Friday, April 13, 2012

Am I Some Sort of Clown?

As Joe Pesci asked incredulously in Goodfellas, "I'm here to [effin'] amuse you?"

I've asked myself this question many times during my career as a mom (with or without the F-word, depending on the mood).

I clearly remember calling my mom--probably around the time Bug was 18 months old--to ask about the mechanics of keeping him occupied all day (with the added burden of being a chronically low-energy, depressed woman who was also nine months pregnant, but I digress). Her answer, which I will never forget, was, "it's not your job to entertain him."

I thought she was crazy.

She had to be hopelessly out of touch. She wasn't reading the parenting literature I was. She wasn't following the crafty-mom blogs that recounted, complete with photos, the amazing art projects and learning activities other moms were doing with their kids on a daily basis. She didn't know my friends, who enjoyed taking their kids to the park and probably actually liked doing messy projects and playing one-on-one with them all day. No, Mom, I thought, I'm definitely failing in the "good mommy" department. And this has been hanging over my head ever since. I love my boys with my whole heart, but I just can't keep up the way "they" say I should.

I've often wondered how this happened to motherhood, especially in light of the fact that I'm obviously incapable of doing it whole-assed. How are we expected to get down and dirty eight hours a day with our little ones and still keep the house relatively clean and have a decent dinner on the table at the end of the day (all without losing our tempers, mind you)? How did they do it in the fabled "olden days"?

The answer, I've discovered, is that they didn't! According to my most recent parenting-advice idol, John Rosemond (who adamantly advocates ditching the "touchy-feely" trends in parenting and return to the way our grandmas did it), we're turning our kids into attention whores. (Read more about this philosophy here) He says we should be paying less attention to our little ones...for their own good. It's what builds imagination and self-reliance (things that seem to be lacking in modern society).

Fast-forward three years to yesterday afternoon. I'm smack in the middle of my monthly cycle, which, for unknown reasons, renders me utterly powerless against the throes of complete exhaustion, melancholia, and random urges to nod off. After picking Bug up from preschool at noon, I made an executive decision to ditch my plans to take the kids to the park for the afternoon and instead sent them to the family room, by themselves, so I could take a much-needed break from playing, drawing, building, and blathering incessantly about robots. Instead, I just crawled into bed and got to work on my current project, watching 145 episodes of The Office on Netflix. The boys actually entertained themselves with Legos for a couple hours.

Hmmm...maybe I'm not failing after all.

More opinions

and then, she {snapped}


  1. Amen! I feel that as modern day parents we feel the pressure either from what we read or from ourselves that we must create an engaging environment for our little ones with us, the parents, as the center of our self-made universe. Thanks for the reminder that I need to let my kiddies explore their world with me as their "guide on the side".

  2. When I was 6 or so, I had a mini iron & ironing board set. The iron was electric & actually worked. I'd set myself up next to my mother when she was ironing & she'd let me iron my father's hankies. That was how I played & I loved it! Of course the iron would be too "dangerous" for today's kids. When I got bored with the hankies my sister & I would put crayon shavings between 2 squares of waxed paper and iron them. What beautiful colors!

  3. Hey, Anonymous, I remember having an iron like that! (It had belonged to my mom when she was little.) And the "safety" issue is why I'm saving my boys' walker and jolly jumper and my (now-outlawed) Sling Rider for my future daughters-in-law!

  4. Another big "Amen!!" here. Most of my almost-6yo's friend's parents still moan and groan about having to get up at 6 with their child, and the long long long day from 6am-9pm+ of finding things for them to do. Sorry but oh HELL no!!! Maybe it's because I'm a grandma raising grandkids and am either more old school or just too damned exhausted to keep up with the Perfect Mommy crowd, or maybe it's because I really do see how we're crippling our children by not allowing them the natural opportunities to make decisions and problem solve -- including making decisions and problem solving about what to do with their time! I'm also a strong proponant of "It's a nice day, go outside and play!" As a result, I have a child who on weekend mornings will get up on her own, help herself to breakfast (ok, sometimes it's a pudding cup but it LETS ME SLEEP), play on her own or turn on the TV to watch it, and we don't have to entertain her. Yes, many of you are jealous, I know. :)

    Oh and as for the "dangerous stuff" we encourage her to climb trees, do handstands on the concrete sidewalk, jump from the top of the porch steps (again onto the concrete sidewalk, about 4-5 feet away), run out to the corner by herself to watch the trains when she hears them, or run around on her own with other kids at public events while I chat with friends or watch the entertainment, and other things that many parents are convinced are going to result in her being a quadraplegic kidnap victim since I let her do things that could possibly result in her being hurt and I let her be out of my sight more than 10 feet away from me.

    OK, end rambling rant, it's time for a second cup of caffeine.


  5. I am one of those moms who enjoys the crafting, outings, and baking with the kids, but I also agree that kids need lots of unstructured time too so they can develop independence and creativity. It sounds like you are a good mama. I sometimes get bored with things like imaginative play too. It's normal to be bored yet no fun. ;)

    Thanks so much for linking up to the Sunday Parenting Party, and I hope you link up again tomorrow.

  6. Hey, Rebekah, thanks for writing! I've actually been wanting to "meet" you, since I've gleaned from your blog that, like me, you're the "white" contingent of a half-Indian family. Rock on! :)

  7. I have totally felt like the entertainer most days. Love the post! Thanks for linking up to The Sunday Parenting Party. I have featured your post this week! Come check it out and grab a button!

    1. Thanks Amanda! I've been trying to tinker with the button, but it's making me yell at the I'll get it up as soon as Prickly Dad gets home from work. :)

  8. I felt like a horrible mom for quite some time! My daughter, now 2, has been waking up about an hour before me since she was around 9 months old!!! I just couldn't seem to get up and she was NOT crying!
    When my husband came off the road (he was a truck driver), one Saturday he went to get her out of her crib as SOON as she woke up and she started to SCREAM and wouldn't quit!!!
    He hadn't taken the monitor with him so I had to listen to the whole thing. *sigh* I crawled out of bed, took the baby back in and put her in the crib. I sat down in the rocking chair and fell back asleep!
    You see, she had gotten USED to playing with her stuffies and music box quietly by herself every morning and Daddy had ruined her fun...her alone time!!!
    I HAD been feeling like a bad mother until then...THEN I realized why the other mothers kept asking how my 1 child could play alone when their 2 or 3 COULDN 'T.
    Now that she's two, she has a table next to her crib that is stacked full of books (did I mention my 2 year old can read? *proud Mama moment*) and she still plays in her crib for around an hour every morning. Reading, singing, chatting with her stuffies.
    I no longer feel like I'm being selfish and my husband no longer tries to get her up before she's ready!
    We enjoy our quiet time every morning and when she's ready to get up she says "Mama, wake up!" or "Mama, all done."...she knows I'll be there shortly with hugs and kisses and NO grumbling!!!