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.