Just doing my job -- I think

By Candy Allen

Circulation Manager

My friend stared at me in open-mouthed shock.

“You are SUCH a mean mom!”

I’d just gotten through sharing how my then-preschool son had cried himself to sleep after I’d refused to promise not to die.

“No, I’m not. I just won’t promise him anything I can’t deliver.”

It wasn’t the last time I’ve been called a mean mom. I’ve been accused of being demanding, overly strict, expecting too much, and so on — by my friends, my kids, teachers, other parents, people without children — you name it.

It’s my job.

I recently read an article about high levels of depression and overall dissatisfaction with life in general among young adults. The theory in the article was that these 20-somethings were facing disappointment and setbacks for the first time in their lives because their parents had so effectively shielded them throughout their formative years. It was pretty eye-opening. Maybe — just maybe — I’ve been doing something right.

Now, from the time my first child was born, I’ve subscribed to the theory that whatever issues he’s got are going to be blamed on his father and me. So I’ve just made up how to be a parent as I go along because he’s going to be screwed up anyway, so why not put my own spin on things? (You know all of us are screwed up somehow, admit it.)

With that in mind, it’s been pretty easy to brush off well-meaning advice that I’m too mean or expect too much. Yes, I have high expectations and yes, sometimes my kids don’t reach them. Yes, I do let them know. Praise is good, but constructive criticism has its place.

Failure is important. Part of my job as mom is to let my son and daughter fail. To watch them fall down as they learn to walk, but also to watch them fall down as they try to master social interaction, climbing trees, telling jokes, making friends or handling projects.

I decided early on in this whole parenting business that my role is to make myself obsolete. Not that I ever intend to walk away from my kids, but I want them to be able to walk away from me at some point and be happy, productive people. And I don’t know how long I get to accomplish that — like I told my son years ago, “Mommy can’t promise not to die. Nobody knows when you’re going to die except God. And he doesn’t tell.”

Naturally, I hope that by the time that happens, my kids are much older than I am now. But I can’t wait until tomorrow to start letting them learn that life isn’t fair.