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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Let's All Chip In and Blame the Mother

Even before zaiki were born, I've looked for parenting advice. I thought that there must be a formula, a set of guidelines on what to do to raise happy children. Turns out, no...After two plus years of doing it, this is my takeaway: no matter what you do, you are bound to screw up. It seems that all literature's (and some blogs' on parenting) goal is to make you feel guilty for something. Not giving enough meat, or giving meat. Sleeptraining or co-sleeping, and so on. Seems that as a mother and a human being, no matter what you do, you will somehow manage to impede your child's growth or fail to help them realize their full potential. Grrr.

Now,thanks to this book: that-was-made-into-a-movie-that-just-won-big-at-London's film festival, mothers are responsible for turning their children into murderers. Lovely. The gist of it is that the boy never felt fully loved by his mother who is an emotional handicapper, and killed a bunch of people at his school and now she is writing about her guilt to her estranged husband.

So something else for mothers to fret over: are we loving our children enough, giving them unconditional love? Or are we somehow scarring them emotionally? What about self-love? Self-actualization? Common theme in parenting I come across often is "lose yourself in your children". But it's impossible. And unhealthy. Once they leave (as all children should!) to start their own life, what is left of you? Your life doesn't end when a little screaming thing is placed in your arms. Or does it?

I agree that the book and the movie both raise an important issue that is akin to a gay uncle at a fundamentalist (think Duggars-ish) family reunion: The gay uncle issue is wearing a flamboyant pink shirt with orange crocs, but everyone is trying to ignore him it as hard as they can. What if you don't love your child unconditionally? What if you don't have an instant bond with him or her? People shy away from discussing it.

The cult of "having children is the best thing that ever happened to me" is reinforced by the media who parade a score of idiotically happy new celebrity parents. Of course, if you have a full staff, don't worry about sleepless nights or changing diapers if you don't feel like it, why not enjoy your child? But this attitude of baby-bliss makes feelings of anything but drool-filled love for your children a crime. Oh, you mean you don't enjoy wiping puke off of your new shirt 15 minutes before you have to leave for work? You don't think that 2-year-old's temper tantrums are cute? Then you must not love your baby enough and he'll turn out to be a psychopath and it's-all-your-fault.

By making mother a sympathetic (but still) a villain we open the door to more maternal guilt. To things like "Oh my God, I just yelled at her for dumping her juice all over the floor (again) and put her in time out. Or slapped her bottom after she bit me hard enought to draw blood. Or anything else. Will it scar her? Do I need to find a baby-shrink ASAP?" and then beating yourself up for it for the rest of the day.

I don't think I'll read the book. Or watch the movie. I could really use some positive reinforcement for a change.

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