I’m almost 40. I have a four-year-old daughter, a mother in her late fifties, and a grandmother in her mid eighties. Over the past Christmas holidays I brought my daughter to visit my grandmother. My daughter can be infuriatingly stubborn, and my parenting style often confounds my grandmother. (I don’t, for example, and to my grandmother’s great distress, force my daughter to remain at the table until her plate is empty) The combination of those two things over our holiday visit proved to be volatile.
My grandmother on more than one occasion tried to guide my daughter’s crayon while she drew pictures. My daughter responded by shaking off the art direction, and pushing my grandmother’s hand away. In spite of the fact that my daughter was not even four at the time, and my grandmother was plenty old enough to know better, she strode off, muttering and shutting herself in her room. I later got a largely ignored lecture about how I have spoiled my daughter, and how I should let her food go cold and force her to revisit it at every subsequent meal until it is sufficiently gone, how I should slap her for crying loudly and long over small matters so that she “has something to cry about,” and how I should teach her more respect for her elders.
To be fair to my grandmother, I should say that I was probably unrealistic to accept the offer of her hospitality at her age. We should have stayed at a hotel. And while I tried to shrug off my grandmother’s words, I must admit that some of them made an impression. My daughter can be less than affectionate sometimes. Sometimes I want to hold her or sing to her or rock her and comfort her and she’ll have none of it. And that hurts my feelings. I spoke to my mother, who is also a professional teacher, about it, and she gave me this advice:
Parenting is like teaching. It is completely one way. You give. They take. That’s the way it works. If you get anything back, consider it a bonus. Children are not there to comfort parents, or make them feel good about themselves, or to improve their parents lives. That is not their job.
And you know what? I think she’s right. How could I have forgotten?
When I read your article on parenting in The F-Word, I must say it brought those words of my mother’s to mind. There’s nothing at all wrong with the feelings you express. I shared them myself. That’s why I waited so long to have my child. I don’t know how old you are now, but when you get older, you might feel different than you do now about the subject of motherhood. I discovered as I got a little bit older that I worried less about how it was going to impact my life, and more about what, if anything, I could bring to my child’s life. There’s nothing wrong with your article, but reading it made the word “young” in your magazine description take on emphasis for me. Your concerns sound to me like young ones. They are the exact same ones I had through my twenties and most of my thirties.
I’m writing now, not because of any of this motherhood stuff, (I wouldn’t presume) but for the additional reason that I noticed you, too, are interested in the effect the word “young” in your magazine description may or may not have on your readership. One of your readers indicated in some feedback that she hadn’t noticed the word “young” until she came upon your “discrimination” debate. Like most people, I suppose, I consider myself young, too. And for me, I hadn’t really noticed your use of the word until I read your article on motherhood.
Anyway, I wanted to add that feedback to your discussion on the topic of age.