Jennifer Ginsberg: Moms say the darndest things. One of my favorite activities is taking Kiana, my 2-year-old daughter, to the park and listening to all the dumbs*** platitudes that are uttered from the mouths of otherwise normal women.
Just yesterday, Kiana was playing in the sandbox and approached another toddler and began to play with her sand toys. The girl eyed her suspiciously, just as you would if some stranger sat down next to you and started going through the contents of your purse. Immediately, her mother chided her: "Zoey, be nice. You have to share."
Zoey said, "I want to play alone," as she inched herself away from Kiana.
Her mother began to lecture her as if she was a naughty student. "Zoey, that's not nice. The little girl wants to be your friend."
Zoey was quick to respond: "I don't want to be her friend."
Her mother became flustered with embarrassment and turned to me. "I am so sorry!" she said. She then turned to Zoey and said sternly, "You have to be her friend if she wants to be your friend."
WTF? Where do moms come up with these things? In whose universe are you expected to cheerfully share your most prized possessions with some random bitch (even if that random bitch is my wispy-blond, Tinkerbell-look-alike, delicious daughter)? The next time you feel compelled to force your child to share something, try to imagine for a moment how you would feel if you had to share your favorite piece of jewelry with a complete stranger.
Why was Zoey's desire to play alone completely invalidated by her mother? Aren't there days when you just want to chill out and not be bothered by anyone? Days when the thought of making small talk with some stranger feels tedious and intolerable? Why couldn't her mother honor this impulse in her child, and help her find a way to set boundaries?
And why, why, why was Zoey told that she had to be friends with Kiana? Has our culture become so politically correct that we are obligated to become friends with every person that crosses our path? How would you feel if you were forced to socialize with a woman that you really wanted nothing to do with?
I believe that most moms have very good intentions when speaking to their children. We are all concerned about raising kids who are gracious, friendly, and kind. But there is a fine line between instilling compassion and discounting authentic feelings. We also need to be careful to teach our children realistic and useful life lessons, rather than meaningless platitudes that don't apply to the real world.
Zoey's mom missed an incredible opportunity to help her daughter set boundaries and kindly say "no" to someone. Teaching children to listen to their feelings and take care of themselves is far more useful than attempting to coerce them to interact in a manner that only serves to make you look good as a parent.
How about modeling behavior for your children? If you are warm and gracious when you meet new people, they will observe this and most likely try to emulate it. If you are charitable and able to share your possessions, these values will be imparted as well.
When you are ready to bestow your words of wisdom on your child, how about pausing for a moment and asking yourself, "What am I really trying to teach?" If the lesson doesn't quite make sense, or apply to your life as an adult, then I guarantee it is something that is better left unsaid.
|Jennifer Ginsberg is a Los Angeles writer and mother to three, surprisingly angst-free children. As a former actress/waitress, turned clinical social worker specializing in addiction, turned full-time mother/part-time psychotherapist/writer, Jennifer is particularly well-versed on the topic of angst.|
Find out more about her life at angstmom.com