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One of my biggest fears before becoming a mother was whether
I would be able to speak up for myself or my children. I worried that someone might say something to
my children that was not in line with my parenting philosophy or my worldview
and I would stand there mutely while seething inside.
Turns out, I am a mother who is willing to speak up. When the cashier at Target told my daughter
that she should be careful not to get fat, I responded by saying that we don’t
measure worth by weight in our family. And when the man in the gym parking lot told my son that “big boys don’t
cry,” I told him straight up that tears are gender neutral and that my son had
permission to feel all of his feelings. Just like my daughter.
It’s been a liberating experience to tap into this
willingness to speak up to strangers, busybodies and well-intentioned friends
who offer my children a view of the world that I don’t agree with. My worries were all for naught—with one
tiny exception: grandparents.
I just can’t bring myself to correct any of my children’s grandparents. Luckily, they haven’t said much that I find objectionable, but there have been moments when I came this close to saying something to one of them about something they were saying to my kids, but I stopped myself through sheer force of will.
I’m simply unwilling to stage a showdown with the people who raised me and my husband.
I couldn’t bring myself to tell one grandmother to lay off
about my son’s long hair or the other one to zip it about my daughter’s spirited
public displays of emotion. I couldn’t
do it. I can’t correct a grandparent. There is some invisible line between me and
them that keeps me from contradicting them in the moment. At some point later (once they’ve left the
room or the state), I usually have a conversation with my children letting them
know that I don’t agree with some of the things that their grandparents
say. But it’s not the same as an
in-the-moment confrontation. I’m simply unwilling
to stage a showdown with the people who raised me and my husband.
I’ve got plenty of rationalizations for why they get a
pass. For one thing, they all live a few
states away so our time together is precious, and I don’t want to muck it up
with messy interactions about the best way to handle a tantrum or the proper
table manners for a 2-year-old. And
because they live far away, the danger of them influencing my children with
ideas that I disagree with is only very slight. But it’s also about respect. My
parents and my husband’s parents raised us and contributed in countless ways to
the people—and parents—we are today. So,
while I don’t agree with some of the things they say around my children, they
get a pass from me in the name of respect, honor and gratitude.