I was Mommy Mugged over the holidays. I didn’t really realize it until later when I was nursing the figurative lump on my head. My family and I traveled over the holidays and we spent a couple of nights with a relative. Early one morning as I was up browsing the internet on my laptop, one of my relatives decided to sit beside me and let me know of my parenting failures. “You need to establish some boundaries,” she offered. I wasn’t sure what she was talking about as we had spent no more than a few hours in her presence in the past 10 years. “Your son woke you up last night. You obviously haven’t established boundaries.”
Well, yes, he did wake me up. “Oh, I’m sorry,” I responded, “was he too loud? Did it wake you, too?”
“Oh, no, it didn’t bother me,” she replied. “I’m just concerned about you and your lack of boundaries.”
I didn’t know what to say. But I know what I felt. Shame. Oh no. I was an awful mother. If I’d been a good mother my son wouldn’t have knocked on my door so late at night. If I’d been a good mother, his waking me wouldn’t have disturbed any one else. If I’d been a good mother my strong boundaries would have been evident. If I was a good mother I wouldn’t have had to be called on my failure. I mumbled something about his sleep habits and how I went right back to sleep, and further apologies for his disturbance. Then I went upstairs. My son was still sleeping and I had to quell the urge to go in, shake him awake, and take him to task for embarrasing me. How dare he make me look bad! And that’s when I realized I’d been mugged.
It’s happened before, particularly when the children were little. Someone who considers themselves an authority, or a judge or jury, offers seemingly well-intended advice or observations. You know the kind: “If you don’t make her eat all the food on her plate she’ll grow up to be wasteful.” Or, “I would NEVER let MY child (fill in the blank)… Or, “It’s a shame you haven’t managed to potty-train him by now. MY son was out of diapers by two.” Or how about this one, “You better spank that child right now or you’ll regret it later…” At one time or another I’ve succumbed to all of the above muggings. It led me to worry about how my children’s potty training reflected on my failure as a parent. It caused me to doubt myself. And occasionally it resulted in my spanking a child I had no inclination to spank for an action I didn’t believe merited punishment. In effect, I passed the mugging on. I’m grateful that both my husband and I began to recognize these attempted muggings pretty early on. We learned to trust our own instincts with our children and to avoid muggers whenever possible.
I figured that I was Mugging safe at this point in my life. What a surprise to find that all these years later, with my children now aged 18 and 22, I still didn’t see it coming and let a Mugger slip up behind me and whack me in the head. I’m just glad I realized what had happened before I mugged my son in response.
I feel like I am your blog stalker so I hope you don’t mind that I respond to your postings. I look do forward to your entries as they are soooooo helpful to me. I just LOVE this idea of mommy mugging. I am pretty much mugged 6 months out of the year as my inlaws winter here in Florida. They are nice enough . They are helpful enough. But my mother in law can wack me upside the head with her quietness alone. My son is just shy of 5 and still wears a pull up at night. I get mugged consistently on this item as my idea is that he won’t be wearing a pull up when he is 20. We have tried, he is not ready but one day he will be. It bothers no one. Why do they care? Is it a way to feel better than? Anyway, once again, thanks for posting this. Mommy mugging. I love it.
Jennifer, I appreciate your responding to my postings! It’s amazing how comfortable people feel about mugging mothers. My stepmother was a wonderful support for me. She’d say just what you said, “Nobody goes off to college in a diaper. Don’t worry about it!”
I appreciate your comments today. I so often find myself trying to defend my actions in how I raise my children, yet no-one knows them better than I do, so I persist. I’ve made a point of always listening to my children, and explaining to them everything i possibly could, within reason, even if I wasn’t sure they could completely understand at the time. The result has been children that everyone loves, that can hold a conversation with an adult and actually know what they are talking about, and that are just a sheer pleasure to be with. Hoorah for the parents who trust their own judgement and raise their kids appropriately.
I love your comment Topaz! Just last night my son said that the reason he is so comfortable speaking with adults is because we always engaged him in conversation and listened to what he had to say. Of course, there are those who think that is a bad idea as well. But they may miss the joy of just enjoying their children as unique individuals. Thanks you for sharing!