?  And if one follows that logic, then does their misbehavior reflect my maternal shortcomings?

It's an issue I've wrestled with for years.

Although I don't remember the first criticism (either perceived or actual) I ever received on a child−perhaps something as substantial as faulty potty training techniques−but I clearly recall the feeling.  It stung, pierced to the core like nothing that had ever been said or done before.  It immediately elicited strong feelings of maternal guilt and failure.

As my kids have grown (and increased in numbers), the comments continued throughout the years along with situations that seem to evoke those same feelings.

A child got a cavity.

It's my fault.  Why didn't I brush AND floss his teeth three times a day.

A child didn't make the swim team.

I should have spent more time at the pool with him perfecting his strokes.

A child didn't get invited to a birthday party.

Why haven't I made play dates more of a priority?

And so it goes.

I once had a pediatrician tell me I needed to emotionally separate myself from my children's actions.

The pediatrician was a mother.

I don't think there's a mother alive that can do that.  (Correct me if I'm wrong!)

In my mind, it boils down to these question: 

1) Can we moms be credited/blamed for all of our children's actions or are our children's actions independent of our mommy actions?


2) Are our children truly independent beings or just extensions and reflections of their mothers?

Children are not puppets on strings.  As such, I don't believe their actions directly correlate to our actions.  After all, children do possess this little thing called "free will."  But I still think some of their actions do reflect on the hard work and diligence we put into our mommy roles.  

The next time I receive a compliment on my sons, I'm going to take it.  We moms could use every ounce of encouragement we receive.  And when I draw criticism (whatever the form)?  I'll continue to try to put it into perspective and perhaps work on that emotional separating thing too.

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