Mother's Know Best....or do they?


This week I am thinking about mothers and the saying "Mother's Know Best." I have decided that maybe that is not always the case. Perhaps some mothers are more like Mommie Dearest, rather than Donna Reed or Mrs. Cleaver of the 50's and 60's sitcoms. Perhaps some mothers act more like "smotherers' than mothers.

Yesterday I had the opportunity to see one mother in action and hear a scary story of another older mother, that made me think of the title I selected for this week's post. I have to of course admit that no mother is perfect, myself included. I have shared this with my children who are now all adults and told them any problem that occurs in their life I accept is probably my fault, the fault of the mother (it always is in the movies ) and I accept that fact. I told them I tried to do the best job that I could and that I am perfectly fine with them talking about me with a good therapist! Seriously though, let me tell you what happened.

I work with young children and get the chance to see lots of parents. I have one young mother this year that troubles me. I do think she believes that she is behaving in the best interest of her daughter, but I wonder if she is. I also wonder if she can recognize what she is doing, and if her training as a social worker makes it harder to see what is happening. Each day she drops her daughter off at school and we go through the whole separation trauma. It begins with the mother asking her daughter if she wants to be at school, then asking her daughter if she is o.k., then walking her into school, then hanging around and asking her again if she is o.k. then finally, after at least 3-4 hugs, and more questions she leaves, at which point the daughter is usually upset until her mother walks out the door. After the mother finally leaves, the daughter is fine! Ah Ha ( I say to myself) Is the daughter upset about leaving her mother...OR is the mother upset about leaving her daughter? Is this mother through her behavior actually sending the message to her daughter that she wants to send, or is she sending the message to her daughter that she needs her mom to function well? I bet that is not what the mom wants. We all want to be loved and valued as parents, but by making our children overly reliant on us do we do them a disservice? Isn't the whole point of parenting to help our children become capable functioning adults in their own right?

Round two. I had lunch with a colleague of mine yesterday. I was talking with her about the situation I just described and wondered about how we as parents send the right message to our children. The message that we love them, that they are capable and that they can succeed on their own. She shared a story with me about a mother we both know that I had never heard before. This is an extreme example! This mother actually had a time table, a life plan she designed for her daughter! She had decided that her daughter needed to be married by 24 and pregnant with her first child by the time she was 27! YIKES!!! Even scarier than the plan itself, is that the daughter is actually living it! And, yes, by the way, this mother even helped pick out who her daughter's husband is!!

A recent "Times" magazine had the title "The Case against Over Parenting". I think both of these mothers fall into that category, one of course, much more extreme than the other, but by sending a message like the first mother did to our young children do we limit their ability to be able to think for themselves, to be able to trust their own judgement as they grow, to undermine their own abilities to problem solve or make decisions on their own because parents have made all of them for them or send the subtle message through what we do or did that we don't think they are capable? Is that what being a good parent is? Is that how you raise capable nonf*@ked up adults? NO NO NO!! Our job as parents is to help each and every child find their own way, fill up their own life buckets with good stuff, not squeeze too hard and let them hard as that is.

So love your children well. Try really hard not to design a life plan for them! Let them know through what you do and what you say that they can figure things out on their own and that you believe in them.

Until next time!