Dear Perfect Mother,
I have questions. You always have answers. Can you start by telling me when my children should be potty-trained, eating solids or taking their first steps? At the hospital, were you lucky enough to receive a pamphlet detailing precisely how long all babies should nurse on each boob?
The rest of us numb skulls (call us "Medium Mothers") play this waiting game -- when to wean, sleep train -- all the sticky stuff that requires compassion and work. You live proactively. Your black and white rules keep you prepared.
Perf Mo, too bad I did not have you advising, shaming and scaring me every step of the way! Some of my lowest moments were those of not knowing: When to give Tylenol and when to wait; knowing other kids were weaned at 12 months, but mine was going strong at 24; knowing little gals my son's age used the potty, but watching him stand in the tub discussing diesel and subway trains as a urine stream flows fast from his penis, totally unaware.
Perf, I read volumes and take oodles of classes, but your one-size-fits-all wisdom has eluded me. Did you receive it in a bible-like guide? A paint-by-number? Was it beamed directly into your brain?
I bet you knew exactly what to register for, had no last-minute Amazon orders, midnight runs to the store or fights with your partner over division of labor. Your kids instantly slept through the night while colic handed me my a**. Must have been the way I swaddled or nursed or bounced or breathed that made him wail all those hours, right? How do you know when their 3 a.m. cries are due to teething, belly upset or simply because they miss you? You're blessed with baby telepathy, while I agonize over the blinding monitor.
You took away the pacifier as planned, and insist my son's monkey lovey will SCAR! HIM! FOR! LIFE! By six months, did you decide it was high time she should sit and then prop her up, scoffing at the hippies who let their kids figure it out? When is the hard line for transitioning to a bed? Two years? Two years, two months? Two years, two months, two days and two seconds?
When did you decide you were NOT buying One. More. Diaper... and punish your son into achieving your goal? When he had accidents, I'm curious if you reprimanded him with the same shameful finger-wagging you use at the Medium Mothers who don't follow your potty plan? What might have happened if you waited for his cues? Never mind -- hypothetical questions scare the crap out of you. I pray your kids learn long division with the rest of 'em. Otherwise, that might really twist your panties out.
Oh Perf Mo, where were you during my labor? I didn't know when I'd move from seven to eight centimeters. I was without pain meds and felt EVERYTHING. Dangling in an unfamiliar orbit, I hoped the rumored, ten-centimeter finish line would be there. You would've done it better. Please criticize me publicly and tell me how. Here's your big chance.
Whip out your judgments viciously as only you can do online when some innocent mom asks for help. What if your CAPS LOCK button quits? That would give you a tick and a stutter. And if I were to take away your exclamation point -- how might you unleash your venom?! Bully in the comments section... tucked safely behind your Macbook's glowing apple, poised on the "home" row of your Dell, Droid thumbs ready for attack? Which of us moronic, unfit, lazy Mediums make the cut? Swing? YES! Walker? NO! Stomach sleeper? DAMAGING! It would make my life so much easier to have clear lines everywhere like you. I live in such a hazy mess.
Speaking of messes, a confession is in order: The day I brought home my newborn, my 2-year-old son was sorely out of whack, desperately searching for his place. My lumpy body was aching, my vagina was on fire and here's my son, dragging me outside to play bubbles. You would've known how to quiet down his big feelings and avoid his messy grief from spilling all over the sticky tiles.
You wouldn't have screwed up as I did in this moment. Suddenly, hot tears attacked my cheeks. I didn't want to leave after he worked so hard to quarantine me out there. So I explained through sobs that Mama was having big feelings and doing her best. You never would've lost your noodles in front of your kid, Perf. I'm sure your kids will learn some other way to handle big feelings, since it'll never be modeled for them?
What does the Perfect Mother do when her kids grow up, then bully and shame others? How do you reconcile that "Do as I say, not as I do" thing?
It's sad we can't support each other, but you have a different plan. I hope you'll take the time to rip me a new a**hole with a comment below. I'm the ideal target, as are the other Medium Mothers I know. From my many classes -- I know a lot of Mediums.
My boys, yesterday. My 3-year-old son with his pacifier (!), wearing his PJs (!), out for a stroll with his dolly (!), also with pacifier (!). Dolly holds his monkey lovey (!) in his stroller (!). And get this -- he's wearing a pull-up (!).
Leyna Juliet Weber is a Mother/Writer/Actress in that particular order. She is the Co-Founder of WorkingBug.com and lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two small sons in a home that consistently looks vandalized. www.SeeMomWrite.com