Mother Nature v. Mother Nurture

Ok, who would win in a fight:

My mother’s innate influence over me or all the “how to parent” crap I’m getting inundated with from well-meaning friends, eblasts, and the twenty-seven inch pile of paperbacks on my nightstand?

Here’s the deal: in my daily phone call today with my mom, I mentioned my friend’s two-year old son was having a hard time being away from Mommy.

“He’s going to the spa with you?” she asked. “That’s crazy!”

“Well, it’s just pedicures,” I reasoned. “It’s not like we have to be quiet or anything.”

“But still…” Judy was not convinced. “Can’t he stay with his dad for one hour? Don’t tell me the dad won’t watch him. Ooooh…”

If it’s one thing Judy hates almost as much as a whiny kid, it’s a dad who won’t babysit his own kid.

“Of course he could. But I think Mason just gets so upset when she leaves it’s easier just to bring him.”

“That’s WRONG!” Judy was really fired up now. “She’s doing that kid a great disservice by giving into him! He needs to learn that sometimes Mommies have to go out, but they usually come back.”

“So I’m supposed to just leave my sobbing little baby who is very clearly upset just so I can enjoy overpriced cocktails and half-price hummus with my girls?”

“Yep.”

I ask you, could you leave this beautiful, little crybaby behind?

“But I can do that at home!” Truthfully nothing sounded better than an overpriced cocktail and half price hummus right about now and I’d probably leave all my worldly possessions on the side of I5 to get my hands on a French 75, but it’s sometimes hard to resist getting Judy worked up.

Judy sighed. “You listen to me, missy. If you baby him, if you coddle, if you give in to his every whim and demand, you will turn him into Ricky Mendoza. Is that what you want?”

Ahh, Ricky Mendoza. I’ll save that story for another time.

“Oh dear lord, no.”

“Good. Because I will kick your ass,” she concluded. “The same way you kicked Ricky’s.”

“The same way everyone kicked poor Ricky’s,” I said. “I think our class hamster gave him thirteen stitches.”

“My point exactly. Remember when I used to go to happy hour with the girls every Thursday,” she asked.

“And Monday through Wednesday,” I added. “Yes, I remember.”

“You didn’t want me to go but I did.”

“Mom, I was like 15. I probably just wanted to go with you.”

“Well the point is, I went anyway. And you didn’t cry. You got over it.”

“Have I?”

Ignoring me, Judy went on to explain that while the teen me didn’t care if she left me alone to go drinking with her friends (what the heck did she think I was doing when she left?) the wee me apparently had mommy separation anxiety.

“I thought my anxiety was from the Phenobarbital withdraw,” I said.

“That was prescribed by the doctor,” she said calmly. “I told you. We didn’t know any better back then.”

I’ll save the Phenobarbital story for another time as well.

Notice I say “apparently” I had separation anxiety because I clearly don’t remember this.

“And now look how strong and independent you are. You ran off right after college to go live in Seattle. Who the hell does that? Up until you the time you booked your flight we weren’t even entirely sure where Washington was!”

“I thought it was south of Oregon.”

“I thought it was in Canada.”

(Don’t judge! Can you West Coasters name every state along the East Coast? Probably Maybe not.)

Geography aside, she’s got a point. I feel like my parents did a fine job raising me, despite what the journals from my early 20’s might imply. My life was and is relatively angst free. I’m pretty well adjusted. And if that’s due in part to my mom rushing off to happy hour while toddler me left snot stained smudges on the screen door begging her not to go, well so be it. I’m none the wiser. Or actually maybe I am.

But I have to wonder. Could I walk away from my sobbing two-year old begging mommy to stay? I remember one time when I left my beloved old dog, Charlie, at a dog groomer she had been to a dozen times before. Charlie was notorious independent and often aloof. She needed me to do things like unlock the balcony door or open a bag of Moo-Q’s but otherwise she was fine on her own. But this one day she started whimpering in the waiting area and when they came to take her back she rolled over, wrapped two big paws around my ankle, and looked up at me with these pleading, brown eyes. I swear she said, Please don’t leave me! I love you! I’ll be better, I promise! Ugh. Brought tears to my eyes! And to think I did leave her there! I had to go to work. Eight years later I still regret it.

“That’s because you like dogs better than kids,” Bart said.

“I like dogs better than other people’s kids,” I reasoned. “They might be equal with my own child.”

We already know that I’m not going to be the one who takes the baby in for his shots after my meltdown at the vet’s office when we tried to get Zelda’s nails clipped. It would break my heart. But then again, it would also break my heart if I inadvertently raised a kid who was constantly hiding behind mommy’s skirt. Not to mention the real travesty—never getting to enjoy a kid-free pedicure ever again.

“Oh, he’ll cry,” Bart said. “But it’s not like I’m going to hold our crying child up to the window so you can see how upset he is when you leave.”

That’s a terrible visual and now I can’t look at the gigantic picture window in the front of our house without tearing up a little. Must be the hormones.

“We’re both going to need to get out once in a while,” Bart continued. “It will be good for him.”

I have to admit it was good for me. Which is why I’m putting all those books on my nightstand away and catching up on all the unread books in my Kindle library. When people talk about “mother’s instinct” I’m staring to think they mean “your mother’s instinct.” Fine by me. I’d rather have my mother’s instincts kicking in than her kicking my ass.

 

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