Wednesday, August 02, 2006

More on the Bored Mommy...

When I was diagnosed with cancer in 2004, something dramatic happened to my view of the world. For a time when it was unknown whether I would live or die, everything in the background faded to black. The only thing that really mattered was my family. The many “hats” I wear and all the patently trivial concerns of my life went poof! My only real concern was around my most important role… wife and mom.

So when I read the article about one woman’s take on motherhood, I had a very hostile initial reaction. If she was faced with a terminal illness, I wondered, would the text messaging and pedicures still be more important than time spent with the kids?

But amidst all the electricity here… may I just suggest that she makes an interesting point that may have gotten swallowed up in all the tumult.

“Kirwan-Taylor says new research shows that child-centered parenting is creating "a generation of narcissistic children who cannot function independently."

I don’t know this research. Frankly, I don’t need to know it to feel on a “gut” level that there is something to consider here.

In my quest to unabashedly love and nurture my children, I need to make sure that I am not seeding a “center of the universe” mentality. Because I might be developing a "friendly" bond between mother and child. And building the foundation for a dysfunctional adult in the process… the narcissist that Kirwan-Taylor describes. A baby who grows into a boy who grows into an adolescent who grows into an adult who thinks life is all about taking and indulgence.

And it starts, perhaps, with parents like me who have the best intentions. We take on a crusade to create an easy, struggle-free environment for our children. A primary goal for our kids is their “happiness.”

You want that new toy! You’re such a good boy! You got it!

What can we do today to have fun?! Woohoo!

Well… we probably should wait for your birthday to get that. Oh, well. Why not!




The best thing my mother ever said to me was “no.” She said it a lot. And it was a wise and loving thing to do. Because she saw the big picture. She was looking down the road. And she knew that a spoiled child is going to be a monster of an adult.

As parents, the most important thing we can do is launch our children on the road to spiritual maturity in Christ. Give them a stable home environment and model as best we can godly living that starts with a strong, unified relationship between a mom and a dad. This is not the “kid-centric” home that Kirwan-Taylor assails, is it? It’s a marriage centered home instead.

So where do I come out on the bad mommy debate? Most of us raising kids do battle tedium. I haven’t met a woman yet who says she likes to change diapers. And after a longgggggg summer day of going and blowing with three little boys, I would go to the county jail to talk to another adult. But we brought these kids into this world and we have them for such a short time. They are precious gifts from God. Sounds like Kirwan-Taylor would be happy to check out altogether. I flat-out can’t relate to that. I love my kids. And the years are just flying by...

The Bible tells us that man looks at the outward appearance while God looks at the heart. (See 1 Samuel 16:7). Many would argue that Kirwan-Taylor has a selfish heart. They might be right. But what about the super-involved mother who is super-parenting so she will look like a super parent… the mom (or dad) who is pouring into the children to live through them (think Violet’s mom in Charlie & the Chocolate Factory)? That’s the wrong motivation, too. And whose motivation is worse? Honestly, only God knows.

Aside from what I don't like about the "bored mom"... and the sympathy I feel for her little boys... I think she may have a point that's become lost amid all the furor. If I am honest with myself, I must admit that I can be "kid-centric." There. I said it. Guilty as charged. And I am becoming increasingly concerned that this may not be a good thing in the long run…

What do you think? Agree? Disagree?


Anonymous said...

Our parents you have to love them. They strove to provide us with a better life then they lived, but what did they do to us in the process. They worked harder so we never saw them, but we did have more stuff under the Christmas tree. Then again we didn’t have parents either. They worked harder so they didn’t have time to cook a meal for us, but they educated us in how to live on fast food thinking somehow that is was healthy. They worked harder so we were home alone after school and in the evenings letting the television raise us. They got the manufacturers to produce better solutions for modern living destroying the earth and the environment in the process. They got bigger and bigger cars for status symbols that pollute the air we breathe. Did they really provide us with a better life?
The best thing a parent could do for us is to show us how to live. Educate us to live in the world we live in. The new toy, video game, a bigger house, a bigger car does nothing to help us grow up to be healthy, to be moral, or to live a life based on principles whether they are biblically or philosophical based.
Our parents need to teach us our history. In America we don’t have history. We don’t have a heritage we are just here living in the moment taking for granted everything we have. Where did I come from? Biologically I know, but the past is dead, gone, erased! There is no heritage.
What we should really want for our children is to be educated far more then what the public school system teaches. Teach your children how to live. Simple things like how to balance a check book, buy a car, how to cook, how to do laundry, teach a belief system (Is commercialism a belief system.) but our parents never seem to teach us these things, because they are to busy chasing the goose with the golden egg. (The American Dream!) One day we find ourselves out of the nest then what do we do. No one has taught us all the stuff we need to live.
What children really need today is to have parents. Not in the biological sense, but the true spirit of the word.

Sarah Onderdonk said...

anon... your post is saddening. it's the picture of good intentions gone bad. many families in america are struggling to just get by. poverty is not just a third-world issue. it's here, too. for many, if both parents didn't work, there wouldn't be food on the table. still others choose more work and less time for the kids for other reasons. many are convinced, as you suggest, that a better material existence equates to the best life. when the kids more than anything just want time with mom and dad.

i was reminded of this poem:

Walk a Little Slower, Daddy

"Walk a little slower, Daddy." said a little child so small.
I'm following in your footsteps and I don't want to fall.

Sometimes your steps are very fast, sometimes they're hard to see;

So walk a little slower, Daddy, for you are leading me.

Someday when I'm all grown up, You're what I want to be.
Then I will have a little child who'll want to follow me.

And I would want to lead just right, and know that I was true;
So, walk a little slower, Daddy, for I must follow you!!

- Author Unknown

thanks for writing, anon.

John said...

I think you're on the right track with your response to all this Sarah. While I have a hard time accepting the reality of a mom like this (my inner optimist talking), I do lament the culture of narcissism that we've created. It causes me to shine the light on myself and wonder about the myriad ways in which I exhibit such behavior - not in despising my son, but in actions and attitudes that are consumed by the self. Good food for thought. Thanks for posting it.

Sarah Onderdonk said...

John... very insightful post. This is not someone else's "problem"... the inner default to "self" is a harmful tendency if not a daily tension for most of us.

Anonymous had a thoughtful perspective on where we are going wrong. I have to look at all the "stuff" my kids are surrounded with and wonder what message we're sending. Anon made a comment about our waning interest in history (John... inasmuch as this is your area of study... would you agree?) As it relates to family history, that would require actually sitting down with them and talking, wouldn't it.

Head spinning stuff...

Anonymous... if you come back to this blog... may I ask you a question?

Do you think we have sufficiently equipped our kids if we lead them to a belief system that is EITHER religion or philosophy based?

Diana said...

Overindulgence in any form, I believe has the potential to harm. Be it overindulgence in our own purchases and "wants", those of our kids, or even the overindulgences of a "child-centered" world.

Our big job as a parent is to help nurture independence, so that our kids can grow up strong, ready to face what the world throws at them. We are doing them no favors by centering our worlds around them. HOWEVER, this cannot be an excuse to "check out".

Our kids need and deserve our love, attention, advice, and knowledge. They also need to see that we are individuals with goals, duties, marital love, and interests outside of their limited world. In short, we need to provide them with limitless love, while simultaneously exhibiting some independence of our own.

Unless we want to raise our kids to be helpless, ego-centric, unappreciative adults, we'd better be able to say "no" easily and often. Then, hug them and tell them that they are loved more than all the riches in the world. They'll get it...

Sarah Onderdonk said...

Diana... I know your children... I know what you are modeling in your home... and you are a powerful role model for me... of grace and wisdom and love. Thanks for your post... you always know just what to say.

NancyM said...

Regarding "Bored Mommy," I had to ask myself, "What is so facinating about this woman that she sees others as so boring?" The only reason she is of interest to anyone is that she is known worldwide as the most obnoxious woman who ever gave birth!

Whew, I feel better now!

Nancy M