Please Don’t Ruin My Childhood

This weekend the movie Thank You for Smoking was on. I love satire. This is particularly funny satire. I saw it in 2005 when it first came out and forgot how good it was. Aaron Eckhart plays a tobacco lobbyist and spin man, Nick Naylor. There is a scene where he goes to his son’s class for career day. As he walks in, his son looks at him with worried eyes and says, “Please don’t ruin my childhood.”

And that’s it. The moment I’m terrified of. The moment or series of them which effectively ruin my son’s childhood. This is the fear that keeps me awake at night: I will make a decision, or God forbid, already have that will make his growing up experience a genuinely painful memory rather than the normal torture we expect from growing up a middle class white kid in America.

(it’s about 5 minutes into the clip)

This weekend, the blog Big Fat Trauma Queen got quite a bit of attention. Seems she wants some acknowledgment from so-called Mommy Bloggers of the privileges of middle class:

And you are EXTREMELY privileged. Motherhood is never easy. In your case, however, it is EASIER than it has been in any other place on earth  at any other time in human history.

We’re your sisters, too: the single, the slutty, the low-income, the illegal, the lost, the struggling, the uneducated, and clueless. We love our children just as much as you love yours. We want every bit as much for our babies as you want for yours. We are exactly the same in those ways. We just don’t have (or get) all the  props.

When you are writing about the struggle to keep romance in your marriage while toilet training a toddler, or about choreographing your child’s social life on the playground, or about trying to maintain the brain cells you worked so hard to accumulate in college -please take a second to acknowledge the rest of us. Acknowledge the vastly different levels of struggle we face. And if you can, acknowledge it without judging us.

While I have long tried to reject the title of Mommy Blogger, for what it’s worth: so acknowledged. I have a husband, extended family, a strong support system of friends, a church family, high quality day care, and on and on. There are seemingly no end to the people who love my kid. I am not alone. I am privileged.

Then my friend Kyran, who always brings an interesting, thought-provoking point of view to a subject pointed out: why yes, many of us have quite a few privileges. However, designer clothes and high-end vehicles exempt no one from cancer or loneliness or death or any number of tragedies. I learned from a former professor, Michele Weldon, a lovely home and beautiful children don’t exempt you from an abusive husband. Judgment goes every direction. The truth is none of know what someone else’s unique experience may be.

I like to think of myself as a fairly enlightened gal. I’m progressive. I’m a feminist. But I know I’ve been guilty of classism. When we began the adoption process, while sitting in an orientation meeting with 20 other hopeful couples, one of the first things our social worker said to the group was, “You need to make peace with the idea that your birth mother will not be pregnant the way you would have been pregnant. She will probably smoke. She will absolutely drink caffeine. She will eat soft cheese. Get over it. She doesn’t have your life. If she had your life, she would parent this child instead of making an adoption plan. You would do well to recognize these things do not make her a bad mother. They make her who she is.” Women in the room audibly gasped on the cheese revelation.

What a wake up call. Through that process, I made big strides at acceptance. I really thought I learned not to judge other mothers and their choices. I’ve heard myself say in conversations with friends, “Hey, you know I’m as snarky as the next girl, and I really want to judge that, but I can’t. I just can’t.” But reading both of these very smart women’s posts, I realized I have much work to do still. I still judge. I judge women who have the luxury of a nanny when they don’t work. I judge women who send their children to daycare I couldn’t imagine in my privileged world of sending Monkey Boy to. I shake my head at overindulgent birthday parties and what I deem extravagant purchases for children. I judge the parenting skills of the mothers of poorly behaved children. I judge other mothers and the choices they make, when I have no idea how they came to that place. They don’t have my life. If they did, they would make different choices. They have their lives, and the truth is, we are doing the best we can.

We’re all trying very hard not to ruin our kids’ childhood. All our kids are looking at us with worried eyes, hopeful we don’t screw this up past what a decent therapist can repair. It’s my job to do my best work for Monkey Boy, and I must do better to support the other moms because no matter what class you’re in, this Mommy business is hard.

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4 Comments

Filed under Monkey Boy

4 responses to “Please Don’t Ruin My Childhood

  1. It is hard. Great post and I love that movie.

  2. Weekly I think…”Is this the moment where I have ruined my child for life?” Parenting was a lot easier when it “merely” involved feeding a baby round the clock and sleeping 2 hours a night.

    By the way…love your blog! I found it through Sarah Chaffin’s blog. Seems we have some mutual friends. I grew up with Sarah, along with Molly Koffler.

  3. THIS IS A FUNNY MOVIE. A MUST WATCH FOR ALL FAMILIES. THANK YOU FOR SMOKING ONCE AGAIN.

  4. Jennifer

    Hi, I really enjoyed your blog. I came across it after typing “I have no idea where to send my child to day care in Little Rock” in Google. I have been a stay at home mom to my 15 month old. We have just relocated to Little Rock from Iowa.
    This may be a totally odd question, but where is the best daycare in Little Rock? I have been searching all over and have yet to find one, I’ve only read a bunch of horror stories in reviews online. I really need some help, if you have a chance, let me know where some good places are. I really appreciate it!!

    Thanks!

    Jennifer