Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The Three Words I Hate to Hear

I could NEVER...

This is quickly becoming my most hated phrase.  

Oh, I could NEVER...

And then fill in the blank with whatever you are doing that someone else is not. These are just a few examples - some mine, some friends - that have wormed their way into conversations lately. By the way, this is a PARTIAL list. If I included them all this post would be thousands of words and you could NEVER read it all the way through (see what I did there?)

Your daughter is doing this activity, that class, AND that activity? Oh, I could never.

You're homeschooling next year? Oh, I could never.

You're letting him compete at his age? Oh, I could never.

You drive 45 minutes to that activity? Oh, I could never.

You stay home all day with your kids? Oh, I could never.

You have her in full day kindergarten AND after care? Oh, I could never.

You're working AND volunteering at school? Oh, I could never.

You MADE the snack and craft for preschool today? Oh, I could never.

You leave while she's in her lesson? Oh, I could never.

You stay during the whole lesson? Oh, I could never. 

You're ONLY breastfeeding? Oh, I could never.

You have hockey at what time on Saturdays? Oh, I could never.

You're going to Zumba two nights a week during bedtime? Oh, I could never.

Of course, this is supposed to read as a compliment, right? How impressive! I couldn't do what you do! You must be amazing!

Except...sometimes it doesn't read that way. In fact, a lot of times it doesn't. Sometimes, it's pretty clear that it doesn't.

It reads as that icky judgment, dressed up in manners and empty praise.

The mom with her kids in multiple activities is robbing them of their childhoods, overscheduling, and tiger momming. Busy, busy, busy. Too busy. You would never.

The homeschooling mom has opted to have her kids with her and be responsible for their education, instead of handing them over to the people who have a license for that. You would never.

The mom letting her kids enter tournaments, competitions, contests is putting so much pressure on her kids, robbing them of the joy. You would never.

The mom driving 45 minutes is inconveniencing herself for the sake of her child. You would never.

The mom who stays home is clearly wealthy and doesn't understand your plight, or has given herself up for the sake of her children. You would never.

The mom who has her kids looked after during the day clearly is just handing them off to someone else to be raised. You would never.

The mom who seems to be doing it all, or making it all herself is one of those overachieving, probably Pinterest addicted moms who somehow manages to do it all? She's clearly just trying to win this mom competition with her perfect crafts and whole food cupcakes. You would never.

The mom who stays through an activity is a helicopter mom. The mom who leaves isn't concerned about her child's well being. You would never.

The mom who is exclusively breastfeeding, or babywearing, or co-sleeping has completely given herself up to her child. The mom who isn't isn't putting in the effort and to give her child the best, most secure start. You would never.

You'd never give up your Saturday mornings to get to the rink at 6:30 am for hockey. You'd never give up a full weekend for a dance competition. Or a baseball tournament. Or a gymnastics meet. Or a Girl Scout sleepover. Family time is critical. You would never.

The dance mom is making her little girl look too grown up when she performs. The hockey mom is putting her kid at risk of injury. The free range mom is risking everything. The helicopter mom is creating incapable kids. You know this. It's obvious, because blogs, and TV shows, and a story you heard about a friend of a friend told you so. And you would never.

Because you're saying I COULD but what you seem to mean is I WOULD.

When Madison had her issues, when we were keeping her in isolation and scrubbing down when we came into the house, when we were giving her injections and taking her for bloodwork, I heard "I could never" a lot when people heard what our situation was. You have to give her shots? Oh, I could NEVER.  I didn't picture myself doing that either. But as it turns out, I could. I did. Because you can do a lot of things. You can do hard things, even if you don't want to.

You can find a way to balance work and family. You can decide that clean eating is important enough where you want to make that your focus. You can allow your child to follow their passion, be it dance or violin or karate or soccer or gymnastics or underwater basket weaving. You can homeschool. You can send a child to full day kindergarten and aftercare. You can find out that maybe those things aren't the horrors you think they are.

You can. 

So it's not really a compliment that what she's doing is impressive. What you're really saying to that mom is that you don't want to what she's doing. You don't agree with what she's doing. You don't parent like she does. You don't want to be a dance mom or a hockey mom or an overachieving mom or a tiger mom or a helicopter mom or a crunchy mom or a lazy mom or a selfish mom or an indulgent mom or a radical homeschooling mom or whatever stereotype that this mom obviously is, forcing you to think that whatever they are doing is so violently out of your comfort zone that you would be INCAPABLE of doing it. You CAN'T.

Maybe I'm being overly sensitive. Maybe I'm being insensitive to someone who truly doesn't believe she could manage something. Maybe I'm making mountains out of molehills. Maybe I'm just starting another battle in a war that no one wants. Maybe I'm stopping one before it becomes a battle.

I've learned a lot of things this year. I've become things I didn't think I would. I became a dance mom, a homeschooling mom, a color coded family calendar mom, even a mom who GOES TO THE GYM (speaking of what I used to think of as an I could NEVER). I've become friends with hockey moms and working moms and clean eating moms. Guess what? In none of these things have I found any of those stereotypes to be true. The homeschooling moms aren't weird and unsocialized and ultra religious and terrified of the real world. The hockey and dance moms aren't catty and crazy and living vicariously through their children, who they push to be stars. The "do it all" moms aren't superior. The relaxed moms aren't lazy.

Next time, when someone is living their mom life in a way you aren't, instead of giving her the oh, I could NEVER, try asking her about it. Try telling her you don't much about that, or ask how it works, or tell her it's interesting, or anything other than telling her that what she's doing is something you can't even imagine as part of your existence.

Because the problem with never is that it closes doors. And you never know when a new door might open, even one you never imagined encountering.

And you can do anything once that door is opened.
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