I got to sit around for several hours the other day with another mom while our daughters took skiing lessons. We drank hot drinks and covered every topic under the sun — from teachers, gun ownership and Obamacare to husbands, the importance of sports and dying turtles. It was lovely.
Later, it struck me that the tone of mother-to-mother conversations have gotten so much nicer. These conversations have always been vital, but not always comfortable. Now that our kids are older, we’ve all been been knocked around more as parents. We’ve all had a failure or 10. I find that, generally, I am much more tolerant of other mom’s decisions. As they are of mine.
How I remember those toddler get-togethers when a bunch of earnest moms would all talk about naptimes, bottles versus breasts, the introduction of sugar into the diet, the quality of shoes, the importance of infant and toddler brain stimulation. It was all so intense, so fresh, everything felt so IMPORTANT.
And it all was important, but in our tremulous, self-conscious states, anything anyone did that was different from what we did was so threatening and potentially disastrous. We “knew” that everything that happened in the first three years was going to have unalterable life-changing consequences. The result — we’d all push away anything that was different than what we decided upon. So, a comment like “Oh, you think those are good shoes?” really meant “I hate to tell you, but you are ruining your child’s feet forever, whereas I have made the right decision and you really should be doing what I’m doing.” And deep under that, perhaps was the thought “I can’t bear to think that I’ve chosen shoes that will give my child flat feet, so I’m turning on you instead because you’re not backing me!”
These days we’ve all had our sharp edges worn off. I have a child with flat feet and there’s not much I can do about it, and I now know it’s not really clear shoes would have trumped genetics.
It’s hard to summon the energy to be judgmental about other parents’ decisions. Maybe this is merely the quiet lull before cars, drugs, and SATs, but overwhelm has won, and it’s quieter, easier…and the support feels more solid. I’ll take it.