Published on Mommy Tracked (http://www.mommytracked.com)

Smothering Mothering.

by Leslie Morgan Steiner


I loved last Sunday’s New York Times Magazine commentary by Mommy Trackd/Flexperience 2008 keynote [1] Lisa Belkin, “Let the Kid Be [2].” Belkin hopefully forecasts the demise of helicopter parenting and smothering mothering, citing a wave of new books with self-explanatory titles like Bad Mother [3], Free-Range Kids [4] and The Idle Parent: Why Less is More When Raising Kids [5]. The only thing I’d change is Belkin’s title: I’d call it “Let the Mom Be!” Because in addition to the damage inflicted upon kids by uber-hovering, we moms are the biggest victims.


This is painfully clear as we transition from the blessedly predictable daycare/school schedule into…summer, a six-letter word for soggy packed lunches, childcare cobbled together like chickenwire, and the logistics of meeting the 4:10 camp bus when you are supposed to stay at work until 5 p.m. Unless you are sufficiently well-paid to be able to afford a fulltime babysitter AND camp (a pool shrunk dramatically by today’s economic woes), you and your work performance will suffer until the fireflies go back into hibernation.


Summer was once blissful for moms, wasn’t it? My mother made blueberry pancakes in the morning, opened the screen door to our falling down farmhouse in New Hampshire, and shooed us outside like flies for the 12 hours of daylight. Now summer seems crammed with tutoring, enrichment camps, sports skills improvement opportunities, and SPF sunscreen. It took me nearly four hours to fill out the paperwork and medical forms for my three children to attend seven weeks of local camps this summer. It would have been easier to apply for a Center for Disease Control grant. Where is the fun in that?


FUN parenting – can you imagine? The finest hours of parenting, in my experience, have had nothing to do with driving my child to Tae Kwan Do practice or Sylvan Learning Center. They’ve been the fun times – and not necessarily the expensive Disneyworld We-Are-Having-Family-Fun times (although I do start to drool just thinking about Disney’s waterparks).

I mean the peaceful, silly moments with my children. Usually when they have been entertaining themselves by catching caterpillars in the backyard or selling overpriced lemonade to neighbors in the front. My latest favorites include lying next to my seven-year-old in the twilight as she drifts off listening to our local classical music station on the radio; humming “Seasons of Love” from Rent in tune with my 10 year old daughter’s falsetto; and watching Family Guy with my 12 year old son. All free, all unplanned, without a single flashcard or advice book in sight.


Why can’t I feel just as proud of these moments as I do when my kid scores a goal, recites the U.S. presidents, or comes home with an A on a math test? (All rare events, I need to confess.)


“We build an artificial scaffold,” Belkin writes. “Which supports what we have come to think of as parenting truths but are really only parenting trends.”


So true. The pressure to micromanage our children in the name of good parenting is a trend, not a truth. The only truth is loving your children, caring for them as best you can, and scraping together a little (or a lot) of fun along the way.

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