At least according to every one of my daughters at off moments in our relationships. Like when I take away their iPads while they are supposed to be doing homework or walking the dog. When I find them Skyping at 11 p.m. when they were supposed to be asleep. When I react angrily to disrespect. Or when I forbid clothing I deem inappropriate for a 12-year-old.
It’s funny because sometimes I’m also the best mom in the world. Like when we’re cuddling together during family movie night, or I serve their favourite dishes for dinner. When I allow their three best friends to sleep over on a Saturday night and make chocolate chip cookies. Or surprise them with a trip to see Harry Potter World at Universal Studios in Florida (hoping to get mileage out of that one for years!).
Most of the time though, I’m the mom in between. The practical one who expects them do their homework on a Sunday morning so we can all have fun later in the afternoon without it weighing us down. The one who keeps the fridge stocked and picks them up from gymnastics, badminton practice and debating tournaments. The boring stuff that keeps our family on an even keel.
Oddly enough, I take secret pride in the times when I’m the meanest mom in the world. I guess because it doesn’t happen all that often, but recurs just often enough, with a kind of reassuring familiarity. It’s like an invisible badge of honour. It means I’m doing my job properly, setting reasonable limits (to my parental mind, if not to theirs).
It means I’m their parent, not their friend. (Tweet this)
Sure I want them to confide in me, enjoy spending time with me, let me into their teenage minds. And they do. At least so far. But I also want them to respect me and their father. To know we’ve set limits and imposed consequences for going beyond them. That we have expectations of acceptable behaviour, defined by our family’s values and beliefs.
That the seemingly silly courtesies we expect (say, for example, waiting until everyone is seated at the table before we begin eating, preparing your sister’s toast when you are making your own or asking if anyone wants the last potato knish instead of grabbing it for yourself) are part of loving each other.
That there is more to living life that what can be experienced through a computer screen.
That they may need some help controlling impulses. Setting limits. Developing and exercising good judgement.
That a 12-year-old girl who wears THAT when she leaves the house is sending certain messages to others, the possible responses to which she is not yet emotionally equipped to handle.
That the banal chores of daily life (homework, dog-walking, showering, emptying the dishwasher, folding laundry, clearing the dinner dishes) are actually a big part of the stuff of life. And the discipline we develop from doing them properly help us succeed at other things.
That the developmentally appropriate narcissism of childhood and adolescence is nevertheless not the way they will be expected to live the rest of their lives.
That sometimes we appreciate things more if we want them for a while before we get them. Or save up our own money over time.
That sometimes we don’t always get what we want.
Other moms sometimes commiserate with me. They say they are sometimes told they are the meanest moms in the whole world too. This may seem like a contradiction. But I’m thinking it’s entirely possible we can all occasionally be the meanest moms in the whole world, passing the title from one to another like we’re already doing with used baby clothes and kids’ sporting equipment.
As long as there’s some balance with being the best moms in the world, and the regular everyday moms in between, I’d say it’s just one more odd reason to be proud of what we do.